By Angela Middleton
International Women’s Day is fast approaching and it’s a time that makes me reflect about being a woman in business.
I’m often asked about my experience as a female at the helm of a company – one I founded 16 years ago – the adversity I’ve faced, and how I got to where I am today.
The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day is #PressforProgress, which is about all the small, positive changes everyone can make to address gender inequality.
I firmly believe in equal opportunities for all so inequality is a serious concern.
81% of businesses are still run by men while 90% of care given in the UK comes from women. In the apprenticeship sector, women are more likely to be placed in low-paying schemes than men. In 2013, for example, there were 13,000 male engineer apprentices but just 400 female ones.
So, what does #PressforProgress mean for me, an entrepreneur, a woman in business, and what advice do I give for anyone looking to address inequality concerns head on?
Firstly, I think no two people are the same and we should all celebrate our uniqueness. Some women aspire to reach my position, some women don’t, and that’s important. No two people are the same, but I am striving for a world where anyone can achieve what they want to when they put their mind to something.
This is an attitude I instil in my 150 employees, and more than 10,000 trainees who have gone through training and apprenticeships with my company.
I think #PressForProgress fits in with my personal ethos: you need to focus on the future and what you can achieve, rather than dwelling in the past. Visualising success, whether it’s to do with career progression, what you want from life, or even picturing how you want to be perceived by others, is vital.
The key is to recognise your abilities and try your best to conquer self-doubt. Surround yourself with people that inspire you – and if there are no role models in the immediate vicinity, looking online is a fantastic place to start. I personally use Instagram for inspiration but it’s also an important tool for me to be able to provide guidance and support to others. We believe what we tell ourselves – and if you keep reaching for your goals, you’ll continue the path to progress.
While it may be alien to some people, it’s important to turn your visualisations into a strategy. That helps you stay motivated and give you measurable targets and goals. If your idea of progress is getting promoted – try writing it down. Think what you’d do when you reach that level and how you’d celebrate that success. For me, it makes goals real and helps you track how far you’ve come.
Ultimately, it’s so important to remember we are all individual and to celebrate what makes you ‘you’. I take great personal pleasure in fashion, fitness, beauty and having fun with my appearance and this differentiates me from my male peers – in a positive way.
We are all just people. We need to work on an individual level to achieve personal goals, and together to ensure we create a world of equal opportunities.
We all need to #PressForProgress
We’re kickstarting our #IWD2018 campaign by launching #PressforProgress PHA Pledge.