This International Woman’s Day, I braved the London commuter train to attend a breakfast panel at WeWork in Waterhouse Square before work. Author and broadcaster, Emma Gannon, hosted the panel which consisted of Suitcase Magazine founder Serena Guen and Ella Denton and Jemma Finch, the founders of Stories Behind Things.
The panel was brought together to highlight the women leading the way in their industries and to discuss empowerment, building a community and the politics of being a woman. Below is my little summary of the event with my own comment.
The “Multi-Hyphen Method”
Emma described how women today need to tackle life with the “Multi-Hyphen Method”, which she says means that we must be many different things at once. Now that knowledge is so accessible to us in the digital age, there really is no excuse for not reaching your full potential. Being a “Jack of all trades” is becoming the norm – think of incredible people who have done so much with their lives before you have even managed to move out of your parent’s house!
Community or followers?
Emma also explored today’s notion of ‘community’, saying that society’s idea of having a community is to have thousands of followers on Instagram. I can relate to this, because in the digital age people’s self-worth seem to come from how many friends they have on Facebook or how many likes they get on their Instagram posts. There are numerous studies which point to the link between social media and depression. I know from experience that when I go through my Instagram feed I always get the feeling that ALL MY FRIENDS ARE CONSTANTLY ON HOLIDAY! And the chronic feeling of FOMO (fear of missing out) normally ensues. What a lot of people know deep down but seem to forget when they are scrolling through the app, is that what they are seeing is a highly-edited version of someone’s life and they are only going to put the best photos up! We are guilty of doing it ourselves!
Jemma said that the way they tackle this within their business is to “bring the online community offline” and they say that they do this by holding events and meeting people. Despite living in the digital age, it is still so important to have face-to-face relationships with your community, rather than virtual relationships and she said that she had actually taken a break from social media for a couple of months and had felt better because of it.
Balancing ‘You’ with ‘Work You’
Emma moved on to how the panel separates their work identity and their personal identity. Serena admitted that this is hard to do that when you are the founder of a company and that you tend to eat, sleep and breathe your business, but she highlighted the importance of doing things that are not linked to your work, saying that she likes to go to art galleries as it gives her a chance to switch off and think of something else other than her business.
Despite making it look so easy, the question came up on how Ella and Jemma work together when they are best friends and how they balance the colleague and friend relationship. Jemma answered that the way they make it work was by knowing each other’s boundaries, and Ella added the importance of listening to each other, being honest and admitting that you are human and “having a rubbish day and haven’t done those emails that you said you had!” I think everyone can relate to that!
I think that there is a feeling today that in order to be accepted by men, women feel like they need to work harder than them to be seen as equal and this is something echoed by Ceri Evans, commercial director of Jacobs Engineering, who I saw speak at the Women in Construction Summit earlier in the week. Ceri said that the first eight weeks of her job were spent travelling the world non-stop, and it wasn’t until she collapsed at an airport and was told that she had pneumonia that she realised that she was only human and had to slow down. There is no need to be Super Women all the time – everyone has their off days.
“Keepin’ it real”
Emma mentioned that in today’s society, there seems to be a fetishisation around failure, saying that the message out there seems to be “fail every day! YAY!” I did agree with this, having read an article in a magazine that seemed to convey that you should tackle things that are completely outside your knowledge and that you know you will fail at, just to gain some sort of valuable experience.
Serena takes a more measured approach, saying that you should “experiment and take risks but learn from them”. Some people in the audience expressed fears about starting a business, setting up a blog or YouTube channel because they were afraid of what their friends would say and worried that their work was not good enough, to which Ella replied “if you worry about your ideas then you inhibit them, when you stop worrying about them, that is when they become free.” I know everyone fears failure, but I think that women can be more prone to this and less sure of themselves, which is why I think it is so important that events like this take place, where we can see strong women who have pursued their idea without caring what anyone thought.
This was a brilliant and inspiring event and I would recommend it to anyone. After all, a little power-boost from some strong women who are at the top of their game and slaying it never hurt anyone did it?
Lessons I took away:
- Early bird gets the worm – I was debating whether to go to the panel when I was jolted awake at 5:30am by my alarm clock, but I am so glad I went to the event as I gained some valuable lessons and was inspired by the discussions
- Don’t be afraid to put your work out there, what’s the worst that could happen?
- As a woman, make time to help other women, that way we can create a community and raise ourselves up. The #TimeIsNow