What we learned at our Hear from Her event celebrating International Women’s Day
Yesterday, we held our third Hear from Her event in No.25 Fitzwilliam Place in celebration of International Women’s Day.
This day is one that is close to our hearts. We are a female-led family business who wants to help inspire and empower our members and others. We have recently become an official sponsor of the Starting Strong programme for female-led entrepreneurs. This is part the Going for Growth programme, sponsored by Enterprise Ireland and KPMG, which helps support female entrepreneurs and business owners through peer roundtable discussions and support.
At our event yesterday we hosted a stellar panel of female businesswomen which included Paula Fitzsimons, National Director of Going for growth; Darina Barrett, Head of Financial Services Markets at KPMG Ireland and 30% Clubcommittee member; Susan Spence, Chief Executive and Co-founder of SoftCo and Adrienne Gormley, Global Head of Customer Experience at Dropbox. Theresa Lowe, broadcaster and founder of Theresa Lowe Communications, brought her wealth of experience as she moderated the event.
The panel discussed the importance of women in business and entrepreneurship, how to empower women at every stage of their career and shared their experiences and advice for women who want to succeed in business. Here are five lessons we took away from the event.
1. What gets mentioned gets done
One of the biggest gender gaps in business between men and women is a gap in ambition. This was discovered by Paula Fitzsimons, National Director of Going for Growth, after much research into the field. It was this stat which encouraged her to set up Going for Growth.
Since the year 2000, 1,000 women every month set up a business. In 2007 Paula asked herself, “if 1,000 women are setting up businesses, where are they?”. This began Paula on a path of research which examined the difference between the number of men and women starting businesses.
She sought the help of Professor of Entrepreneurship in DCU, Colm O’Gorman. Through their research, they discovered that in the pool of early stage entrepreneurs, for every nine men who wanted to -and expected to – employ 10 or more people, only one woman felt the same. The key difference is ambition. In 2007, Paula realised something needed to be done and Going for Growth was founded to help women become more ambitious and successful.
2. Growth through peer support
One of the biggest messages from the evening and from International Women’s Day on a whole was the importance of women supporting women.
This was demonstrated clearly by Susan Spence, co-founder of SoftCo and a lead entrepreneur with Going for Growth. Through her work with Going for Growth Susan has seen first-hand the importance of peer support and the positive results it can yield.
One of the biggest areas where women support each other is in the area of confidence. Women are not quick enough to put themselves forward for opportunities and often let others run away with their ideas. This is something Susan wants to see an end to, and with the support of other women, she believes this is possible. Women need to support each other to assert themselves.
3. Intelligent working rather than flexible time
While many of us are familiar with the term ‘flexible time’ Darina Barrett, Head of Financial Services Markets at KPMG Ireland, admitted this can sometimes be a career killer. Finding out what employees need and dealing with the issues they face on a day-to-day basis is extremely important.
She believes the term and the practice of ‘intelligent working’ is more suitable. This involves working at hours that suit you. It means you can leave at 5pm to pick up children from school and go back to work afterwards. It means you can do your job but do not have to account for sitting at your desk.
Darina spoke about how this came on board in KPMG. They publicised the men in their company who availed of this initiative, which led to the practice becoming more acceptable and more women availing of the opportunity.
4. The fundamentals of scaling
Growing your business, knowing the where, when and how, can be one of the hardest areas for all business people, including women.
Susan Spence provided us with the three steps we need to successfully scale our business:
- Be realistic—one of the first questions you need to ask yourself is whether or not you have a product you can scale. Take a hard look at your products and ask “are they scalable?”. While this may be easier for some businesses rather than others, it is vital you remain realistic about how far you can go.
- People—one of the biggest areas of scaling is making sure you can sell your products in other countries. It is important to have your DNA in other countries. People who can sell your product for you, as no matter how hard we try, we can’t be everywhere at once.
- Funding—this is one of the biggest areas businesswomen need to focus on when scaling their brand. Susan believes you need to constantly invest in the next generation of your products. Moving forward is a vital element. Her motto, reinvent yourselves and you will succeed.
Adrienne Gormley, Global Head of Customer Experience at Dropbox, also added her thoughts on how to grow your business, using the analogy of the empty chair. In every business meeting, have an empty chair. This represents your customer. What do they want? What do they need to know? Always keeping them in mind will help your business succeed and grow.
5. The most important thing you have is your time
Potential is different for everybody, Paula stated that.
We all write out stories differently and where we will be in five years time will be different to our colleagues, friend and family.
Time is one of our most precious commodities and how we use it is critically important. When we think about where we want to be in five year’s time it is important to realise we start from now.
Paula gave us some sound advice. Break where we want to be into six month modules with goals and milestones along that path. Once you do this, have focus, have persistence and motivation there is nothing you can’t achieve.
Adrienne echoed this belief. She discussed the importance of watching your battery.
Know the right environment for you. Ask yourself, what drains your battery and what renews this? Put yourself in an environment where your battery is constantly being replenished and where energy is given. While you do have to deal with negative people make sure this does not become overwhelming.
Ask yourself how you feel at the end of each day and each week. While balance will differ at different stages of your career, always watch your battery.
See images from the evening here.
Here at Glandore, female empowerment and leadership is an area that is of immense importance to us. We aim to create an environment of inclusion and equality for both our own team and our members. We are delighted to work with Enterprise Ireland to help women progress. To learn more about our work and workspace options and events get in touch with us here.