Last night, I met Emma Da Vita finally in person. She told me that when she embarked on finding 35 women in business who were under 35 years of age, making a name for themselves in different fields in 2001 they were hard to come by. This really struck me, as I experienced a unique energy and vibrance within the room surrounded by 34 other women who were featured on this year’s list. This was different I felt. There was talk of Hard Times, the way Jacko’s death had affected different businesses, cut off bonuses or doubled profit margins (the business ying and yang) and there was strong acknowledgment: that as much as we operated in extremely diverse fields such as the armed forces, private wealth management, human resource and recruitment, food and entertainment, SEO or good-old-engineering, we will need each other to come up with the change so that Emma has so many women in Business to choose from that a 35 under 35 does not make sense anymore!
Emma was beaming from the success that the feature for Management Today had already received from The Sunday Times, who scooped up a whole page in their Business Section last weekend. On Monday I announced to all on my twitter account, facebook, etc that I was lucky enough to be featured on the list and along came a message from a friend in Afghanistan who is a young (male) space enthusiast, feeling slightly unfair that I always look to encourage women only. My aim to encourage men and women both alike, however this did drive home the question: really, why is it that we specifically need to target women, and young women in particular?
Talking to the other winners at the MT evening, it turns out that yes, we all have been incredibly lucky to create enough critical mass of supporters – whether this comes as immediate or far family, friends, business acquaintances, old and current bosses, clients, etc that are non-discriminatory and in several cases inspiring and encouraging, but every now and then we do encounter people who completely under estimate our abilities and talents simply because they do not come across many females in the business. The community is really important as Suzy Levy from Accunture put it – in making the ‘Outliers’ amongst us, those that just don’t fit that mould. Suzy herself is an exceptional lady with passion for empowering Africa, especially with her support and work for a small school in Libya. It was great talking to her about how we can really make a difference in local communities and what models would work to help the alleviate the issues that the local communities face there. Enter Ruth Amos – a 19 year entrepreneur and engineer, who invented an alternate device to the stair lift to help elderly folk walk up stairs and exercise at the same time. She has been running her business for 3 successful years now and just having secured another big contract is top of her game!
This really was an event to be inspired by. I have had the pleasure to interact with several groups of winners at different events – indeed who ever you meet there, you wish to applaud at their achievements. In Feb 2009, I met the winners of the IET Young Woman Engineer too – but a different competitiveness surrounded the interactions. Cards were passed on, but not much came back in terms of collaborative exchange. This event was certainly different – I got so inspired talking to Verve Search Director Lisa D Myers, that we had to be kicked out of the event. As it doesn’t appear to be in either Lisa’s nature or mine, to put an end to a good party and plenty of food for thought, we continued our exchange outside Charing Cross Station and further talking about the human pattern of thinking, connections such as speech and thought that transcend culture, boundaries, etc, Karma and especially that in the sense of Business, adding collaborative sense-checking to twitter feeds, the need for a community within the 35 Under 35 and what we can do differently to really empower further all within our group. (I even chose Lisa over Buzz, but please don’t tell him that! :-) )
I had hardly gotten over the excitement of the evening before the next morning and a flury of emails and twitter messages tells me that the evening was only a beginning. Before the day was over, we have a NING community open and operating with Lisa having pumped life into it in just 3 hrs after her twitter note! This further etched it, just as Baroness Kingsmill put it, is a community of women who are not going to stand still and watch if they have come across a rather thick big wall in their times, least are they going to bang their head against it, but very much are going to look to each other to make their ways across and over it by either jumping through, breaking the wall down or getting someone to sell them a ladder to climb it! I am certainly in awe of all the achievements they bring and thankful to have earned my place among them!!