Women in business & beyond: What we can learn from the 2020 trailblazers

By Emily Coddington, Head of Operations at Ticket Tailor

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“How will you help forge a gender equal world?” asks the front page of the International Women’s Day website, which got us thinking (we do that sometimes) –

Who better to kick off the discussion than some of the brilliant women who have made it their life’s mission to redress the balance? Lucky for us, a whole bunch of them are running events through Ticket Tailor, meaning we got to chat personally with the trailblazers who are collectively organising the mass destruction of gender bias in business and beyond.

It’s thanks to organisations like theirs that the narrative around women in work as well as society is changing as we speak. And – in a world where we’ve only just got the first FTSE 100 company with both a female CEO and female Chair, and where the likes of Forbes recently deemed it appropriate to include a grand total of one woman on its 100-long list of most innovative leaders – boy, * scratch that * ... girl, is it needed. But of course, it can’t all be up to them. Each of us has a duty to raise our combined consciousness in order to get to a place where equality is the norm, not a nice-to-have.

So without further ado, here’s what we learned from speaking to 2020’s gender equality innovators, and what you can now learn from them too:

Enabling women to support, nurture and inspire each other is key

“At BlkWomenHustle [...] we dedicate our services to uplifting, supporting, and acknowledging women [who are] making moves at all stages of their professional journeys,” Lashawn Dreher, Founder of BlkWomenHustle, tells us. She’s speaking about the amazing work her innovative networking group carries out in order to provide women with the personal and professional resources they need to thrive in the world of entrepreneurship and business. 

And with that one sentiment, she taps into a recurring theme that showed its head again and again as we spoke to the game-changing women using Ticket Tailor right now.

In fact, everyone that we interviewed – from the organisers of leadership conferences to the festival hosts who celebrate Sisterhood under a rural sunset sky – spoke of the importance of women supporting each other. Of fostering a nurturing, inspiring environment in which they can achieve their fullest potential.

Marie Smith of the Association of Scottish Businesswomen (ASB), for example, speaks of how events like their Unstoppable Women’s Conference enable women “to facilitate, support and to inspire each other at different stages of their career or business development journeys.” Linnae Mhyre of the University of Washington’s Undergraduate Women in Business Scholarship describes how their programme provides “a community of support, growth, and empowerment.” 

And then there is Val Corbett of Lady Val's Professional Women's Network, whose organisation fundraises to help ex-offenders get jobs and re-integrate in society. She confidently affirms that when their networkers “communicate, learn from each other, care and share advice and support, it leads to a more compassionate business world.” 

It’s almost eerie how closely aligned the core messages of these organisations are, which – despite their different outlets and varying goals – all seem to gravitate back towards that one little word: support. If we have the tools, knowledge and understanding needed to fully root for each other, we’re much more likely to succeed ourselves. And that is a lesson worth holding on to.

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We must push on with the fight against discrimination

Picture this: a world where there are an equal number of women to men recognised in publications like Forbes. Where it’s just as common to hear of female CEOs (and PM’s, presidents, directors… you get the gist) as male ones. Where there is zero gender bias in the workplace. Some may say we’re well on the way, but if there’s one thing all of the women we spoke to would emphatically agree with – it’s that well on the way is not enough. (And that’s if you even agree that we’re ‘well’ on the way at all). 

“I can only hope that one day, as organisation's like ours succeed, the community we've worked so hard to form can extend into society to create a new norm for discrimination and oppression in the workplace,” Linnae from the University of Washington tells us, speaking about their scholarship’s mission to eradicate the discrimination that women face every day. 

In the same vein, Lashawn of BlkWomensHustle describes how, “There are women making power moves who haven't made it to recognisable publications like Forbes or Black Enterprise, but whose work is worth acknowledging,” going on to describe how her organisation’s main goals is to make sure these women are recognised and celebrated. 

We may be well on the way, we may be nowhere near. But one thing that’s certain is that we must not give up in our efforts to create a world where all women are equally as celebrated and encouraged as men. 

It is essential that women are given – and continue to be given – a voice

“I set up Woman Fest UK, because the world needs a new story – and this is a place that those whose voices have been taken out of it can begin to tell a new one,” Tiana Jacout tells us in a goosebump-inducing summary of the festival she co-founded. Unlike your Glastonburys, Readings and Coachellas, Woman Fest UK is a 100% collaborative project, where the guests are also the headliners and half of all profits go to vital women’s charities, such as the Somerset and Avon Rape and Sexual Abuse Support charity. It’s a place where women can come together to celebrate all that makes them female, and to – as Tiana puts it – give them a voice while reworking the “strands of Sisterhood back together”. 

What’s interesting is that Tiana wasn’t the only one to mention an urge to give women a voice. Going back to the University of Washington’s Women in Business Scholarship, Linnae talks about how their organisation was established to give women “a space where their voices could be heard”.  Marie also spoke of how one of the main focuses of the ASB is to give its members a “greater combined voice”. 

It’s another notably close alignment of ideas from a diverse set of women – each of which is clearly passionate about tackling the issue of their own gender’s voicelessness, all too recently highlighted by the likes of the Me Too and Time’s Up movements. And when you think about it, it all kind of comes full circle, drawing us back to that little but loaded word, ‘support’. 

From giving women the voice they have a right to, through to tackling discrimination and lifting one another up, the only way we’re all going to make things change for the better is through working together. 

That pretty much sums up the resounding and collective message of the inspiring women we interviewed in order to write this article. But there’s just one question left to answer… 

How will YOU help forge a gender equal world?