BAWE Corporate Video
BAWE Board Member Giovanna Forte: Smashing the “Sisterhood Ceiling”
A study from the UCL School of Management published in 2016 presents the view that those guilty of holding back women from their well-earned rise up the career ladder are … other women.
A secretary aspiring to greater things, my application in 1983 to train as a researcher at Thames Television was blocked by a woman on the grounds that I was only a secretary. It transpired that three years earlier, this woman had also been a humble secretary - to my boss.
For me at least, the UCL Study observation that one of the biggest barriers to female career advancement largely overlooked until now is other women, is a little late.
No small surprise then that I have worked for myself since the age of 26, have avoided women focused groups, preferring to be part of a general non-gender specific world of work. In short, my hormones have little to do with my role in business, my ability to achieve, succeed and indeed, to enjoy running a business.
This time last year however, I met Patricia Rochford, now a friend and mentor who suggested I might enjoy an organisation of which she was a Board member: the British Association of Women Entrepreneurs (BAWE). My cynical harrumph was met with a gentle smile and invitation to join the Association’s Christmas lunch to judge its merits for myself. I did and reader, I have never looked back.
At this and future events I found a seam of oestrogen-rich talent and experience, for example:
a coco merchant with farms in South America, an actress, TV presenter, lawyer, accountant, stylist, a clairvoyant, author, journalist, international technology guru, award-winning financial advisor, motivational coach, and media, PR, brand and management consultants. In this small vignette of BAWE members exist all the women you could wish to know, and more.
Having met so many kind, friendly, professional and thoroughly independent women over the course of the year, I was interested to find out exactly why they had also joined.
“I never imagined I would join a group like BAWE,” says Maggie Hunt, Celebrity Make-up Artist. “I’m not a typical entrepreneur. I’m just a woman who has worked hard from a very young age. Nervous to start with I soon realised that many members were just like me.”
There you have it: the dangers of inter-female competition pale when a woman’s modesty raises its head. Yet with those words, Maggie has inadvertently nailed both the essence of female entrepreneurship and the very heart of BAWE.
“I recognised a spirit of entrepreneurship and friendship,” says Luisa Caprotti, internet security specialist. “BAWE engenders mutual trust and cooperation, it helps to establish new valuable relationships and business opportunities too.”
“Whilst we are all different, with a broad range of businesses, we face similar challenges,” adds motivational speaker, Victoria O’Farrell, “Just talking and being with like-minded women is a real boost, a tonic. BAWE is about women who want to support other women. It’s a safe environment to talk business and challenges and sometimes, just share life.”
A former Ab-Fab PR myself, I am rather envious of the giddy heights to which BAWE has taken the theme of Ladies at Lunch, for these regular events are a-brim with bonhomie, empathy, goodwill and cheer. Each event features a member-speaker, which adds another layer of interest for those present.
“Hearing about the journeys and stories of other BAWE members has been empowering,” says Julia Goodman, CEO and Founder of Personal Presentation, senior personal performance coach; actor, author and speaker: “It reinforces how inspiring women can be in the face of well-documented pressures such as family-work balance or the fight for recognition.”
“Our meetings and lunches provide opportunities to ask questions and learn from each other,” observes Tanya Hine OBE, business consultant. Whilst serving as National President of BAWE and Vice President of FCEM (Federation Femmes Chefs d’Enterprises Mondiales), Tanya encouraged cross fertilization of opportunities for members to meet and collaborate nationally and internationally. “BAWE focuses on all women entrepreneurs in all sectors, which is what makes it different. I joined originally because being with like-minded women held great appeal.”
“Listening to our speakers can make you think differently about how to approach problems you may be facing on your own,” says PR professional Tereza Matysova. “The collective mindset is something that has impressed me – entrepreneurial attitudes, drive and even quite humbling approaches to life. We learn from each other.”
Brand strategist Karen Nunn agrees. “I enjoy being part of an extended family, hearing about journeys and stories of like-minded individuals whose vision and views can be so motivating. It is also fulfilling to be able to support others.”
My first BAWE year – the first of many I hope – has been quite simply a joy, introducing me to women I may never have encountered. BAWE has given me new ways of thinking, new approaches and fresh ideas.
To sum up, our President, award-winning Chartered Wealth Manager Louise Oliver:
“We believe in active and sincere networking. Attending a BAWE event doesn’t mean just having a glass of wine over lunch. It means helping the membership and be helped. It means establishing effective relationships and working with the association in order to bring quality women to join us. Whilst we welcome a broach church of professions and industries, the focus on membership is less the business, more the individual, their behavior and intellect, their ability to interface with the group. That’s what makes BAWE click.”
Giovanna Forte is a HealthTech entrepreneur, one of the Top 50 Movers and Shakers in BioBusiness and newly appointed Board member to BAWE.
*FCEM is the International counterpart to BAWE with 120 members, is an important benefit to the UK membership, stimulating cross-border relationships and business growth. Other counterpart organisations exist in Australia and the USA.
(c) BAWE 2019.
If you are a female founder and entrepreneur, with investment in your own business and are interested in joining BAWE or would like to attend our Christmas Lunch on 10th December 2019 please contact:
Hellen Ward, BAWE Vice-President: Business Heroes
If I could only ever watch one TV Channel for as long as I live it would be Sky Arts. They show such fascinating documentaries and as a real culture vulture and music lover, there’s always something for me to enjoy. I recently watched the film Studio 54, where co-founder, the famously reclusive Ian Schrager, talked for the first time about his partnership with the late Steve Rubell. Rubell sadly passed away from AIDS in the late 80’s, but in 3 short whirlwind years (1977-1980) the duo pioneered the most famous nightclub in the world from a partnership they formed at college. Schrager of course went on to become the world’s most famous hotelier, creating the concept of the boutique hotel with his eponymous global chain.
Schrager and Rubell were jailed for tax evasion (they were so successful the money was literally spilling in and not, ahem, properly accounted for…) which ultimately led to the closure and sale of their beloved disco. But even on the inside, they were plotting their next venture. Schrager even says that in the cell opposite him was a guy who murdered someone with a bowling ball. This guy, they decided, was the perfect person to protect them in jail, so they starting paying him protection money from day one. Ever the entrepreneurs!
Watching the documentary charting their startling rise, fall and resurgence made me realise that it’s people like Schrager who are the real heroes in business. Against adversity, there was never any doubt in his mind that he would again be successful; what a testament to positive thinking and self-belief. His mindset is one he has in common with many entrepreneurs I’ve met; there is no fear of failure, more fear of mediocrity. Having a finger on the pulse of culture and being willing to take a risk is a common trait in many successful people, and the fact that Schrager was eventually pardoned by the very judge who sentenced him for his tax evasion (and also the then US President Barak Obama) just says it all. He owned his mistake and was ashamed by it, but he worked hard to re-invent himself and become a good, honest, trustworthy contributor not only to the US but the world’s economy. People like Ian Schrager should be the role models for anyone who screwed up, and yet has picked themselves up to make themselves credible again.
There are some other business people I really admire a bit closer to home, too. Ali Spencer Churchill, who heads up Annabel’s, is a creative genius. His off-the-wall instinct for creating hype is one no doubt modelled on the days of Studio 54, where the beautiful people flocked to get their ‘space on the floor’ in the words of Chic’s Nile Rodgers. Rather more sedate but no less determined is Sir Mark Price, former CEO of Waitrose, whose complete and utter understanding of his customer and determination to deliver to them and not to be side-tracked by looking at the competition helped him make a British supermarket become something of a status symbol, like a watch or a car. Quite brilliant, when you think of it in those terms.
The common denominator my business heroes share? Determination, drive and a utter conviction about what they are trying to achieve. Lessons to be learned by these amazing, if flawed, geniuses for all of us.
Maggie Hunt, Make-Up Artist & BAWE Member: It's In My Blood
Sydney Charles Gill is my grandfather 4 05 1881 – 15 05 1944.
Not so long ago my mother gave me an old Ovaltine Rusk’s tin and a small photo album that has fascinated me ever since. My grandfather designed the tin and within the album was some of his work.
In the early 1900’s the talented artist Sydney Gill also became a photographer, graphic designer and show card specialist. He used my grandmother, his children and his friends as models. That is how it worked back then so it helped if you were a ‘Jack of all Trades’ and that didn’t really change until the 50’s and even then it was gradual.
My mother and father were married in 1947 and then along came six children. They were multi talented always creating with my mother still specializing in the restoration of antique ornaments. My father became head of the technical department teaching at St. Thomas Moore School in Tottenham, London but in his spare time he was fascinated by photography, developing, printing and cine film.
As the 60’s came along my father’s family images were sent to Elizabeth Smith Child Model Agency and although I was very shy I excelled as a young model in front of the camera. At home and at school I loved art and always had a pencil in my hand but I left school on my 16th Birthday and attended ‘Lucie Clayton Finishing School.’ I really enjoyed learning about deportment and how to be more of a lady. I passed with flying colours and in 1968 Lucie Clayton asked me to join their model agency. Contrary to what many people may think, modeling can teach you a great deal about the photographic industry but you also need patience, stability and flair. During my time as a model I did my own hair, make-up and styling. I would drag my wigs and accessories with me to jobs so that they would complement the advertisement or editorial shoot. Often my mother made my clothes so that I looked nice for castings or for a specific photographic shoot.
I lived in France for a year and then one day I woke up and decided I wanted to give up modeling while the going was still good, so in 1977 I qualified in beauty therapy and make-up. The rest of my story as a make-up artist I shall keep for another time.
8 Farringdon Avenue EC4 was written on the cover of my grandfather’s album but I’ve found out that this street doesn’t exist anymore as it was destroyed in World War 2 by incendiary bombs along with all his equipment, artwork and photographs. My mother says, “My father died of a broken heart just before the end of the war as he lost his street, building, equipment, artwork, photographs and his passion.”
I do believe you can die of a broken heart; however his creative legacy continues with us and will continue with future generations. My nieces Samantha and Nicola Chapman of pixiwoo are incredible make-up artists, vloggers and business women and their children have a creative future too!
Check us out on our websites, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube:
Beautiful artwork and photographs by Maggie's Grandfather, Sydney Gill. Middle image is Maggie as a child!
BAWE Corporate Video
Hellen Ward, Vice President
Marie Christine Oghly
Hellen Ward, Vice-President: You've got to have the dressing room - empowering your team
With Theresa May's recent run-in's with parliament over the support (or lack of it) ’being so much in the news it got me thinking. Like her or not, I think most people admire her grit and determination through this process. She’s dealing with the cards she got dealt in taking over as Prime Minister – the result of the public’s referendum to leave the EU. She didn’t necessarily agree, or even instigate the process, yet she was left to pick up the pieces. So it’s surprising that she has so little support from her fellow MP’s. Why not? She’s been stoic, dealt with some very public humiliation and mud slinging and yet… why don’t they back her? It left me pondering.
As a Chelsea fan, it’s a bit like football. Look at Mourinho – he’s left Man Utd, yet once upon a time at CFC he was ‘the special one’ who could do no wrong. What exactly results in this similar fall from grace?
I suppose it’s like anyone who heads up a team or is at the helm of a people led business, whether it’s hairdressing, football or politics. Quite simply, you’ve got to have the dressing room. If you don’t have the support of the people you’re leading you might as well forget it. No true leader makes the mistake of letting ego get in the way and no manager is greater than the institution they are running. You could argue they are merely the caretaker in some cases. Failure to accept that is when things go wrong. When people start believing they are all things to all men and they don’t need to filter through their thought processes and explain the ‘why’s’ of what they are doing, it’s a recipe for disaster.
So how do you get the team onside? How do you make sure that you ‘have the dressing room’?
The answer is simple – communication. Inviting the team to become part of the problem solving, listening to their ideas and input, giving them autonomy – all of these things aren’t a sign of weakness. In fact, it’s a sign of strength to show that you value the teams contribution. It makes them feel empowered, involved and part of the solution, not the problem. As Winston Churchill, arguably our greatest leader once said: ’A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity, an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty’. Richard Branson similarly speaks of his team as ‘working with’ him not ‘for’ him.
Sharing the issues you face is key. My friend Kate’s husband always used to say to her that a problem shared is a problem doubled – and I can see why there are times you need to keep things to yourself, however worrisome. But on the whole, sharing and inviting people to become part of the solution can only result in their support, not their alienation.
The most skilled people managers I know already have an idea what they want to do, and how. But they invite their teams to brainstorm it with them, making them feel like the solutions are their idea. Unselfish to the core, but the reverse of dis empowering. They smile sweetly, knowing that all the while the team think they’ve thought of a magic bullet, they were leading them there all along.
Who knows what Theresa May would have achieved had she said, ‘Listen guys – these are the issues, come with me, help me find a way though… what do you think we should do?’ Instead, she hid the difficulties she was facing and dealt with them alone, thinking this made her stronger, whereas it had the reverse affect. Who knows, alone is exactly where she might end up…