Women know the definition of hard work. Whether it’s raising a family, working in an office, or starting their own business, we know plenty of trailblazers and go-getters who are dedicated to making things work for them. Government figures show that in the UK right now, there are 8.8 million women working full-time and 6.3 million working part-time (that’s a lot of effort) so in honour of International Women’s Day, we’ve gathered some incredible tips from some truly inspirational women who have benefitted from the funding on offer from us here at Go Think Big and O2. These ladies are definitely showing us how to break boundaries and smash that glass ceiling. Inspirational doesn’t quite cut it…
1. Anne Marie Imafidon
Anne Marie is the founder of Stemettes, which was initially a Go Think Big funded programme. She studied Maths and Computer Science at university, building websites in her spare time. She then went on to work in tech at Deutsche Bank. She started Stemettes after attending a women in tech conference in the states in February 2013, and left her job to pursue Stemettes full time in December 2015 – they have just celebrated their 5th birthday!
Anne Marie’s advice: Do your research – Get going – Work out loud – Keep the power!
Always start off with research, Anne Marie advises. “Google is your friend. If you want to know anything, use Twitter, YouTube and Google to see who is doing what at the moment” she said. “Then you can find other people and ask them for advice or you can just learn from them from afar – that way you can approach it with some level of confidence because you know what you’re doing because you’ve done your research. This then helps you to inform your goals and helps to inform your approach.”
However, she adds that you probably shouldn’t use research as a way to procrastinate (we’ve all been there, right?!) “Once you have a base level of research, get going,” Anne Marie continued. “You’ll never know everything about what you’re doing because it hasn’t been done yet. Get the idea off the ground because ideas are a million a penny.”
Once you start, shout about it, Anne Marie said. “Use digital tools as much as you can. They are free and they multiply your efforts. When we first started Stemettes, we had twitter and a blog. Learn to ‘work out loud’, publish what you’re doing. If you put it out there then people will see what you’re doing and want to get involved!”
Finally, Anne Marie states how important it is to keep the power. “Don’t ask someone for permission to do something because they will say no – and automatically you’ve given the power to someone else. Keep that power and get on with it.” Read all about Anne Marie’s trademark advice to seek forgiveness and not permission here!
2. Vanessa Sanyauke
Vanessa is the founder of Girls Talk London, a social enterprise that connects women with FTSE 100 businesses to empower them to develop skills and confidence to succeed in work and life via events, programmes and digital content. She is also a presenter and hosts Girls Talk, an online talk show and a business podcast, ‘The After Work Drinks Club’. Right now, they are focusing on the delivery of ‘Step into STEM’, a mentoring programme for girls who want to work in tech, funded by O2, BT, Vodafone and Ericsson. Go Think Big has been an event partner since 2013 and Girls Talk have hosted joint events for women to meet senior women in Tech and Media.
Vanessa’s advice: It all starts with a plan…
Vanessa is a believer in being a forward-thinker and gaining insight from wherever you can. She told us; “plan, write down your dreams and intentions, create a vision board and action plan and manifest what you want to achieve. Get a mentor, read books, attend informative events, listen to podcasts and develop your skills and knowledge.”
3. Uzma Chaudhry
Uzma currently works full time in Business Sales at O2, Telefonica. She is also a part time student with Open University studying Politics, Philosophy and Economics. A true artist to the core, she enjoys photography and painting in her spare time. Uzma is committed to volunteering and has even started a YouTube channel with her friend Carl Francis (Caruzmatic – get it?!) which is all about social action and making the world a better place. Last year, she ran her own project called ‘Routes to Imaan’ in memory of her little cousin. It was about replicating the ‘Eid experience’ by sending parcels to people who may have been spending Eid alone.
Uzma came across Go Think Big on Twitter. “It was retweeted onto my timeline, and as a young person who fit the specific call out they’d made, I applied to the opportunity advertised, which was volunteering to co-ordinate a digital skills session in an O2 Store in Lancaster.”
Uzma’s advice: Be unapologetically you.
As a role model and trailblazer, Uzma is no stranger to adversity. She says, “I would say it’s difficult at times to navigate what feels like a male dominated environment, both within the world of work and outside of it. In my experience, success hasn’t been defined by the same metrics we apply to men and I don’t feel it’s right to try to do so. The beauty of diversity is that we’re all bringing something different to the table, a new flavour even, and to try and assimilate/change my behaviour to accommodate other people’s expectations of me, surely defeats the whole purpose of diversity!”
She explains how the best starting point is sticking to who you really are and maintaining your individuality. “So to reach your goals, be unapologetically you, even if that means doing something outside of the “norm”. I don’t believe it’s right to compromise parts of your values and beliefs to progress in life, and if you feel you have to do that to reach your goal, then it’s perhaps not a goal you should consider having – don’t be afraid of owning that.” I feel like getting this on a t-shirt!
4. Kate Stanforth
Kate runs Project Parent which supports parents of children who are stuck in hospital over Christmas all over the UK. They hand out around 350 boxes of supplies and gifts to children each year and will soon have their first major expansion since starting in 2014! Kate has chronic health conditions and has an average of three medical appointments a week. Despite being a wheelchair user, she teaches ballet for an hour a week when her health allows as she trained as a professional dancer before getting ill. She’s an incredible singer, a talented artist and all round wonderful person who loves helping the local community and raising awareness for disabilities. This is her advice…
Kate’s advice: Run your own race.
“My advice to other women is definitely to run your own race” she said. “It’s easy to get caught up in what’s happening in the world around you and feel like you’re not doing enough, you’re not good enough or you’ll never be enough and that’s simply not true. Everyone has their own race, with their own start, their own path, and their own finish. And, no matter what obstacles arise, the path can be adjusted.”
Kate is relentlessly hardworking and has dealt with multiple health related problems and various setbacks so she knows the importance of just trying to better who you are, regardless of what everyone else is doing, and how the best type of competition is the one with yourself.
She also adds that the company you keep is paramount. “To help with getting through this maze of life we all need to support each other, show a bit more kindness and share some of our skills” she notes, “because we work together as a unit doesn’t mean we can’t have our own path, and in doing so, if we fall, we’ll have a tonne of lovely people to pick us up on our way.”
As part of a celebration of International Women’s Day 2018 on 8th March, Go Think Big are offering you the chance to get up to £500 funding for a project around the celebration of equality and inclusivity. This year, International Women’s Day is all about #PushForProgress – uniting through friends, colleagues and communities to ignite gender inclusivity.
So we are asking you to think about ways in which you can be #BreakingBoundaries in the world around you. To apply for funding, click here.
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