Photography by Suzy Mitchell; Words by Rachel Forcella, Forcella Content Marketing
You know that feeling when you leave a business event and you’re on such a high that you stay up half that night contacting everyone you met on LinkedIn and making plans for the future?
Well, that’s exactly how I felt after Forward Ladies’ International Women’s Day celebration on 3rd March in Leeds!
Wow – what an event!
With delegates from across the country, representing the public & private sectors as well as small businesses and entrepreneurs, and accomplished and high-profile host & speakers at a central and well catered venue – it was the perfect recipe for an occasion which had the potential to seriously up-level any attendee’s business game!
After drinks and networking reception, Forward Ladies’ owner & managing director Griselda Togobo kicked off the formalities by welcoming our host for the afternoon, business coach and veteran news broadcaster Jacqui Harper MBE, whom Griselda cites as being a catalyst for change in her own life.
We were shocked when Jacqui introduced us to the fact that a World Economic Forum report found that it will take until 2186 before the global gender gap (comprising health, education, economy & politics) is closed. Read that again – 2186! Ladies, we have a lot of work to do…
But Jacqui encouraged us to be bold (#BeBoldForChange is the theme of this year’s International Women’s Day) and reminded us that we could make a choice: to give in to fear or to find our bold self and let her step forward.
We were presented to further stunning data by our first speaker, Sherry Coutu CBE, who explained that due to fast moving technological advancement and the way it affects the way we live our lives, 40% of the jobs that will be available in the future to our children who are currently at school, college & university haven’t even been created yet.
Sherry’s business and tech pedigree is second to none – being a non-exec director at Raspberry Pi, Zoopla and the London Stock Exchange Group, an advisor to LinkedIn, angel investor and non-exec member of the Cambridge University Finance Board are only some of the things that currently occupy her time!
But it was clear that a project particularly close to her heart is founders4schools, a non-profit organisation which introduces students to inspiring, successful business leaders to discover the skills and pathways required to be part of those companies that will shape our future.
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has estimated that the “App Economy” will require 5.8m people by 2018 and that currently graduates and school-leavers do not have the skills to work in or grow these kinds of businesses.
Founder4schools hopes to help reverse this situation by combining data-science with the power of local communities in order to capture the imagination of young people and give them the confidence and skills to believe they can work and make an impact in the STEM fields.
Sherry observed that as entrepreneurs, if we don’t like something, we fix it – and this venture is evidence of her fixing the fact that she’s unhappy that today’s children don’t know how they are going to fit into the future workforce.
While Sherry certainly gave us food for thought, The Hilton served up a delicious lunch before we met our second speaker, Kavita Oberoi OBE.
Before inviting her on stage, Jacqui read us the headline quote from Kavita’s website, "I believe success must be shared to be worthwhile, so I do all I can to motivate and inspire others and help them succeed".
And motivate & inspire us, she did!
From watching her father build a successful plumbing business from scratch in Bradford to running her own multi-million pound empire and receiving an OBE for services to entrepreneurship and start-up businesses, Kavita’s story both captivated us and encouraged us to be more fearless in our own lives.
A serial entrepreneur and philanthropist, Kavita advised us rather than be demotivated when told that we’re not ‘allowed’ to do something, to take it as motivation to do it regardless!
A business powerhouse from the age of 15 when she challenged family tradition to go out to work, Kavita overcame obstacle after obstacle to study at university, succeed in the corporate environment and, in 2001, launch her own company, Oberoi Consulting.
Over the past 16 years Kavita’s footprint in the business world has grown in every way - acquiring & launching further companies; appearing in many business-related TV programmes (including The Apprentice – You’re Fired and Secret Millionaire); and physically, when in 2012 she established the Oberoi Business Hub in Derby’s Pride Park.
Kavita left us with the thought that there are no barriers to success, only the barriers which we create for ourselves.
The panel Q&A session uncovered personal tips from Sherry & Kavita on how to be a good leader (understanding the strengths of each individual in your team – Sherry; to have conversations with your team members about where they want to be 3 – 5 years from now – Kavita); and their advice for being successful in business (solve problems that matter to you – Sherry; get a mentor, don’t wait for things to happen and always read the small print – Kavita).
Our speakers for the day delivered strong messages with warmth and humour in a setting which enabled all the attendees to meet like-minded business women, network and take home valuable insights to use in real life.
If you’re interested in attending a future Forward Ladies event, take a look at our website to see what’s coming up and for the dates of our regular breakfast meetings: http://forwardladies.com/networking-events/
Sign up as a founders4schools business leader to volunteer to inspire young people at: https://www.founders4schools.org.uk/forward-ladies/#/
If you’ve enjoyed this blog and would like similar coverage for your own event or require copywriting or blogging services for your business, please contact the author, Rachel Forcella from Forcella Content Marketing, at firstname.lastname@example.org
Would you like your business and hard work to be recognised? Then apply or nominate someone for one of our prestigious National Women in Business awards, so we can celebrate your success and inspire other women to do the same. There’s nothing we love more than promoting incredible women in business! Apply/Nominate HERE.