From Kitchen Table to Boardroom Table: The changing face of 21st century business women

The late, great Anita Roddick, founder of Body Shop. Image cc via Flickr

The late, great Anita Roddick, founder of Body Shop. Image cc via Flickr

From the small scale launch of the Body Shop back in 1976 from the home of Anita Roddick, prompted by the need to earn money while her husband was away travelling, we have come far along our path of business women of stature. Anita Roddick was decades ahead of her time and created an amazing legacy that continues to have a positive impact on millions of people around the world.

However, she isn’t the only woman to have this vision. During my conversations with the amazing women I work with I see this forward thinking and global impact focus replicated many times.

My article last month on collaboration mentioned two brains, our reptile / rational brain and our monkey / emotional brain. The rational brain is where conclusions are formed, the emotional brain is where actions take shape and happen. It is the emotional brain that can see into the future, will test boundaries and create the unexpected. One of the many wonderful things about the 21st century is that EQ, our emotional intelligence, is becoming recognised as being as important as our IQ. This opens up the doors for women (and men) to celebrate that side of their nature and be creative with their vision, whether that is running their own business or heading an organisation.

Amazing companies are still formed around the kitchen table. I have a friend who is about to launch her own perfume company, Alquemie, which started from an impulse buy of a book in Waterstones about creating your own skin care! Rosie, at the age of 73, has created an amazing range of bespoke perfumes that rival any on the market, in fact her perfumes are now the only ones I wear.

Point to remember: you are never too old to follow your passion.

And this is the crux of it. As women we are brilliant at knowing our passions, and having the courage to follow them. We are less constrained and restricted by the ‘social norms’ of who we ‘should’ be in business, and far better able to create the world around us that mirrors who we really are, and who we want to become. There is, quite simply, nothing we cannot do, should we put our minds to it.

I have recently returned from speaking at a conference for women in business in India, and was awed by some of the incredible stories I heard from the women there. I feel hugely lucky that I was born in the West and can take so much for granted in my life that is still not automatically available to women in India. One story I heard was from a woman who when she was 19 had a brain tumour. She was in hospital, drifting in and out of consciousness, her father was by her bed side and as she lay there, one of her uncles visited and she heard him say to her father, “Why are you bothering to keep her alive, she’s only a girl.” Despite the odds, and with that kind of attitude towards women, she survived, married and then her husband died. She took over his company and was the first woman in India to head up and run a chemical engineering firm. An amazing story. This was just one of many I heard whilst I was there.

The world is indeed our oyster. Whether we start small around the kitchen table with an idea that has the potential to create a global impact, or whether we go straight into the Boardroom, we can create the world around us that works for us. Remember, the only person who will truly get in your way is you.

Ask yourself the question: Are you planning your future based on who you were, or are you planning your future based on who you decide to become?

Learn from your past, and thank the experiences for the opportunities for growth they gave you, but don’t live there. Fast forward into your future, decide who you want to become and then bring that vision, focus and energy into your present. From this point is where you plan. The opportunities that were mere aspirations for women even a generation ago, are now easily accessible for us as 21st century business women. We owe it to our female ancestors to honour their hard work and make the most of the here and now and the climate that supports our dreams, and we owe it to the fabulous women coming up behind us to create a space that is even more supportive for them in the future.

Frank Fools Crow, a Lakota Sioux Indian Chief said:

The 21st century will see an era of peace and prosperity, and it will be brought in by women.

Very sensible man was Frank, let’s prove him right!

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