2017 saw the formation of a new society aimed at empowering a new generation of female leaders. Eleanora Peruch went along to hear their Building Bridges event on 2nd November to hear talks from six women Leaders who discussed the challenges they’ve overcome to get to where they are today, especially in regards to mental health, relationships and graduate life.
All coming from different backgrounds, Kimberley Bottomley, Charlotte Scott, Michelle Beckett, Meenakshi Sarkar, Damarie Musenya and Chelsey Needham offered differing interpretations of ‘bridges’ within business.
Their concept of a ‘bridge’ is replaced by the one of a swing rope by Kimberley, Head of CX at Cocoon. According to Kimberley, the bridge is “linear, static, univocal”, while a rope is “multidirectional, quicker, under our control”. She is strongly convinced that, nowadays, flexibility and multiple possible directions are needed; since changes have been shaping our modern lifestyles, we should constantly redefine our perspective and think about them as challenging and exciting opportunities, not just something to be scared of. “Be bold!” was her tip.
Charlotte agrees with the idea that bridges can divide and thus it is necessary to change our point of view. Dealing with the theme of leadership, she explained how many women are ambitious but find themselves precluded from high levels of leadership, because of structural norms that affect them. That is why, if you’re a woman and you are not sensitive and compromising but more competitive and decisive, you are cut out of leadership or accused of being ‘bossy’
Charlotte’s discourse overstepped the border of gender, observing that the same situation affects men as well. Her acute observation put the debate on a wider ‘human’ field: we, as an individual, have to be our own leader. If an issue concerns women it will undoubtedly affect men as well. Change, according to Charlotte, needs a strong group effort to be realised. Why cant we work together for a common purpose? Men and women are two sides of the same coin. Similarly, Damarie Musenya implored that we should transcend gender barriers and establish a genuine conversation between me and women. She asserted the necessity to engage men in women’s issues. Accusation should be replaced with conversation; it can be incredibly difficult to identify with a topic you have little understanding of.
Throughout the conference, both rationality and emotion emerged as necessary tools to build bridges and reach positions of leadership. Being CEO of ADHD Action, Michelle strongly asserted the practical necessity of diagnosing girls with ADHD, supporting them and thus guaranteeing more female leaders. In contrast, Chelsey Needham identified emotions as the bridge between work-life and personal passions. Passions are the key elements for our life, and since they make us happy, they should be conceived as values. Chelsey advocates integrating such values into our work and to always listen to our body because this is where our dreams come from. “Follow your dreams” was Meenakshi Sarkar’s tip, “listen to your heart, find your way and undertake it with courage”
I would like to end with Meenakshi’s final statement: “everybody was born with the power of the elephant”. Believe in your power, and not in what society expects from you. Women and men share an equal ability to lead as well as become role models.