What one piece of advice would you pass on to the next generation of women? In recognition of International Women’s Day this Friday, we asked 25 of the UK ’s most successful women to share their number one tip
Inspiration. It can come from the strangest place (ever suddenly devised a new gourmet-standard snack by just placing together what’s left in your fridge?), or it can originate from the most familiar corners – the women in our lives; our mothers, our grandmothers, our friends, our mentors. To paraphrase a well-worn expression, there are too many lessons to learn in this life to not take stock of other people’s mistakes or indeed the valuable counsel that has served other women for years.
To celebrate International Women’s Day on 8 March, which aims to bring political and social awareness to the struggles women face all over the world, June Sarpong and her business partner Dee Poku created the Women: Inspiration & Enterprise (WIE) Symposium to offer a forum for accomplished women to share their experiences and support fellow entrepreneurs striving for success and equality (scroll down for details). So what better week to celebrate the advice that has been passed down, or learned the hard way in the offices and boardrooms across the world? We asked the women being honoured by WIE to tell us what they’d pass on to the next generation. We hope you’re inspired.
Co-founder of notonthehighstreet.com
"Women in particular are held back from taking the leap if they haven’t found a complete solution. But no one person has that silver bullet – building a business means you’re constantly learning and developing. You need to be careful and clever, brave and cautious, all at the same time."
Member of the executive board at Swarovski
"Knowledge is power. So make sure you get a good education and grass-roots experience in order to become an expert in your field. Passion and belief in what you’re doing are vital to having a dynamic career. Having a strong work ethic and integrity will carry you far in business. At the end of the day never fail to listen to your gut instinct."
Chief executive of the Old Vic theatre
"Play to win and never stick to the rules."
Entrepreneur and investor
"Everything good that has happened to me is because I said yes to something, when it would have been safer to say no. Think about what you want to achieve. Try to measure the risk, and if that risk feels OK, then go ahead and do it. If you genuinely have the capacity for hard work – if you’re the kind of person who is active and productive, then you’re already ahead of the pack. Also always act with honesty and sincerity. It is much easier and much nicer doing business with people who are authentic."
Charlotte Olympia Dellal
"My father taught me the importance of a business plan – something that I’ve always valued. I also recommend thinking big!"
Chief operating officer, Citi Private Bank
"Be your strongest advocate. Work hard, stay focused, and be confident!"
Brita Fernandez Schmidt
Executive director, Women For Women International
"Connect! One of the most important lessons in my life is just how incredible human connections are and how another person can change your life and theirs. I have met women who’ve survived unimaginable atrocities, and their courage, hope and belief reminds us of our shared humanity."
Creative director, Ciaté
"Live for the moment, be spontaneous and embrace the day. Never be afraid to fail because you only have to get it right once!"
Founder of Bresi-Ando Consults and I’mPOSSIBLE
“Define success on your terms. There is no other joy but achieving goals you created for yourself that have not been tampered with by external or societal pressures or structures. Fix your own mask first before helping others, broken souls can only give so much. Give wisely and wholly.”
Head of JP Morgan’s corporate responsibility agenda for Europe, Middle East and Africa
"In the words of Oscar Wilde, 'Be yourself; everyone else is taken.'"
Chief creative officer (CCO ) of Channel 4 and executive member of the Channel 4 Board
"Don’t beat yourself up about being a working mum. A few years ago my three-year-old daughter came into our kitchen wearing my heels and carrying a handbag. I asked her where she was going and she said, ‘I am going to run BBC One’. I was horrified when I realised she thought of her mum as someone who put on her glad rags and headed off to work. But, in truth, it’s rather wonderful to have little girls believing they can achieve whatever they want. I wish someone had told me that you can’t have it all, but you can be kinder to yourself about the decisions you make in life."
Chief executive of The Legacy List
"The most satisfying things in your life may not always be the ones that seem most immediately obvious. Don’t be put off by those who say ‘that’s not for you,’ but mean ‘that’s not for me’. Learn to listen well so when you sense that is the case just nod and smile, ignore and move on."
CEO of London’s The Hospital Club
"Success is unique to us all. Don’t define your success by what someone else has done, but by your own journey from the point at which you started."
President of international production for Sony Pictures Television
“Be generous whenever you are in a position to be.”
TIME magazine’s Europe editor
"Always accept a dare."
Swimwear designer and businesswoman
"Don’t ever compromise – believe in yourself, that you can achieve anything, and don’t depend on others to get you there. Don’t be afraid to try many fields to narrow it down to what brings you happiness and success. Failure is one of the best things in business – it only makes you stronger in your next venture; kind of like relationships, it teaches you what you want and the things you don’t need. Remember also, on your path to success, to treat all colleagues as equals; remember they are the ones helping you achieve your ultimate goals."
"Whatever you take on, you need to do it to your best ability and then some."
Co-founder and partner of Bridges Ventures
"Women are multi-faceted by nature, instinctively juggling family, career and personal interests. My advice is to move away from a bipolar world in which at home we are to be nurturing and values-oriented but in business tough and bottom line-focused. I believe the last decade has marked a paradigm change in finance and business, with a rising focus on alignment with the wider values of consumers, shareholders and society. Women are poised for leadership in this new world, where business and its societal impacts are intertwined."
Diana Verde Nieto
Founder & CEO positiveluxury.com
"Don’t think of yourself as disadvantaged for being a woman. Believe in your abilities, get outside of your comfort zone and work with the smartest people you can find."
TV and radio broadcaster and cultural commentator
"Make decisions that are right and true, not ones that will benefit your career."
CEO of Avis Charles Associates Design Consultancy
"Truly believe that your passion can create the life you want. Never stop challenging yourself and never stop learning, as the university of life never stops creating knowledge. Be kind and never look down on anyone, anywhere."
Founder of the Georges Malaika Foundation
"My advice for the next generation of women is to take advantage of all of the opportunities offered to you which will allow for you to leave a legacy for others to follow. Then, determine your own measure of success, and follow your dreams."
CEO of M&C Saatchi Group
"Be yourself. It’s hard enough juggling a career with being a wife and mother without trying to be a different person at home and in work. Colleagues and clients respond to seeing the real you."
Baroness Valerie Amos
UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator
"Women are natural humanitarians. Nurture and support each other and we are unstoppable."
ABOVE: Alek Wek and Jemima Khan at last year’s symposium
The most important date for your 2013 diary
Breakfast is always the most important meal of the day, but Stylist is replacing the coffee and croissants with inspirational speakers and A-list networking as we co-host the WIE50 Power Breakfast at the London Stock Exchange this Friday 8 March to celebrate International Women’s Day.
For three and a half years Stylist has been celebrating the work of Britain’s best female entrepreneurs, so partnering with the WIE Symposium – the annual conference set up by June Sarpong and Dee Poku – seemed like a natural development. “We are delighted to be partnering with Stylist for the WIE50 Power Breakfast,” Sarpong says. "Stylist is a smart and sassy publication that speaks to the next generation of female leaders, so WIE is truly honoured by this collaboration."
The breakfast, where women like Katharine Hamnett and Daniella Issa will discuss the future of female entrepreneurs, is invite only but the WIE Symposium itself, an all-day event at the Hospital Club in London, is open to all.
Holding its second London event on Friday, it promises an array of speakers that includes Martha Lane Fox, Kelly Hoppen MBE, David Gandy, Alastair Campbell, Peter Jones and Lady Lynn de Rothschild. “The ethos of WIE is ‘Women Empowering Women’, we all need to work together to create a more equal workforce,” said Sarpong, who is also offering Stylist readers £50 off the ticket price (£250) so that you can experience the talks, lectures and workshops run by WIE’s panel of speakers for yourself.
For the £50 discount enter ‘StylistWie’ when you book at wienetwork.co.uk
Photos: Rex Features