Sam (pictured right) co-founder of ERIC

International Women’s Day – four female leaders on their biggest business lessons 

For the team at Projects, a creative office hub in the center of Brighton, International Women’s Day is about more than creating conversation on how we can make gender equality a reality. Projects spoke to four female leaders about the business lessons they’ve learnt, and being a woman in the world of work. Their goal is to amplify the incredible achievements made by women across the world, so many of whom have had to overcome bias, stereotypes, and discrimination. 

In order to move towards this, Projects are currently curating an updated schedule of events for both members and the public. A diverse, equitable and inclusive programme of speakers will be launched this month and as part of that, Projects will celebrate women’s achievements, raise awareness about discrimination and take action to drive gender parity.

All of us are surrounded by inspirational women who are making serious moves within their industry.

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April Baker

CEO of Together Co

Both Together Co and Sussex Nightstop are Projects’ charity partners. Projects proudly support both organisations with the work they do to support people of all genders in having somewhere welcoming to go during the day and somewhere safe to sleep at night.

Describe your business and the difference it aims to create 

Together Co is a loneliness charity in Brighton and Hove that creates connections to change lives. Within a world of hyper-individualisation, we work to establish social ties to rebuild a community of hyper-connectedness. 

We believe that in a city of nearly 300,000, no one should be lonely or socially isolated. Together, we can make sure no one is. 

What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learnt from being a business leader?

Being a leader does not mean you have all the answers all the time. By moving away from a top-down, hierarchical approach and instead listening deeply, asking powerful questions, and working with people creatively, you will generate more informed and innovative ways to develop organisations together. 

I have also learnt to have boundaries and that this is a vital form of self-care and critical for ensuring you both feel and perform well in any role. 

What change would you like to see for women in your industry?

I have reflected lots on the challenges I have faced as a young, female leader over the last ten years. This has included being spoken over, being paid lower than male colleagues at the same level and my opinions being disregarded in meetings.  However, I am grateful to those who pulled up a chair for me, believed in what I could do and mentored me. This led to me becoming Chair of the Board at JustLife, an amazing homelessness organisation in Brighton and Hove at aged 33,  and a CEO at 35.

Equally, I am doing a lot of learning and am aware of my privilege as white, cisgender and non-disabled. There is still a lot of work to do when it comes to workplace culture, and it is essential we have more discussions around this to intensify the energy on diversifying leadership and changing the cultural landscape. We must ensure that awareness and structures are in place to make this process meaningful and accessible, comfortable, and fair for everyone. 

For example, I would like to see a day when we do not need to report on gender pay gaps, and that companies ‘are working on this’, but we just see people paid for their talents no matter who they are!

Sam Hornsby (pictured right)

Co-Founder of ERIC

Describe your business and the difference it aims to create

I’m Co-Founder of ERIC, a free-to-use app that connects young people to initiatives, programmes, events and other helpful things to get career experience in the creative industries. Our aim is to democratise support and access to careers in the creative industries, so that every young person has equal opportunity.

What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learnt from being a business leader?

The biggest lesson I’ve learnt is that knowing as many people as you can (and being nice to everyone!) will give you a real headstart with any business. Networking is so important, and those that aren’t afraid to make the first move to connect will often make the biggest impact – if you don’t put yourself out there, no one will know about you and what your mission is! 

I used to be terrified to cold email people or add people I didn’t know on LinkedIn, but now I know that’s how you get ahead and make connections. That’s the easiest way to build a network, increase awareness for your business and make sales!

What change would you like to see for women in your industry?

I would like to see less pressure on women to do it all. Although we’ve made leaps and bounds in terms of women being able to invest their time and energy into having a career without judgement, the previous pressures haven’t gone away. 

The pressure on women to look after children, do housework, make all the social plans for a partner, to look polished all the time… all these things haven’t relaxed to be in equilibrium with career pressures. So now women just have the pressure of everything. I would like to see less expectation of women to have careers and be able to do everything else on top of a full-time job, it’s not fair!

Abigail Rebecca – The Visibility Goddess

Human Design Visibility Coach

Image by NJ Photo

Describe your business and the difference it aims to create

I’m a Visibility and Human Design Business Mentor. I run global retreats and workshops to help visionary entrepreneurial women activate their unique Human Design, be more authentically visible and grow their conscious business empires without the hustle.

What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learnt from being a business leader?

Early on in my business, I was feeling so frustrated that I wasn’t attracting the number of soul clients and business opportunities that I truly desired. I really wanted to transform lives but I was so worried about being judged or criticised by others that I remained low key and practically invisible. To be honest I thought that people wouldn’t like ‘the real me’. And I was comparing myself to others and beating myself up because I wasn’t as successful as they were. 

My biggest breakthrough came when I learnt to embrace and love the real me. I accepted my imperfections and quirks and realised they were the things that would differentiate me and leverage my brand and business to create success. 

I learnt how to overcome the blocks that were holding me back from being visible and started focussing on the difference I wanted to make in the world.

What change would you like to see for women in your industry?

As women, we are the creators and the manifestors. We are nurturing, intuitive, collaborative and multi-faceted. So I would like to see more visible, confidently expressed, wealthy women in the world. Women who are not afraid to stand up and speak their truth. Women who don’t feel they have to hustle to prove themselves and be successful. And women who support one another and celebrate each other’s success.

Women are incredible leaders when we are our most abundant, empowered, aligned and blissful selves.

Kristina Pereckaite

Managing Director at South East Angels

Describe your business and the difference it aims to create 

South East Angels was founded with the objective of increasing investment activity in the region. Today, the community is made up of 20+ investors who have made 10 investments to date, making the group the most active business angel investors in Brighton. We like to challenge the status quo of the traditional angel network by delivering a social investing experience for our members.

What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learnt from being a business leader?

A lot of people have succeeded simply because they kept going. In every founder journey there are moments where it feels like it isn’t going to work, like you want to give up, like it’s just too hard. But it is exactly in those moments that you need to push forward. You just have to keep going, that’s how you succeed.

What change would you like to see for women in your industry?

Currently, only 15-18% of all angel investors are women and there is a general lack of diversity of thought and experience to appropriately represent the need for capital and innovation. We are passionate about encouraging more diversity in the angel investment world and recently launched an initiative called Future Angels to help more women become angel investors.

There are so many incredible women all over the world who are forging change both within and outside of their industries. To find out more about IWD, how others are raising awareness, celebrating success, and showing support, head to www.internationalwomensday.com/

To stay up to date with news of the soon-to-launch updated Projects events program, you can sign up for our mailing list by visiting our website www.projectsclub.co.uk/

Also celebrate IWD as FemFest this week (6-12th March)

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