According to the World Economic Forum, the gender gap won’t close completely until 2186. That’s 169 years until we achieve true equality for women. With such a sobering statistic, you can see why the International Women’s Day team decided on “Be Bold For Change” as this year’s theme: We ain’t gonna close that 169 year gap any faster by quietly waiting for change to happen!
This week’s post is about being BOLD in your life, because change happens one person at a time. Each of us can make a difference – by aspiring to reach our own potential, each in our own unique way. Being bold for change starts with you!
When I started pondering on today’s post, I asked these questions:
In this post, you’ll read 5 truly inspiring stories of bold women, with another 5 stories in part two.
Please remember, as you read these stories, that these women are no more or no less special than you. They have no secret abilities, no special circumstances. In other words, these women are just like you.
So once you’ve read this week’s post, you can give yourself full permission to #BeBoldForChange ! By doing so you’ll be making your own contribution to closing that 169-year gender gap – simply by living your life with boldness!
Jenny Holloway, the most recent guest on my Inspiring Women interviews podcast has built her business on unwavering integrity. When she started a small sampling unit to support up and coming designers who were struggling with their business, it was based on the principle that they would NEVER let anybody down. As a result, the company built a reputation very quickly for being honourable.
People would ask for a sample of ten garments and Jenny would advise them to only order one and photograph it to see if it would sell. She would plan to make the garment only once the designer had received payment.
The company was built on this “unheard of” principal – Jenny would not take people’s money unless she knew that they were also going to make some money.
Jenny’s company grew massively when she approached ASOS and was given a £230,000 loan to build a factory.
She insisted that the factory would continue along the same principles of integrity as the sampling unit. She refused to sub-contract. She refused to pay her machinists illegally with cash.
Jenny told me:
“I cannot look at myself in the mirror if I worked like that – you have to keep your spirit level, level. If you do things that aren’t right, that bubble starts tilting the wrong way, and it goes out of your box. I just cannot lead my life like that.”
She is the Director of two multi-award winning social enterprises – Fashion Capital and Fashion Enter, promoting excellence in the fashion and textile industry and helping people within industry to achieve success.
Jenny says that the most important ingredient to the success of her companies is keeping her spirit level, level.
When Stephanie Rix, a member of my Academy for Talented Women members and also one of our master class experts returned to work after a career break, she was asked to work more days in the week than she was comfortable with. At the time, her youngest child was still at pre-school and she wanted to enjoy the time with him before he started school.
Saying “no” went totally against her natural instinct. She confessed:
“I like to please/help people and have always had a problem saying no!”
But her time with her son was so important to her that she stuck to her guns, took the risk and held out for the days she’d counter-proposed. She didn’t back down and after a nail-biting couple of weeks, her company agreed.
Incidentally, Stephanie’s philosophy on this will inspire you if you’re steeling yourself to say no at work: “If a company values you, you work hard and deliver results, then they will want to keep you and you should be aware of your own worth.”
In fact, Steph is well and truly in the habit of being bold – last year she quit her corporate career and set up her own as a marketing trainer and career coach!
My friend Penny Pullan decided she wanted to create an online training event that would pull together best practices for business analysts across the globe. So in 2010, she first launched her Business Analysis Summit, when she was a complete unknown in the field. She wasn’t a guru and she hadn’t written a book about business analysis.
She wondered; “Who am I to do this? Nobody knows me in this field’, as she was setting up interviews with key thought leaders in business analysis across the World!
Penny didn’t know if she could pull it off when she started her Business Analysis Summit: But she now attracts 1,500 attendees each year from over 50 countries to the summit that she wasn’t “important enough” to create!
Seven years later, not only has Penny grown the summit beyond her wildest dreams, she IS now the guru, she IS now the well known name in the field and she IS the co-author of a book on business analysis – and two other books to boot!
At a time when she was very unhappy and wondering whether her life was going anywhere, one of my Academy for Talented Women members, Anita, decided to join the local kayak club, even though she’d always found it difficult to join established groups where everyone knows each other and she doesn’t know anyone.
Turning up for the first paddle when she had never done it before and didn’t have any of the right gear was something she had to steel herself for.
However, she kept going, despite being far out of her comfort zone, and eventually met the man who is now her husband. Anita and her husband have since done a lot of paddling together, including on their honeymoon!
In 2014, my friend Sarah Pickles was given the devastating news that she had triple negative breast cancer at the age of 32. After hearing the diagnosis she knew she only had two options; let the cancer completely take control of her or to take control wherever she could. She took back some of her own control by writing.
Sarah had an idea for a book that would help women with cancer to deal with the stress and anxiety of diagnosis and treatment, as well as giving them inspiring tips for diet, exercise, health and beauty.
So, throughout her own gruelling treatment, followed by a double mastectomy, Sarah kept writing. There were many times when she didn’t want to continue, but she forced herself to keep going:
“I had to keep writing, even when I was experiencing the worst of treatment, because it was so important to me that the book conveyed all my emotions as I was feeling them. I kept thinking – even if this helps just ONE woman, it would be worth it.”
When Sarah started, she had no idea of HOW to write a book. She never felt confident about writing throughout the process, but she kept going, simply because she had a compelling vision of making a difference to other women going through cancer.
The Shock Factor: Sarah’s story – beating breast cancer one day at a time, was published in December 2016, and within hours it had reached the number one best seller on Amazon in the breast cancer category, receiving dozens of 5 star reviews.
You might be an introvert like Anita – who knows what might happen if you take a deep breath and get out there, pushing yourself out of your comfort zone?
You might be like Penny, with a vision for a new business, but you are still a “nobody” in the field.
Maybe you are like Steph and you desperately want to say “no” to a job change that isn’t right for you.
Maybe you are like Jenny, to whom integrity is everything.
Or you might be like Sarah, trying to realise a compelling vision, but the journey is so painful that you are tempted to throw in the towel and take the easy road.
The circumstances don’t matter, nor does the “size” of your goal!
What does matter is this: You can create your own future, you can break through your own barriers and YOU can create your OWN #BeBoldForChange story.
How are you being bold for change? I’d love to hear your story, big or small, in the comments below!