A balanced world for a better world
Posted by Kieran Whiteside
Gender balance, confidence and work-life balance for women were the hot topics at this week at Lime Wood Hotel’s International Women’s Day event. They invited Karen Lynch, Belu CEO, to speak at along with some of our inspiring female social entrepreneur friends, Cecilia Crossley, Founder & CEO of From Babies with Love and Jenny Costa, Founder & CEO of Rubies in the Rubble.
From left to right: Jenny Costa, Rubies in the Rubble; Karen Lynch, Belu; Cecilia Crossley, From Babies with Love
The audience gained insight into the ‘hidden revolution’ that is social enterprise, including a challenge to the room to ask their suppliers to think differently about how they spend their money. As Cecilia demonstrated, “I’ve spent my pounds in a really positive way” by supporting social enterprise brands.
And when it comes to gender balance, social enterprise outperforms both mainstream SMEs and the big business sector, with 41% of them being led by women and 81% of leadership teams having a female director (Social Enterprise UK).
Mostly though, the evening was a celebration for all that is great about social enterprise, told through three entrepreneurs’ stories. Here’s a snapshot of what they shared.
Gender in business
Jenny: In the food business world there are a lot of men, so people notice when you walk into a room. Women feel fear of failure more; I remember really battling with it when I started Rubies in the Rubble. However, there’s been a surge in female business role models, who are managing a family life as well as leadership.
Karen: Belu has been powered forward by women. For most of the time, we’ve been female-dominated, at 80-90% female team until this last year, where we’re now at 60%.
Being in charge has allowed me to apply my creative brain, sometimes get more emotional and grow the way I’ve wanted to, rather than feel constrained by the male-dominated executives or boards like I’ve been part of in the past.
Cecilia: Sometimes I feel like I’m being judged by people that I’m a woman who had some children, so I decided to start a baby brand, so sometimes gender frustrates me. Female empowerment is essential to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, lifting a woman out of poverty will lift children out of poverty. So the impact of my business addresses this indirectly as we give 100% of profits to help abandoned children across the world.
Also, the way I’ve chosen to structure the business offers flexibility, and I’ve attracted some amazing talent with two female colleagues, both former lawyers with phenomenal experience who are over-qualified but totally have a passion for what we stand for and nail the work.
A great question from the audience was how the women had overcome anxiety or confidence issues to become as successful as they have.
Cecilia: I compensate if I feel nervous with an overdose of passion as I love what I do.
My different backgrounds in work experience have also helped me by working with a range of people. I feel at home in both a room full of grey suits in Canary Wharf and a room full of people in jeans in Shoreditch.
Jenny: What I’ve learnt is that all businesses are made of people working with one end goal, it's nothing swanky, just people trying to do their best and head in the right direction. Having a passion and feeling like you have a purpose helps.
Karen: I still feel the terror, I even did tonight, but half of that is nerves. It's the connection of what you're working towards that helps. The important thing is to tell it how it is. Don’t make things appear stage-managed or manicured. People like that, they find honesty refreshing.
Lime Wood Hotel (Photo credit: @limewoodhotel Instagram)
The speakers rounded off the evening with reflections about work-life balance.
Being a social entrepreneur offers Cecilia flexibility, as a mum of two she can do two school pick-ups a week. However, as a CEO she admitted, “working in not on the business is hard to balance sometimes”.
Jenny has a policy that she never works after 7pm “I'm always quick to switch off, it pays off for me to have quality time, I come in fresh”.
Karen closed with “so for me, this year’s overarching theme is about finding that balance. I hope that means an opportunity for all of you to celebrate and refocus on getting the balance in life and work that’s right for you, whatever your gender.”
Happy #IWD2019 #balanceforbetter