In support of International Women's Day, we gave the women in our network a platform where they could share their wisdom, advice, and support with other women in the business world.
The response that we got was fantastic and provided us with some incredible insight into the similarities between us that may not be clear on the surface. From the experiences that have been shared, it's safe to say that feelings of inadequacy, imposter syndrome, and a reluctance to vocalise our success are more common than we may realise.
However, it's encouraging to see women like the ones in this article sharing their advice for how to overcome these feelings in order to succeed.
From refusing to apologise for being a working mum, to saving up to make sure your taxes are taken care of, we've compiled all the best advice for women, from women, in this article.
1. Trust who you are
Someone who coached me once told me "Pilar, people are going to want to do business with YOU. They will want work with you because of who you are." It took me a while to understand and accept that (oh, the pressure), but it makes total sense.
Of course, it also means that some people won't want to work with you, also because of who you are. But that's all right too.
Pilar Orti, founder of Virtual Not Distant
2. Own your decisions
Own what you do. Rather than feeling a need to apologise about being a mum with a son at nursery so I could run a business or apologising as a wife for staying away from home with work and leaving my husband to run the house and home.
Owning the choices I have made, the purpose for those choices, and the people impacted by those choices gave me permission to leave the guilt behind and focus on the contribution I wanted to bring into the world. the connections and value I wanted to bring to people rather than focusing on labels which certainly didn't define me or my role as a mum, wife, sister, friend and business owner.
Joanne Spencer, Founder of Infinite You
3. Learn from everything
See every experience, good or bad, as a learning opportunity that will support you to be the best you can be.
Katy Cooper, Director of NHS Transformation Unit
4. Be kind, and pay your taxes
Businessmen are not better than businesswomen, they are simply different.
Business is based on excellent relationships, and women are brilliant at that.
If you go to networking events to get business, you will usually be disappointed. If you go to meet people, learn things, help other people, you will rarely be disappointed… and sometimes you'll also get business.
The more you give, the more you receive.
Never stop learning and adapting.
And always save up to pay your tax.
Heather Baker, Founder of Baker Thompson Associates
5. Know your worth
When pitching for a piece of work always think in advance about the price/day rate that would make you pleased, and that you really think justifies the work and experience you will put into it.
Also, think about what price would make you feel disappointed, and certainly don't go as low as that. Settling for a lower fee than you know you deserve will not only lower your feelings of self-worth, but also might make people think they can get something for cheap, which often then continues throughout your working relationship and affects who they may refer you on to.
Ruth Walker-Cotton, Co-Founder of Causeway Consulting
6. Be Yourself
Don't try and be someone else.
Everyone has imposter syndrome and you need to get your voice heard so if you have a point to make - make it!
Emma Walker-Cotton, Co-Founder of Causeway Consulting
7. Shout about your achievements
Women have to be more willing to step and shout about their accomplishments. Too often we think that if we stay in the background, keep our heads down and work hard, someone will notice, and we'll be rewarded. And yes, sure that does happen. But we need to take ownership and control of our career trajectory.
We want to be modest. And this is something that I struggled with too early in my career. For me, talking about my work and my accomplishments felt uncomfortable, like bragging – even more so because I'm from a culture that values modesty. I can't tell you how many times growing up I heard “Self-praise is no praise”. But showcasing yourself, your work and your talents is not bragging. We need to start thinking about it more as a presentation of the facts. And it's been my experience, especially from my coaching work, that women struggle with this a lot more than men do. I often meet incredible women, achieving great things who are waiting to be noticed. No more waiting. Action!
Be kind to yourself. As women, we can often be our worst critics, with some of our harshest feedback being the things we say to ourselves. So many times, in my coaching work, I've seen really accomplished smart women achieving amazing things in their careers who are extremely self-critical. In fact, I've been guilty of it myself. Don't get me wrong, everyone has areas for development and it's important to be honest about those to help your career go forward. But fixating on those things while overlooking skills, talents and accomplishments is unhealthy and devaluing. It's important to have balance and to be strict with limiting those limiting thoughts. Try to be more of a cheerleader for yourself. And when limiting thoughts creep in think “Would I say this in the same way to someone else I worked with and valued?” - and if the answer is no, why are you saying it to yourself? Perspective, kindness and consciousness to break that bad habit.
Dana James-Edwards, Corporate Training Consultant
8. Don't show fear
When I entered the agency world, I was given good advice about talking about fees. Don't be afraid or nervous when talking about fees, because if you sound like you don't think your work is worth the fees, then the client won't either.
Also, in the consultancy world, I was advised that my job was to make my client look good to their boss. That was very useful and freed me up from trying to always be seen to be the one with all the solutions, and as a result my clients were always very willing to share the credit and to recommend me.
Sarah Alder, Director of Cranmore Digital
9. If not now, then when?
I remember getting some supervision about a move I wanted to make professionally but was feeling like I didn't have the nerve. I remember the rather softly spoken woman looking me in the eye and saying quietly....'if not now, then when?'
It really cut through all my prevaricating because I realised that I was never going to feel comfortable putting myself forward, but I could spend a lifetime for the right moment. I did it and haven't looked back.
Shona Ward, Managing Partner of Learning Curve Network
10. Don't stick to the status quo
Question everything. Do not accept things at face value or because "it's always been this way".
Joss Little, HR Business Partner of Nanoco Technologies
11. Mistakes are human
I have a mantra; “challenge the nonsense”. In other words, if something doesn't make sense, ask yourself why you are doing it. If there are no good answers, it's probably BS that no one has thought to change or had the guts to challenge.
Be authentic, and as a leader, be kind and have empathy. Create a culture where mistakes are human and make them an opportunity to learn and grow together, to drive improvement and change for the better. A culture of fear gets a business nowhere in the long term. Values matter. What are yours? Let them clearly drive your decision making.
12. Try new things
Having career-swapped out of practice, I would definitely say that life is too short to stay in a job that isn't for you. Move on, try something else - just make sure your next role pays for itself. Living your #BestLife is totally the goal, but make sure you can still pay the mortgage!
13. Ask for help
One thing that I have learnt over the last year is to ask others for help. We often don't want to burden people with our problems or admit that we could do with a helping hand sometimes, but in reality, people are only too pleased to offer help if they are able to.
14. Authenticity and self-care
Authenticity is important. When you have to make difficult decisions, you need to be comfortable knowing that you have done the right thing. Also, find time for your own well-being. It is so easy to be looking after everyone else and forget to make time for yourself. Someone once said to me that you can't pour from an empty jug and that has stuck with me.
15. Speak your mind
Take no nonsense. If you think or feel something, then it is highly likely other people do too so don't be afraid to be you and say what you think.
If you're looking to develop your skills as a woman in business, check out our Women Advancing in Leadership course.