Four of Our Founders on the Best Piece of Business Advice They’ve Received

“I don’t go by the rule book. I lead from the heart, not the head.” — Princess Diana

BUSINESS ADVICE: Four of the founders in our community shared the best piece of business advice they’ve received on their business journey…

Vicktesha Cunningham, Founder of Vtessia Cosmetics

“You’re more influential than you think.”

Corina Goetz, Founder of Star-CaT

“Not everything has to be perfect. Don’t over-plan things – they will fall into place.”

Stella Kamba, Founder of More Life Adventures

“Dream big. Be very honest and non-judgmental with yourself. Be your own parent. Invest in the best coaches you can afford.”

Geeta Sidhu-Robb, Founder of Nosh Detox

“Change is inevitable, suffering is optional.”

We are very honoured to have these fantastic women as founding members of our WomenLed Collective. Want to tell our community your story your way? List your business today to become part of our collective, click HERE.

Our Top Food & Beverage WomenLed Brands

WOMENLED FOOD & BEVERAGE EDIT: We’re honoured to have some of the UK’s most remarkable and sustainable food & beverage brands as our members. Here are some of the products at the top of our list this Festive Season…

▫️ Thomson & Scott Ltd – Noughty Alcohol-Free Sparkling Rosé

Founded by Amanda Thomson, Thomson & Scott leading the global transparency in wine movement one beautiful organic, vegan sparkling bottle at a time.

▫️ Healthy Nibbles – Holiday Bliss Hamper

Founded by Sara Roberts, Healthy Nibbles UK’s award-winning answer to healthy snacking.

▫️ KALEIDO – Christmas Roll

Founded by Laura Mimoun, KALEIDO has reinvented the most boring, but healthiest food of all: the salad.

▫️ The Red Beetle – 2015 Limited Edition Satin Balsamic Food Condiment 100ML

Founded by Deborah Parietti, The Red Beetle personally source and carefully select the most authentic and delicious Italian food for the UK market.

▫️ Gin Kitchen – Gutsy Monkey Winter Gin

Founded by Helen Muncie & Kate Gregory, The Gin Kitchen offers award-winning spirits with a unique style and character: rich, intense and vibrant; smooth and deep.

▫️ Nosh Detox – Winter Cleanse – Soups and Smoothies Fast

Founded by Geeta Sidhu-Robb, Nosh Detox are committed to helping empower women to have the tools to feel better, all the time.

We are very honoured to have these fantastic brands as founding members of our WomenLed Collective. Want to tell our community your story your way? List your business today to become part of our collective HERE.

The Beauty WomenLed Wonder List

We’re honoured to have some of the UK’s most remarkable and sustainable beauty brands as our members. Here are some of the products at the top of our self-care list…

79 Lux- Body Oil 

Founded by Karen Cummings-Palmer, 79 Lux skincare is the epitome of skin and bodycare.

STORIES Parfums – Fragrance Set 

Founded by Tonya Kidd-Beggs, STORIES Parfums gender-inclusive fragrances make the perfect gift to self or loved one. 

SkinSense – Facial Oil

Founded by industry innovator Abi Cleeve, SkinSense is our go to for nourishing, affordable skincare. 

Mauli Rituals – Hair Oil

Founded by Anita Kaushal, Mauli Rituals is slow beauty at it’s best. Their hero product hair oil makes the perfect wellness gift.

Scentered – Self Care Set

Founded by entrepreneurial force Lara Morgan, Scentered is our self-care secret weapon. 

Irene Forte – Night Cream

Founded by Irene Forte, the Irene Forte Skincare sustainable range is packed with Mediterranean botanicals making this age-defying cream a nightstand staple. 

UNLOCK special benefits and discounts from the brands featured on our list by signing up for free community membership.

Meet Some of Our Homeware Experts

Meet three of the women behind some of the homeware brands in our WomenLed Collective and find out what the highlights of their business journey’s have been so far…

Whitney Hawkings, Founder of FLOWERBX

“I am so lucky that my entire career has been a highlight, but one of the most pivotal points was getting hired, straight out of school, by Tom Ford. Ironically, I think the second highlight was making the extremely difficult decision to leave my dream job as SVP of Communications for TOM FORD for the unknown and launch FLOWERBX.”

Stephanie Betts, Founder of Josephine Home with Draper London

“Over 10 years, we have had more highlights than I could list, but some of the most memorable ones were getting a call on Boxing Day from the drummer of Guns’n Roses to ask about our thread-count (we were all in bed, with our two toddlers having a giggle…thinking it was a practical joke from a friend of ours.) Another was to wake up to find that Lucia van der Post in the luxury column of the Financial Times’ How to Spend it had written a piece on Josephine Home, calling us the ‘Chanel No.5 of bedlinen.’ Other exciting moments included supplying a number of the most famous singers, actors, sportsmen/women you can think of! We are always thrilled to be asked, but remain reluctant to overshare – so the secrets stay with us. Sorry!”

Anita Kaushal, Founder of Mauli Rituals

“Every day brings an opportunity for external and internal growth and I see the highs and lows as interconnected and am grateful for it all. If I have to pinpoint I’d say the first high was our first online order and the more recent has been working with artisans in India and seeing the charity we are about to support through the brand.”

We are very honoured to have these fantastic women as founding members of our WomenLed Collective. Want to tell our community your story your way? List your business today to become part of our collective, click HERE.

Four of Our Founders on What Drives Them

What I want young women and girls to know is: You are powerful and your voice matters. You’re going to walk into many rooms in your life and career where you may be the only one who looks like you or who has had the experiences you’ve had. But you remember that when you are in those rooms, you are not alone. We are all in that room with you applauding you on. Cheering your voice. And just so proud of you. So you use that voice and be strong.” – Kamala Harris

PASSION & PURPOSE: We spoke to four of our Founders about what they feel passionate about and what drives them…

Emmy Scarterfield, Founder of Emmy London
“I am passionate about making women feel amazing; I believe that the route to true beauty is feeling comfortable and in turn, confident.“

Vicktesha Cunningham, Founder of Vtessia cosmetics
“I don’t want anyone to experience low confidence or diminished self worth due to hair loss. Hearing feedback from the women who have used our products, regrown their hair and had the confidence boost that comes with that really drives us to want to help more and more women.”

Vanessa Jacobs, Founder of The Restory

“A great customer experience.”

Irene Forte, Founder of Irene Forte Skincare

“I’m passionate about sharing a sustainable health mantra; this has led me to create my eponymous line. I’m also passionate about Sicily; with the people, the culture, the food and the breath-taking nature of the island. I wanted to do something that will help the Sicilian community. Last but not least, I love the people I work with; this is often the most rewarding part!”

We are very honoured to have these fantastic women as founding members of our WomenLed Collective. Want to tell our community your story your way? List your business today to become part of our collective, click HERE

Why it is important to buy from businesses with a woman at the helm

SUPPORTING WOMENLED BUSINESS: We spoke to some of our members about why it is so important for us to use the power of our purses and buy from businesses with a woman at the helm, taking women supporting women to a whole new level.

Stella Kamba, Founder of More Life Adventures

“It is important that women come together to support one another and their respective businesses. Being a part of a community helps strengthens our voices, but also gives us more autonomy.“

Sarah Haran, Founder of Sarah Haran

“It is absolutely essential to support women-led businesses. Our future depends on getting as many women as possible in work creating businesses that fulfill their dreams and add to the economy. I think the future is now and women have so much to contribute. It’s our time!”

Karen Sirett-Kelly, Founder of ESM

“Women have so many roles to play in society, so to take on yet another as a business leader is a mountain to climb, so support is all the more important.”

We are very honoured to have these fantastic women as founding members of our WomenLed Collective. Want to tell our community your story your way? List your business today to become part of our collective, click HERE

What helped set our members on their path to success… Part two

Experiences That Shape Us: In the second installment of experiences that shape us, we asked a few of our members to find out what helped set them on their path to success…

Diana Verde Nieto, Founder of Positive Luxury
“Growing up in Argentina with my Grandparents who encouraged me to become independent from an early age. However, one of my earliest memories would be when my pet donkey, Raphael, died after eating the butter from the fridge (including the plastic wrapper). I guess you could say this ignited the sustainability passion within me.”

Karen Sirett-Kelly, Founder of ESM
“When I was only 10 months old my parents moved from their lifelong home in London to the beautiful north coast of Cornwall, as they wanted me to have the opportunity to grow up in the countryside with access to the coast and wide open natural spaces. This move took a great deal of sacrifice and life was not easy with many financial struggles along the way, but this taught me resilience and how that to reap great benefits you need to work hard and take a few risks!”


Wizz Selvey, Founder of WIZZ&CO
“Learning the value of money. I started a jewellery business when I was nine, selling at parties to friends. My parents taught me how to use my takings to buy more materials with a simple P&L notebook. I was eager to start working and had a paper round at age 12 and worked in a sports shop from age 14 for £20 a day.”

We are very honoured to have these fantastic women as founding members of our WomenLed Collective. Want to tell our community your story your way? Apply to list your business and become part of our WomenLed collective HERE.

What helped set our members on their path to success… Part one

Experiences That Shape Us: Most leaders have an experience or early memory that has shaped their career journey. We caught up with a few of our members to find out what helped set them on their path to success…

Vicktesha Cunningham, Founder of Vtessia Cosmetics

“Growing up in Jamaica, most Saturdays I would accompany my grandparents to the markets to sell fruit and vegetables. This experience helped build and nourish the woman I am today. Selling in markets also inspired my entrepreneurial spirit and taught me about business.”

Kate Bright, Founder and CEO of UMBRA International Group

“My father and mother both came from very humble beginnings. Seeing the hard work my father put into his business through the various recessions in the 80s and 90s, and seeing him being awarded an OBE for his efforts when I was 10 years old, was a real inspiration about what happens when you put your mind to working diligently and with purpose.”

Debbie Trumper, Founder of Debbie Trumper Consultancy

“As well as being loved and cared for unconditionally, I was also taught from a very young age to value and respect everything and everybody.”

Read more on our site or sign up for our FREE COMMUNITY MEMBERSHIP and benefit from the exponential power of women supporting women. Sign up HERE.

Meet the women behind some of the brands in our WomenLed Collective

Meet The Creatives: Meet the women behind some of the brands in our WomenLed Collective and what inspires them….

Emmy Scarterfield, Founder and Creative Director of Emmy London

Each pair of Emmy London shoes is the product of hours of sketching in the studio by Emmy.

What inspires you? “Everything around me and places I go, it’s more about experiences rather than very tangible, predictable references. Essentially, I tend to be inspired by the things I love, and I hope that other people love them too.”

Hetal Patel, Founder of VAAI

Hetal has always used style and the clothes she wears as a way to express the creative side of my personality. And what started out as a personal project to design and create dresses for her daughters has grown into a thriving business.

What inspires you? “Everything around me – architecture, art, the world and its people.”

Tonya Kidd-Beggs, Founder of Stories Parfums

Passionate about helping women find their voices through the art of perfumery, Tonya’s hope is that her fragrance creations will help others connect with their memories and emotions in a way that brings joy and wellbeing for our present and inspires hope for our future.

What inspires you? “My children seeing their mother’s dream become a reality.”

Maria Tibblin, Founder of Maria Tibblin Ltd

After a long international career within the medical and healthcare industry, Maria decided to follow her inner passion for design and atmosphere. She now creates sustainable, inspiring environments with a keen focus on all five senses.

What inspires you? “My two daughters, music & nature.”

UNLOCK special benefits and discounts from the brands featured on our list by signing up for our free community membership. Sign up HERE.

Six ways to show your business some love this Valentine’s Day

To inspire you to channel some loved-up vibes into your professional life this Valentine’s Day, we have pulled together 6 ways you can give your business a gift that keeps giving. And, the best part? You get to support the journey of a women-led business in the process.


From securing the industry recognition you deserve; to evaluating your brand position; funding advice or preparing for your next stage of growth, this curated list of business gifts from our WomenLed Collective founders will keep the love and rewards flowing for many months to come. As a little bonus, we’ve also included some business advice from each of the founders featured.

1) Award Recognition

Award-winning businesses outperform their competitors across the board. Donna O’Toole and her team at  August Awards Consultancy are among the best in the business at helping businesses and leaders to raise their profile through awards. So if you’ve always dreamt of receiving an honour from the Queen or that industry accolade that will give you the endorsement you deserve, this is your chance to take your business to the next level. 

Donna’s advice to anyone just starting out: “Sometimes you have to free-fall before you can fly. Don’t be afraid to feel a little out of control at the beginning, change is hard, but embrace the journey and believe in yourself.”

2. Mindset Shift

Are you feeling mentally stuck or in need of a mindset change that will positively affect your personal or business life? If you need help with low self-esteem and confidence, anxiety, stress and depression, achieving your career and business goals, or even becoming a calmer parent, Claire Aristides can help. As a trained Clinical Hypnotherapist, Claire offers hypnotherapy and visualisation coaching sessions, online workshops, as well as an innovative, digitalised wellness and empowerment platform for women – the Mindology App. Uniquely, she brings a business-minded skillset into her practice as she also runs her own successful jewellery company.

Key lessons Claire has learned on her business journey: “Embrace your strengths and your flaws too, be balanced about yourself. Just take a minute and step outside of your shoes and appreciate all you are!” 

3. Realign your business with your purpose

Serial entrepreneur and bestselling author Linzi Boyd, Co-Founder of Business of Brand, has created a unique methodology that teaches entrepreneurs how to design, build and activate a business strategy based on the foundation of their core brand assets. Plus, their newly-launched platform BoB Earth is a global purpose-led platform that connects enterprise to trade, forming a community of like-minded people and businesses learning together about trade and partnerships to ultimately impact global industries and shift the world.

Linzi is a massive supporter of The Women’s Chapter and regularly gives workshops for our members, but going on one of her BoB School courses will revolutionise how you and others see your business.

Linzi’s advice to an aspiring entrepreneur? “If you build your business around the commercials and making money, it is not what’s going to keep getting you out of bed in the morning. You have to build it off a purpose and what you want to be known for, then stick to that vision and never give up.”

4. Coaching done differently

Pioneering a startup, running a business or being a senior leader demands infallible leadership that is central to everything that you do. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, struggling to break new ground or simply in need of guidance and clarity, Rebecca Morley is your person. She’s an award-winning executive coach and mentor that provides coaching, leadership development and strategic support for fast-growth startups and scaling businesses.

If you like to do things a little differently and are willing to take risks and push boundaries for growth and tangible rewards, Rebecca is the coach we recommend every time.

Best piece of advice Rebecca has received: “Drop the hustle and just focus on giving an incredible customer experience. I’m not exaggerating when I say my business tripled within 3 months of that conversation.”

5. Get funding fit

If you’re a woman entrepreneur looking to raise finances, get funding fit, scale your business and build long-term value in your business, Enter The Arena has got your back. Even if you’ve never raised investment before, Enter The Arena’s specialist one-on-one coaching sessions will teach you everything you need to know.

Founder Julia Elliot Brown is a serial entrepreneur that has raised over £2m in equity fundraising. She knows just how tough it can be to raise equity finance, especially as a female founder. She started Enter The Arena to provide women entrepreneurs with the strategy, skills and support they need to be successful at securing investment.

Key lesson Julia has learned along her business journey: “Failure is ok! If you haven’t failed, you probably haven’t tried hard enough.”

6. Revamp your professional image

We all know that first impressions are important, especially in the world of business. If you’re feeling like you need some direction when it comes to setting and achieving your life and business goals, curating the perfect wardrobe that is true to how you want to show up in the world, and developing your own personal brand, then Passage to Poise should be on speed dial.

Founded by Rebecca Lilley, Passage to Poise helps you to facilitate your own personal journey from where you are to where you want to be. They offer personal styling services (focused on occasion and workwear), life and business coaching services, and professional photoshoots.

Rebecca’s advice to an aspiring entrepreneur or woman just starting her career? “Ensure you surround yourself with the right support, mentorship, encouragement and expertise right from the beginning.

All of our WomenLed Collective brands have special offers and benefits for our community members. To access these offers, sign up for free community membership here: https://womenschapter.com/register/

Please spread the love by sharing this piece via social media and tagging us at @womenschapter on Instagram and @womenschap on Twitter.


Why the Gender Funding Gap is Costing the UK Economy £250 Billion

The gender gap in funding for women-led business was a hot topic of conversation in 2019, thanks in part to the publication in March of the landmark Rose Review.

The review, spearheaded by NatWest’s Alison Rose, found that there are twice as many male entrepreneurs as females, despite the fact that women make up 51% of the population. This gap in ownership reflects an even greater disparity in funding. In February, a study by the British Business Bank concluded that female founded companies received less than 1% of total UK venture capital, while male founded companies got a full 89%. Other recent surveys both here and in the US have shown similarly unequivocal results. The funding gap is real, and it is costing the UK billions in missed opportunity.

In fact, the Rose Review found that as much as £250 billion in new value could be added to the UK economy with a sustained and concerted effort to help women succeed as entrepreneurs. And there is every reason to believe that they would succeed. In fact, figures show that women-led businesses in the UK generate more revenue, deliver double the investment on return, and fail less often than male-led businesses.

So why is there still such a significant funding gap? One reason is that male VCs are less likely to invest in female-led businesses. This may be influenced by homophily (the tendency for people to associate and bond with those who are similar to them) as well as unconscious bias, including persistent myths that women are more risk averse, have less financial acumen, and are not as ambitious as men. And, while unconscious bias can also affect female VCs, they are still three times more likely to invest in companies with at least one female founder. Unfortunately, there have been very few women investors and inclusive male investors at the table.

However, a few recent developments offer hope for women entrepreneurs. In July, the government announced the Investing in Women Code, “a commitment to support female entrepreneurship in the UK by improving women’s access to the advice, resources and finance needed to build a business”. The list of signatories includes banks like RBS, Barclays, Lloyds and Santander, as well as venture capital firms and angel networks such as Frontline, Episode 1, Angel Academe and the UK Business Angel Association. Other recent initiatives include NatWest’s Back Her Business, a female-only crowdfunding platform, and Virgin StartUp’s commitment to fund as many female-founded businesses as those founded by men by the end of 2020.

We often shy away from big changes or challenges because we view them as a whole. Ask yourself: ‘if I was going to take one small step toward tackling this particular fear, what would it be?’ Then take that small step. Incremental tweaks to your mindset will give you a more objective view and help you to frame your fear as a problem to be solved, as well as breaking it down into the practical steps needed to crack it.

Of course, this is just the beginning. Much needs to be done to address the funding gap, including greater transparency in UK funding allocation, the formation of better support systems for women entrepreneurs, and educational initiatives aimed at girls and young women. Closing the funding gap could be the most significant economic opportunity of our generation,

and I look forward – along with the Women’s Chapter members – to being a part of the solution.

To read more about the Investing in Women Code, visit the government website. You can also download the Rose Review here.

The Power of Routine: Six Daily Habits of Successful Women

Do you have a weekday morning routine? Many of us tend to ‘wing it’ and simply react to whatever the day brings. However, research shows that, whatever our age, we thrive on the consistency and structure of routines, and that they can make a major difference to how healthy, happy, and productive we are every day. As women in business, we have so many demands placed on us, and an effective routine can really help to reduce stress and anxiety, and help us achieve our goals.

I was reminded of the power of routine recently when looking back on an interview I did with My Little Black Book. It got me wondering which habits were part of the morning routine of other successful women. Here are six of the most effective, to help you start your day off with your best foot forward!

1. ESTABLISH A SLEEP SCHEDULE

We all have different wake-up times, based on our natural rhythms (night owl or early riser?) and family or work commitments. But whatever time your morning routine starts, it’s vital to get enough sleep. This was something Arianna Huffington, founder of The Huffington Post and Thrive Global, learned the hard way after she fainted from sleep deprivation, hit her head on her desk, and broke a cheekbone. Now she gets eight hours of sleep 95% of the time, and as a result, is able to wake up naturally instead of using an alarm.

To establish a sleep schedule, it’s important to stick to regular times for going to sleep and waking up. Setting an alarm at bedtime can be helpful in sticking to this schedule. Another good habit is to remove electronic devices from your bedroom, and incorporate a wind-down ritual like taking a bath or reading in bed (as long as it isn’t work-related!). All of this will make a difference to how much – and how well – you sleep.

2. GOALS FOR YOUR DAY

Another habit many successful women incorporate into their morning routine is setting some form of goal or intention. This need not take a lot of time – an extra fifteen minutes before your child’s wake-up time would be well spent meditating or journaling (what Victoria Beckham refers to as ‘me time’), or you can use the time spent commuting to write out your goals.

Knowing what I want to accomplish before my head hits the pillow helps me feel energised and makes it easier to prioritise. If I’m working from home or on the train on the way into London, the first thing I do is pull out a clean sheet of white paper and start jotting down all the ideas and to-dos that pop into my head. It helps me structure my day and stay focused.

3. DON’T SKIP BREAKFAST

If you’re pushed for time in the mornings, it’s always tempting to just skip breakfast altogether. We’re all guilty of just grabbing a quick coffee and running out the door! But while breakfast might seem like a small thing, it really is the most important meal of the day. No matter how busy the life of a female entrepreneur, you cannot achieve peak performance if you are not well-nourished, and fueled up for the demands of the day.

Of course, what you eat is almost as important as actually eating breakfast. Stick to protein, whole grains, fruit, and slow-release carbs, and pass on the pain au chocolat (at least until the weekend). If you struggle for time, you can prepare breakfast the night before.

4. EXERCISE

e benefits of exercise are well-known, but researchers believe that exercise in the morning is the best way to set yourself up for a productive day. A study at the University of Bristol found that people who got their bodies moving during the workday had more energy and a positive, proactive mindset.

Of course, it may not be possible to fit a full workout in every morning, but as little as ten minutes can make a difference. Whether it’s a yoga session, a walk, or just a few crunches in the bedroom, make it your mission to move in some way. Whatever gets your blood pumping and juices flowing! Vogue Editor in Chief, Anna Wintour, plays tennis in the mornings, while super producer Shonda Rhimes starts her day with a “dance party with Beyoncé”. As for me, if I’m working from home I try to get out for a walk or run in the woods with my dog before sitting down at my desk. It always helps to clear my head.

5. CHECK YOUR EMAILS BEFORE YOU REACH THE OFFICE

Many of us check our emails as soon as we open our eyes, which isn’t a good way to start the day. It frames your mood on someone else’s terms, and can lead to a lingering sense of anxiety. However, it is a good idea to check your emails before you get to the office. It allows you to prepare for the day ahead, address any serious issues, and shuffle priorities or delegate actions if needed. If you tend to get sucked in and derailed by your emails, set a timer. I check my emails, Twitter and LinkedIn when I get out of bed over a coffee or green tea, often before the rest of the house are awake. This gives me a limited window to do it, before getting on with my day. 

6. BE PRESENT WITH YOUR LOVED ONES

Mornings can be a rush, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be quality time. My twin girls are very early risers, so my day always starts with family cuddles in bed (and I wouldn’t have it any other way!). As a mum of young children, I always feel like I am juggling work, family, and home commitments. There never seem to be enough hours in the day to achieve the work-life balance I set out to. But, regardless of what happens on any given day, I’m always mindful of trying to be both physically and emotionally present in their lives. The time we spend together in the morning clears my head, energises me, and reminds me of what I’m working for. After all, I couldn’t hope for anything more than to be an inspiration to my daughters as both a mother and a business woman.

While there’s certainly no right or wrong way to start your day, what’s important is to find a routine that works for you and stick to it as much as possible. As a woman in business, you’ll reap the benefits – both professional and personal.

How to Network More Effectively

There are many reasons why networking can play an integral role in women’s business success. It allows them to form connections, identify role models and mentors, gain opportunities to grow their business, and eventually pay it forward by helping other women benefit from their knowledge and experience. And yet, studies show that women network less than men, despite being seen as more ‘social’. One of the reasons for this is the way that women have often been left out of powerful groups run by the so-called ‘old boys’ club’. Another is the difficulty for working mothers in attending evening events.

I can identify with the frustration around having to give up networking opportunities because they generally run at a time when you most want to be at home putting the children to bed or having dinner with your partner. This was heightened for me by the fact that when I did attend networking events, I left feeling drained and guilty, wondering why I had missed time with my family for an evening that was dull and fruitless, populated mostly by consultants trying to sell me something rather than make genuinely useful connections. Like many women, I had actually stopped attending networking events completely.

I ultimately decided to host my own boutique events, offering curated networking set against a backdrop of art, fashion, culture and gastronomy – all the passions I never seemed to be able to find time for anymore. The key for me was in making sure that if my attendees spent an evening (or even just an hour!) at one of our events, it was time well-invested.

But it’s not just about where you go to network. It’s also about your approach. To be a good networker, you must be intentional about how you do it. A little while ago, I was asked by The Telegraph to share some top networking tips from myself and the amazing Women’s Chapter members. Here are six ways to network more effectively and efficiently.

1. CHOOSE YOUR OPPORTUNITIES STRATEGICALLY

You don’t need to take every opportunity to attend a networking event. I tend to opt for niche events where there is a topic or format I’m particularly interested in. This will give you at least one shared interest with the other guests, and is a good shortcut to making that all-important connection.

Clare McKeeve, Managing Director of Eaton Gate private equity firm and mum of six (three children and three step-children), has a firm set of criteria for ‘picking her shots’: who is likely to attend, how unique the event is, what learning opportunities it provides, and the location. This final criteria is especially important, as Clare maximises her time by attending more than one event whenever possible. “If I can attend two events in one night, or one networking event and a client dinner, that would be great. I am then only absent for one evening from my family instead of two,” she says.

2. MAKE YOUR DEVELOPMENT A PRIORITY

It’s important to commit to networking as a process, as well as an investment in yourself and your career. Effective networking requires upkeep and long-term relationship building.

India Gary Martin, Executive Coach and Leadership Expert, believes in the importance of planning around the events we really want to attend. “You have to be committed to your development,” she says. “Opportunity comes through building your networks. But you also have to know that you can’t attend everything. You need to pre-plan and choose the events that are most beneficial to you.”

India also notes the importance of providing an example to her children: “I don’t want my daughters to think my life revolves around cooking and cleaning – I want them to see me going off to do other things for my own personal development.”

3. PREPARATION IS EVERYTHING

Good preparation is absolutely crucial to effective networking. Do your due diligence by checking who will be attending and doing some research. If I can find out who’s on the guest list beforehand and they are someone I want to meet, I reach out with a personal message and a LinkedIn request before the event. That way, we are more likely to seek one another out, since we have already ‘met’. People are also always impressed when you know something about them, and it sets the foundation for a positive, lasting connection.

It’s also worth practising your ‘elevator pitch’. ‘What do you do?’ is the question you’ll be asked the most, so the answer should roll off your tongue confidently and eloquently. Paola Diana, founder and CEO of Sigillus, agrees: “Confidently present yourself to the key people in the room, don’t be shy, always leave your business card and be able to explain in ten seconds what your business is about.”

Of course, it goes without saying that you shouldn’t forget your business cards!

4. MAKE THE MOST OF THE TIME YOU HAVE

If you only have an hour to spend at an event, then make every minute count! Lizzie Penny, founder and CEO of The Hoxby Collective, is always one of the first to arrive. “With evening events I always try to get there early so I can meet a few people before everyone else arrives,” she says.

Paola Diana also notes that it isn’t necessary to stay to the bitter end: “Go home as soon as you have reached the people you wanted. You don’t need to know everyone.”

5. MAKE GENUINE CONNECTIONS

Good networking is about forging real personal connections. Networking is a two-way street, so if you’re only out to gain what you can, you will find it hard to make any meaningful connections. That doesn’t mean you can’t strike a balance between quality conversation and time management. It’s all about being open, friendly, and authentic. Be generous too; never dismiss anyone as unimportant.

Lizzie Penny agrees: “Being part of a network involves giving and getting. Know what you’re able to give to others in a short space of time as well as what you’re hoping to get.”

6. HAVE FUN!

There’s no reason why networking shouldn’t also be fun! I always try to choose events that offer an interesting backdrop (for example, an art gallery, new restaurant, or unusual pop-up space). That way, it feels more like an evening out with friends than work.

Clare McKeeve agrees: “We work hard, so a glamorous night can be a productive networking session, but also a moment to enjoy yourself.  As mothers and partners, we should have fun, and not make a chore out of the whole thing.”

Watch Your Tone: How Assertive Language at Work Can Make You More Effective

Ever spent ten minutes drafting an email just to make sure you didn’t sound too aggressive? We’ve all done it. Phrases like: “I’m just checking in to see if you’ve finished that report” or “I was wondering how far you were with…” are all too common in women’s emails and work conversations. It sounds harmless enough, but is our tone actually holding us back? I was interviewed by The Telegraph on the subject of emails and assertiveness, and it made me realise that I too have been very guilty of this, and how easy it is to fall into the trap.

Of course, a lack of assertiveness and confidence in communication and emails is not restricted to women. However, for women in particular, it often stems from not wanting to come across as being too bossy or bitchy. Perhaps subconsciously, we feel the need to soften our tone in order to be compliant, humble and liked – qualities that both genders are socialised to value in women. And in fact, research shows that a direct email from a woman will be interpreted very differently to one written by a man.

Unconscious gender bias is very real. It exists in classrooms, on sports fields, in business and even in our homes. It is one of the biggest challenges that women in business face. However, it can be unlearned, if identified and tackled from both directions: at grassroots, by working with schools and teachers to challenge gender stereotypes, and from the top by business leaders, corporates and government driving gender diversity initiatives. Even something as simple as our emails can help to perpetuate stereotypes and block change. By being more conscious of the language and tone we use in our communication, we can effectively convey the information we are putting across and not diminish our authority or expertise.

The Telegraph has some excellent advice for writing more assertive emails which make useful reading for any professional woman. Here are a few additional suggestions for how to incorporate assertive language at work. We often shy away from big changes or challenges because we view them as a whole. Ask yourself: ‘if I was going to take one small step toward tackling this particular fear, what would it be?’ Then take that small step. Incremental tweaks to your mindset will give you a more objective view and help you to frame your fear as a problem to be solved, as well as breaking it down into the practical steps needed to crack it.

1. BE AUTHENTIC

Anyone who has read Sheryl Sandberg’s ‘Lean In’ can tell you that when a woman behaves like her male counterparts, she runs the risk of being labelled as pushy or bossy. But I think one of the things female business leaders need to embrace is that there is nothing wrong with coming across as strong. Instead of worrying about making a forceful impression, focus on being authentic. Establish and use a tone that you feel comfortable with, and that gets the job done!

Jacinda Ardern, the Prime Minister of New Zealand, is a clear example and role model for women on how you can communicate with warmth and compassion without compromising your impact. Similarly, it is possible and necessary to convey warmth in an email with just a greeting and sign off. Find which salutations feel right for you and use those.

2. ADJUST YOUR TONE TO SUIT THE CONTEXT

We often shy away from big changes or challenges because we view them as a whole. Ask yourself: ‘if I was going to take one small step toward tackling this particular fear, what would it be?’ Then take that small step. Incremental tweaks to your mindset will give you a more objective view and help you to frame your fear as a problem to be solved, as well as breaking it down into the practical steps needed to crack it.

In some contexts, assertive language may be alienating for your audience, so use your intuition to read each situation and respond in a considered way. Your tone can also vary according to your industry. I’ve worked for large corporates, as a consultant to corporates, and run my own business, and I adjust my tone depending on the situation and company culture. Generally, when I first start working with a new client I try to observe the style and tone they use when communicating with one another, as well as those outside of their organisation. In time you can use that as a base and then put your own spin on it.

If you’re not sure what tone to take, use a mirroring technique until you establish rapport. For example, if someone sends you an email titled “Dear” and you don’t know them, it’s advisable to use the same greeting in response until you have got to know them a bit better, rather than going straight for “Hi there.”

3. AVOID UNDERMINING WORDS AND PHRASES

Healthy assertiveness comes from knowing your worth. You work in your role because you bring value and have worth, so make sure you don’t sabotage yourself by apologising for your opinion.

Don’t waffle either. If you over-justify your view on something, you will undermine its impact and the value of your opinion.

4. BE POLITE

While being assertive is about being confident, authoritative and commanding, it does not mean being rude or condescending. Show others the same respect you desire, and be aware of tone as well as language. Use good manners, including saying please and thank you (but don’t overdo it!).

5. REMEMBER YOUR BODY LANGUAGE

Finally, it’s worth remembering that a big part of communication is non-verbal. Stand tall or sit up straight. Place yourself up front in the room or at the table, and don’t be tempted to sit in the background. Smile, but cultivate a strong hand shake. Be as assertive with your body language as you are with your written and spoken communication, and whether or not you feel confident, you’ll project strength and capability.

How to Address Unequal Pay at Work

It’s hard to believe that in 2020, the gender pay gap still exists. After all, women in the workplace have come so far in so many ways.

And yet, despite some steady narrowing over the last twenty years, the gender pay gap in Britain is still one of the widest in Europe. Much of this disparity may be due to women not getting equal access to high paying positions, but it can also still be an issue of equal pay. The Equality Act 2010 gives men and women a legal right to receive equal pay for equal work for the same employer, so if you suspect you’re being paid less than your male colleagues for doing ‘like work’ of an equivalent value, you may have a claim. But what can you do to put it right?​

In 2018, the Women’s Chapter in partnership with The Telegraph held a special ‘Know Your Worth’ event, which included a panel discussion with Emma Sinclair MBE, Ann Francke, and Hannah Ford of Stevens & Bolton, a lawyer specialising in equality and diversity issues. Hannah shared her valuable insights on equal pay with The Telegraph, including some of these top tips for navigating pay gap negotiations.

1. DO YOUR RESEARCH

While asking your colleagues about their salaries may be tricky (and not very British!), more transparent conversations might be one of the simplest ways to address the pay gap. In fact, a recent YouGov survey indicated that 56% of workers support making salary information available. Many employers include confidentiality around remuneration in contractual pay secrecy clauses, to deter employees from being distracted by salary discussions. However, these clauses can be difficult to enforce, and are voided in circumstances where someone suspects that a disparity in pay exists on the grounds of their gender. If a conversation with colleagues is a non-starter, there are other ways to research your company salaries. For example, by looking at job ads or talking to recruiters to gain insights about typical rates for similar jobs in your industry. You can also ask for information directly from your employer via your manager or Human Resources department. Employers are not legally obligated to disclose what a colleague is paid in response to a spurious demand from an employee, but they may be open to a dialogue about your salary range and how you are positioned relative to others in the same role. If you believe that a pay disparity is linked to a ‘protected characteristic’ (which includes sex, age, or race), you are entitled to submit written questions to your employer or use their grievance procedure to probe further.

2. ASK FOR A RAISE

It may sound obvious, but simply asking for a raise should always be your first recourse. Don’t be afraid to ask! Before the meeting, list your achievements and what you have done to meet your objectives, so that you know your worth. Write down key points to keep you focused, and summon all your confidence over the days leading up to the meeting, so that you are able to assert yourself effectively.

However, you should also consider timing and whether now is the right time to ask for a pay re-negotiation. Your negotiating strength will peak and trough throughout the year and some moments are definitely better than others.

Most of us have an annual pay review date built into our contracts (usually to tally with the accounting year-end or commencement of employment) but this is not the only time when you can ask for a raise. If you feel you are being underpaid, find a time when you can have a candid discussion without distractions. Even if your employer claims that their hands are tied at that moment, having the discussion can serve as a useful ‘place marker’ to go back to in the next pay review window.

3. ASK FOR AN EXPLANATION

If your request for a raise is turned down, ask for feedback. Understanding your employer’s reasoning may help you to determine whether the pay disparity is based on gender or something else. Outside of performance, there can be many other reasons why employees in similar roles are paid differently, which might include their individual experience or skill set, market forces present at the time of employment, historical business issues (such as a merger), or even individual bargaining strength or skill. Employers will have a defence if they can prove that the difference in pay between yourself and your colleagues is due to a ‘genuine material factor’ which is non-discriminatory, so it is a good idea to establish whether they will be able to make such a defence.

4. TAKING IT FURTHER

When is it time to call in the cavalry? It’s important to strike a balance between seeming heavy-handed or overly aggressive, and still ensuring your rights aren’t being violated. Your objective is to preserve the employment relationship (but on better financial terms), and many worry that threatening legal action can alienate your employer. As such, your first steps should be through your company grievance process. However, it may also serve you well to seek professional advice at this stage, to help you develop a strategy.

If you are not able to resolve the issue internally and you suspect you are being paid less unlawfully (i.e. on the grounds of your gender), then it may be time to make an Equal Pay claim.

Most importantly, remember that it is your right to be paid fairly for your contribution in the workplace. Raising the issue of equal pay can be scary, and some people worry that ‘making a fuss’ will mean they are later sidelined, overlooked or dismissed. But not raising it, and accepting less than your worth, only allows the gender pay gap to continue. And in 2019, we all deserve better than that.

10 Powerful Strategies to Overcome Fear

Fear of success, failure, or commitment lurks in the shadows for all us, even for those who always seem to fly in the face of it. Fear is a protection mechanism. But, of course, while a comfort zone is a lovely place, nothing grows there. Here are some of the methods I use on an ongoing basis to demystify and harness my fears

1. CREATE A FEAR LIST

If something incites fear in you, it probably means it’s an obstacle you need to overcome. To reframe your fears as challenges, build a list and pick them off one by one, just like you would a to-do list.

2. TALK TO YOUR INNER CIRCLE

Talk your fears out with your nearest and dearest. Ever noticed how when you share a fear or worry with people you trust, it seems more manageable? Build a tribe of people who have your back and don’t hesitate to confide in them.

3. IF YOU CAN’T SWALLOW THE FROG, EAT THE ELEPHANT IN SMALL BITES

We often shy away from big changes or challenges because we view them as a whole. Ask yourself: ‘if I was going to take one small step toward tackling this particular fear, what would it be?’ Then take that small step. Incremental tweaks to your mindset will give you a more objective view and help you to frame your fear as a problem to be solved, as well as breaking it down into the practical steps needed to crack it.

4. WORK BACKWARDS

Think about the rush you get from doing something that you thought you couldn’t do. Remember how you thought, ‘it wasn’t that bad’. Store those references in your fear toolkit and draw on them when facing a new challenge.

5. REWARD YOURSELF

Remember to pat yourself on the back when you’ve made a step toward conquering a fear or overcoming a challenge. Rewiring your approach to fear won’t happen overnight; it’s a process.

6. DON’T MAKE EXCUSES

My fear often manifests itself as procrastination and I constantly have to check myself on it. If you’re putting something off, evaluate why. Then prioritise your own personal development.

7. BE PREPARED

Fear often comes along with the unknown. If your fear is based on a lack of information, then do the work to educate yourself. If it comes from a lack of preparation (for example, with public speaking), then practice until you feel more confident. Good preparation can go a long way toward allaying your anxieties.

“Fear often comes along with the unknown. If your fear is based on a lack of information, then do the work to EDUCATE yourself.”

8. REMEMBER THAT YOU DESERVE TO SUCCEED

Make a list of reasons to be brave and think about how your fear is holding you back from achieving what you deserve, whether that is health, fulfilment, happiness…the list goes on!

9. STOP DREAMING

The gap between dreaming and doing is often occupied by fear. Try to think of ways you can live as if you are already as successful or brave as you want to be. Neuroscience research shows that when you repeatedly think yourself into a space or visualise yourself doing something, you’re building neural pathways and rewiring your responses and reactions. Essentially, we have the power to think ourselves fearless!

10. ALLOW YOURSELF TO WALK AWAY

You can always afford to walk away from something or someone who compromises your values or makes you unhappy. It’s not cowardly; it’s called self-care.