Archive | June, 2010

Following the “why” – here’s the “how”

30 Jun

Earlier this month,  I went along to the UK launch of the book on the left: How Women Mean Business”,  by Avivah Wittenberg-Cox.

In the spirit of full disclosure,  I should probably mention that I’ve known Avivah for three years; I organised the corporate sponsorship of her previous book’s launches in London, New York and Toronto back in 2008 (it’s called Why Women Mean Business,  is co-authored with Alison Maitland and is still the most compelling book out there if you need cold hard FACTS to assist you make a business case for gender diversity)  - and I also contributed an in-book endorsement to the cover of this volume (referenced  elsewhere on the blog under Recommended reading).

So,  moving on – it’s a great book and my review of it and the Nomura-hosted launch event is now on-line here at The Glass Hammer.

Know before you go

24 Jun

One day during the first of my trips to Goa last year, I found myself improvising a map of the world with a balloon and then drawing a map of India in the sand with a stick; I was trying to show some of the children at Rainbow House where Goa is in relation to other parts of India and also in relation to the rest of the world.

Renuka was both puzzled and fascinated as to how England could be so far away AND in a different time zone,  so we used a second balloon to show the sun, and how it moves around the world, making it dark in England when it’s sunny in India and so on.  By the time of my second trip,  I was far better prepared and arrived with a case full of far more useful things for the children: underwear, hairbands, hairbrushes – and an atlas and an inflatable globe.  
Here’s Jyoti, the sixteen year old girl sponsored by my friend Diane, pointing to California.

I’m already planning my return trip for later this year and am far more wised up as to what to take Renuka (anything red) and what she does and doesn’t like (for the latter: anything “girly”, pink or that requires her to sit still) and also what the El Shaddai team would find useful to have as donations.

So the arrival of TV presenter Kate Humble’s new venture,  a website called Stuff Your Rucksack , struck a definite chord with me.  Her mantra,  based on her travels in the developing world is “if only I’d known before I came away” and she says:

“I’ve done a lot of travelling in the developing world through my job and I’d get to a school or an orphanage and they wouldn’t have something very simple like maps or exercise books. I used to kick myself because invariably these were things lying around at home that I could easily have stuffed in my own rucksack.”

Kate has hit on the fact that many people,  like me,  visit places around the developing world and want to do, or bring, the right thing, but are hamstrung by their lack of local knowledge and wary of, as she puts it,  “dumping unwanted gifts on local communities”.  So she has developed a website with a map where,  if you click on a specific country,  you can link to local projects and find a list of what the people who work on the ground would find most useful.

Here,  for a great and very personal example,  is a link to one of El Shaddai’s shelters, where we can see  that they’d find it useful to be gifted toiletries, books and educational DVDs.

Fabulous work, Kate – pack a bag,  change a life.

A survey for 21st century female entrepreneurs

17 Jun

Last week, I wrote about  this year’s Women in Banking and Finance (WIBF) awards.

And at last year’s awards, three fabulous things happened to me.

I arrived knowing nobody bar the Chair, Christine Lawrence,  and found myself at a mixed table of assorted women,  all of whom were there, in much the same way as at a wedding (“bride or groom?”)  because we weren’t affiliated with one of the big banks who’d bought a table of ten.

My three great things were as follows:

On my right, I was seated next to Pauline Crawford of Corporate Heart: a magical, energising, powerhouse of a woman, who has since become a great friend and a true inspiration to me.

On my left I met Christina Ioannidis of Aquitude and we immediately established that we knew some people in common; she admired my shoes,  I admired her necklace and,  as women do,  we bonded.

My third great thing was that,  at Pauline’s urging,  everyone at the table bought raffle tickets in support of WIBF’s chosen charity – and both Pauline and I won!   Pauline won a three course dinner (with wine) for six people at a five star hotel and I won a designer dress from No. 35 - a dress which I have since worn all over the world and which never ever fails to generate wonderful compliments whenever it has an outing.

Pauline and Christina were both at this year’s event,  and nobody at my table won a raffle prize, unfortunately. But Christina reminded us that she is running a brief survey via her website, aimed at understanding more about what compels 21st century women to set up their own businesses;  if you’d like to take part,  please follow the link here:

- and I’ll cover the findings later this year once available.

And,  if you’d like to follow Christina and Pauline on Twitter,  you can do so by clicking on their names.

Want to be a mentor to women in Bangladesh, India, Israel or Palestine?

16 Jun

Last week,  I had a very interesting meeting with the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women (CBFfW), a relatively new charity set up by barrister Cherie Blair, which aims to strengthen the capacity of women entrepreneurs in countries where they lack equal opportunities,  thus enabling them to grow their businesses and become greater contributors to their economies.

The Foundation aims to offer women better access to business development support networks and finance in areas of the world which include India, Israel, Kenya, Malawi and Palestine.

The CBFfW is now launching  their Mentoring Women in Business Pilot and if you’d like to be a Mentor … read on.

The 10-month pilot programme will support women entrepreneurs in Bangladesh, India, Israel and Palestine through mentoring. Approximately 30 entrepreneurial women will be mentored by 40 successful entrepreneurs or professionals. The pilot aims to demonstrate that there are measurable and tangible benefits from partnering women with entrepreneurial potential in developing and transition countries with successful Mentors in the UK using Google’s online applications such as Sites, Docs, Chat and Gmail. The pilot will involve testing exciting new formats and applications, so the Foundation is  looking for Mentors who are willing to be at the forefront of the development of this extraordinary international programme.

Being a Mentor is a great opportunity to share your knowledge and experience while helping others to succeed and learn about other cultures, places, businesses and market opportunities. Your participation in the Mentoring Women in Business Pilot will require a minimum of one hour of your time every two weeks, and the more you engage,  the more you will help shape the future of the Mentoring Programme.  Some of the Mentors applying for the pilot will be matched with a Mentee by July and will be able to start the mentoring relationship right away, while others will be matched in October, when a second group of Mentees will be ready to participate in the programme. Some Mentors will not be matched with a Mentee, but their involvement in the programme will be crucial for the successful management of the mentoring Platform, as they will be able to contribute to the public forums and share their expertise with Mentors and Mentees alike. The pilot phase will finish in May 2011.

Mentors are asked to provide a minimum donation of £100 per year to help support the programme and will be given training from Google on how to use Google’s applications and from renowned experts, Clutterbuck Associates and the Centre for Entrepreneurial Learning, Cambridge Judge Business School, on how to develop a strong and effective mentoring relationship. The one-day training course for the Mentors will be on July 14th (it’s free) and will be a great opportunity to learn new skills and to network with like-minded people.

The Platform built with Google to run the Mentoring Women in Business Programme is now ready; if you would like additional information or have any questions, you can contact the programme’s project manager via

If, having browsed the site, you’d like to apply to become a Mentor, please apply now, as the the application deadline is 23rdJune.

And please feel free to share this link with anyone who you think would be a great mentor for these women around the world.

World Cup fever …

12 Jun

I guess it’s my week for writing about contraception.

Following on from my earlier blog about the Pill,  I was amused to receive a press release from none other than Britain’s major (something like £1 of every £8 spent in the shops of the UK is spent here) supermarket chain, Tesco.

They have leapt onto the World Cup bandwagon with alacrity and are urging us to “Lie Back and Think of England” with this cut price condom offer, “Won Sixty-Six”,  which they “hope will be a winner”.

Oh yes.  And there’s more:

“The excitement won’t stop after England finish their matches so we’re doing our bit to help it go through the night.

We chose the £1.66 price [for a pack of condoms] because we want to restore England supporters’ pride and help them to remember it is possible to go all the way, as we did when we won the World Cup back in 66.”

OK, then!

Moving on from contraception,  but still on the football theme (isn’t everything this week?),  the admirable pinkstinks campaign team have come up with an alternative take on the usual WAGS (“Wives and Girlfriends”) acronym with this alternative and amusing WAGS logo, available on t-shirts and tote bags.

Check out their fund-raising shop here.

Evolution not revolution: at the 2010 WIBF awards

11 Jun

This time last week,  I was at the Dorchester hotel in central London, wandering around the pre-lunch reception with a glass (of water!) in one hand and my trusty notebook in the other, interviewing women who were there to participate in the Women in Banking & Finance (WIBF) annual awards lunch.

Here’s a link to my article about it,  as featured in The Glass Hammer.

Check it out for a very useful footwear based tip …

On Pill popping

7 Jun

Over the last ten years or so,  “fertility” to many of my female friends, colleagues and wider circle of acquaintances has often been about encouraging the arrival of babies,  rather than preventing them.

Inadvertently, I’ve become familiar with words and phrases like IVF, surrogacy, Clomid, cervical mucus and the like.  Although two-thirds of British women in the 20-24 age group take the Pill, when you’re in your 40s (or even in your late 30s),  you tend not to do so, either by virtue of your age (and weight, or smoking status) or because you actively want to have children and so popping a daily pill from its little multi-coloured blister pack is an act from the past.

In series one of iconic TV show “Mad Men”,  there’s a scene where ambitious Peggy,  newly working in Manhattan and determined to be independent,  goes to see a doctor (who smokes throughout her examination – another example of how this visually stunning TV show uses props to invoke a sense of time, place and era) in order to obtain the Pill.

It’s the early 1960s and,  for the first time, there are doctors who will provide (unmarried) girls like Peggy with the tool to free them from their fertility.

I’m nearly as old as the Pill,  a fact of which I was reminded by this article in the weekend’s Observer,  which celebrates the Pill’s 50th birthday and reminds us of how far we’ve come since Peggy’s day. How about this quote?

“Well into the 1970s, women in Britain and America were still pretending to be married in order to get a prescription; some used to pass around the same battered wedding ring in the doctor’s waiting room.”

And as novelist Margaret Drabble comments:

“I think I would have had a child a year if I hadn’t started taking it.”

So, happy golden birthday to the Pill, an iconic symbol of late 20th century autonomy for women.

So are we tiptoeing towards quotas in the UK?

3 Jun

“Slowly, slowly, we approach the nervous foal with our hand out,  proffering a sugar lump,  or perhaps a chunk of carrot,  walking softly and gently on the balls of our feet so as not to startle him, speaking in a low, gentle, moderated voice so as not to cause him to veer up, startled and afraid”.

[As I'm sure David Attenborough never said].

But this approach is how these proposed new regulations from the Financial Reporting Council read,  when the nod towards the foal is so small as to be almost invisible – here’s the wording (my use of bold,  their use of underline):

“To encourage boards to be well balanced and avoid “group think” there are new principles on the composition and selection of the board, including the need to appoint members on merit, against objective criteria, and with due regard for the benefits of diversity, including gender diversity.”

And as Andrew Hill commented in the FT:

“it’s hard to understand why some companies feel threatened by the Financial Reporting Council’s decision to insist on annual re-election of boards and to nod, gently, towards gender diversity.”

Well, quite.

I await further media revelations as to which companies feel “threatened” and why … and what their share prices look like, too.

Want to be on TV, ladies?

3 Jun

Just received this press release – I only qualify for a few of the criteria,  but maybe you score on two for two:

Are you stylish and over forty but fed up of what’s on offer on the high street? When you shop for fashion is it not as much fun as it used to be? Retail guru and television presenter Mary Portas is about to start filming a new Channel 4 TV series and wants to speak to you. The series will follow Mary’s quest to fill the gap in the fashion market for fabulous, forty-plus women. Mary believes that women like her – strident, confident forty-plus women – have dropped off the fashion and retail industry’s radar. Mary wants to put them back at the centre of the retail industry and give them the same fabulous shopping experience of women half their age.

As part of the television series Mary is looking for a group of opinionated women to act as her focus group, advising her on anything from where to buy the best fitting dress to road testing whole fashion collections.

If you’re interested in being involved please email with your name, contact details and why you’d like to be part of the show.

Confession time …

2 Jun

… I have a small (platonic) girl crush on Laura Liswood (co-founder of both the White House Project and the Council of World Women Leaders and a Senior Advisor to Goldman Sachs).

I’ve heard her speak lots of times,  I’ve met her a few times,  she featured (and was fabulous) in the film, “Closing the Gender Gap”,  on which I served as Executive Producer in 2008 and, well,  I just happen to think she’s great.  She’s smart, funny, makes some great points around the business and social benefits of gender diversity and is a fabulous advocate for women in leadership.

And now she has a new book out, The Loudest Duck,  in which she reflects on how the Noah’s Ark approach that many organisations take isn’t working. (“If we could only get two of each in the Ark, we’ll have our diversity.”)

Check out her guest entry over on the Catalyst blog and see what you think.


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