To mark International Women’s Day 2019, we asked the women of Nine Feet Tall what they had to say about why International Women’s Day is important, the women that inspire them, their most valuable skills, and where they see themselves in ten years.
1. Describe a woman that inspires you and why?
Elle: I am fortunate enough to say that I am most inspired by the woman in my life who is closest to home – my mother. She inspires me because she has never compromised on her dedication to her career as a Senior University Lecturer whilst somehow, as if in two places at once, was a single mum who attended my every hockey match, supported me in every academic venture and was always there as I developed my understanding of who I wanted to be as a woman.
Anna: Rachel Carsen – As an American Marine Biologist, Rachel Carsen wrote ‘Silent Spring’ in the 1960s to outline her observations of how human activity was having an impact on the environment. Despite being a woman and a ‘housewife’ she was able to raise awareness for the impact that people were having on the natural environment and catalyse a revolutionary shift in our understanding of our human impact on the environment.
Emma: Oprah Winfrey – born into poverty, abused as a child, lost her child at a very young age, went on to build a phenomenal career in radio and eventually TV. Praised for overcoming adversity to become a benefactor to others. According to Forbes magazine, Winfrey was the richest African American of the 20th century and the world’s only Black billionaire for three years running. Life magazine hailed her as the most influential woman of her generation. She has some of the most inspiring quotes; words that I live by.
“The biggest adventure you can take is to live the life of your dreams.”
“Surround yourself with people who are only going to lift you higher.”
Tiggy: My former boss at the Financial Services Authority (now FCA), Sharon Campbell. She showed me that you can have it all. A great career, a happy family, to help others to move up the career ladder and also be a great person to work with.
2. What would you say is your most valuable skill and why?
Anna: I would say that my most valuable skill is my ability to remain positive whatever the situation. I think that this is a valuable skill as it allows me to learn from my mistakes, move on from anything that has happened, and remain confident in myself.
Amy: I would say my ability to communicate, find common ground and put people at ease. I always try to listen, understand and see the best in people and situations.
Esther: One of the most important things in life is to stay true to your values. This means being open and honest. I think it is important to tell it how it is. That doesn’t necessarily mean hurting other people’s feelings, but rather being clear and direct to make sure people understand what’s not working and what is. I feel people will respect, appreciate and want your opinion if you express yourself in that way.
Helena: Being able to inject energy into a room! This means that no matter what time of day I have a meeting with a stakeholder, I can get the best out of them.
Orla: The ability to communicate effectively, both online and in real life! I believe communication is the foundation of all relationships and therefore should be given thoughtful consideration. In my early career, I learnt the importance of shaping your language (be it within a presentation or a WhatsApp message) to suit the preferences of the receiver, which has thoroughly helped me convey messages and share knowledge. I follow the rule of: Don’t speak to people how you want to be spoken to, speak to people how they want to be spoken to.
3. Why do you think it’s important to have an International Women’s Day?
Elle: One of my favourite quotes is by a poet called Rupi Kaur who said “‘What’s the greatest lesson a woman should learn?’ That since day one, she’s already had everything she needs within herself. It’s the world that convinced her she did not”. International Women’s Day is needed to break the hold society has on women and encourage them to pursue their calling.
Esther: In the last decade there has been significant progress made towards women’s equality. Success is becoming a notion that is independent of gender. There are definitely many great female role models and achievements today, but for me, IWD should not be a forum to complain about inequality, but instead, a great event that celebrates the positives and achievements inspired by women.
Orla: Depending on the way IWD is perceived; A celebration of womanhood or a day of protest, I believe both are important and relevant. To fully understand the world we live in today, we must recognise and celebrate the historical and modern achievements of women but also understand the underlying patriarchal norms that are continuously challenging and inhibiting women from reaching their full potential. While I think we need to recognise these existing inequalities every day, in the same way, that many women have to face them every day, I think having a focus day annually is an important practice.
4. How do you maintain a work/life balance?
Tiggy: It has been difficult at times. I have three children and work part-time, but I have a set-up which enables me to travel when I need to, work from home when possible, and flexibility around holidays which is invaluable. To make it work, I’ve found it is crucial to work for an employer that recognises you have a life outside work and also values what you bring to the table regardless of whether you work full or part-time. I am also hugely grateful to my family and the childcare providers who make it all possible.
Anna: As a ‘Type A’ person this can be quite difficult for me as I thrive on obsessing over work. But to ensure that I am managing my wellbeing I play sport, and often arrange to meet up with people after work to go for a run, go to the gym or go for a bike ride so that I have a reason to leave work every day!
Esther: I am lucky that my husband plays a key role in bringing up our kids, which provides me with a great level of support. The nature of my job allows me to be flexible with my time (as long as the work gets done), which means I can do many of the school runs, swimming lessons and spend time a lot of time with my family.
Emma: I don’t. I don’t believe there is such a thing as work/life balance or life/work balance. To balance is to stay still, in a steady state – why would we want to do that?
To be successful at anything in life you need grit, determination, a willingness to learn and to grow daily, as well as overcoming the fear to fail.
We have to consistently step out of our comfort zone to see growth in business, our careers and ourselves and that doesn’t happen when we are in equilibrium.
For me, I work hard to be present in the moment, to focus on one thing at a time, time block and work smart. If you are passionate and have a healthy obsession with your job, career, health, family, relationship etc. you will fulfil all your aspirations without the need to strike ‘a balance’.
5. Have you ever had to give up or miss out on anything to pursue your career?
Tiggy: No, I don’t believe I have. I had a 4-year career break to have my children. In terms of building my career, it was the best thing I ever did, as it made me evaluate what is important to me and decide what type of company I wanted to help to build. I now have a list of things that I will not compromise on in my working life, such as being treated like an adult, with control over my diary and ways of working and the culture is equally important. I want to work in a place where can be authentic and speak my mind.
Anna: Luckily, I haven’t had to do that as of yet – but I am sure that there are going to be tough moments where I will have to make hard decisions.
Esther: There will always be sacrifices you have to make and the hardest part of running your own business is there will always be something to worry about. You can never get away completely. Significant events often occur at inconvenient times, for example just as you are about to go on holiday. It can be difficult, but there are always ways and people who will help you cope.
Helena: Not a single thing, at Nine Feet Tall we’re lucky in that we can be flexible with our time. For me, I have acknowledged that there are occasions where I have to work longer hours, but I don’t feel as though I ever miss out on the things I really want to do.
6. Based on your own experiences, what advice would you give to fellow females looking to get into your profession?
Elle: Don’t drift around the edge – you’ll learn the best moves in the middle of the dancefloor. Don’t spend too long planning – dive straight in and work it out as you go (a fellow Nine Feet Taller taught me that one!). Don’t apologise for putting what you love first – it’s your right. Perhaps most importantly, don’t sacrifice your femininity – this world needs to recognise a different kind of strength and dignity.
Esther: Be fearless and get stuck in! Consultancy may be a huge arena, but within it, you meet such a wide range of interesting people. You learn something from all of them, and this interaction helps you grow every time. This is a fact that never stops. Do not be afraid to make mistakes or fail. Failure is not a flaw – it truly does make you stronger, and again, you learn from it. Listen to everyone: advice, criticism, war stories, but ultimately trust yourself and follow your instincts in making what you believe to be the right decision. Remember that success is not just about you, but also about helping others succeed. That itself brings its own reward.
Emma: Read. Read. Read. Personal development will grow you into the person you want to be.
Seek out a mentor – not necessarily someone you aspire to be but someone you connect with, who you resonate with and who inspires you to be the best version of yourself.
Belief and vision. If you think you can’t you are right and if you think you can, you are right. Bulletproof belief in yourself and what you want to achieve coupled with consistent action will get you there.
Orla: Never say ‘I don’t know how…’, replace it with ‘I’ll find out how…!’ I’ve found that a proactive and willing attitude is recognised quickly and positively infectious in a workplace. Additionally, through my love of learning, I’ve surprised myself by picking up skills incredibly quickly and gaining confidence through the process.
7. If you could have dinner with five inspirational women dead or alive, who would they be?
- Sue Baker OBE
- Dame Emma Thompson
- Ellen DeGeneres
- Paloma Faith
- Elaine Atkinson (My Mum, Artist, Grandmother)
- Princess Diana
- Meghan Markle
- Joyce DiDonato
- Audrey Hepburn
- Louisa May Alcott
- Deborah Francis White
- Virginia E. Johnson
- Mary Queen of Scots
- Michelle Obama
- Holly Willoughby
- Rachel Carsen
- Anita Roddick
- Anne Boleyn
- Mary Magdalen
- My mum
- Emmeline Pankhurst
- Michele Obama
- Amal Clooney
- Venus Williams
8. As a successful female, where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Orla: Happy, healthy, and continuously educating myself.
Elle: I am not so concerned with where, as I am who. I would like to be found in the field working for gender equality, but I hope I am a grounded, confident woman and can offer support and encouragement to other women finding their way.
Amy: I would like to be leading and motivating a successful team, continually learning and developing myself as a professional and an individual. As well as this, I would like to be doing more to help and support others less fortunate than me.
Helena: I am excited to have developed my career in Nine Feet Tall to allow me to continuously improve and leave a lasting impact within different companies. I want to be constantly challenging and learning more about how I can better myself as a consultant and person, while also influencing and supporting others in both a personal or professional capacity.
Emma: Inspiring others to take action, grow as people, put their dreams back on the table and live the lives they have always dreamed of, including myself. For me it’s not about the title it’s about paying it forward, consistently growing my mindset and belief in the opportunities, I am pursuing. I see myself being financially free in 10-years’ time so that I have the choice and the freedom to do and be whatever I want to.
Esther: I would like to continue to be involved in a mixture of things including work, charity, family, sports and travelling. Basically, make a difference and have fun doing it.
Find out more about International Womens Day 2019 here.