The second Mosaic Associates event to celebrate International Women’s Day, kicked off to a full house on 4th March at Portcullis House. With delegates from leading industries and companies like Lloyds Bank, Vodafone Group, the law firm Addleshaw Goddard, the Guardian and award winning entrepreneur Farida Gibbs of Gibbs S3 Recruitment.
Saba Shaukat Director in Mobile and Digital Media leading the Mosaic Associates initiative and the facilitator for the evening started the event by outlining how the Mosaic Women network was gaining momentum in business.
The first objective is to create a network and ecosystem of influential women business leaders and entrepreneurs as strategic influencers and agents of change to galvanise and unleash the economic impact of young women, she told the audience.
We live in a time where societies and economies are going through a seismic shift. To succeed in the future, you can no longer ‘go it alone.’ Enabled by technology, we are transitioning away from the age of ‘about Me’ and the ‘I want.’ We are living in the age of the CO – the connected age, the age of collaboration and sharing, where communication underpins everything, from combined learning to sharing knowledge. These are all things women are naturally good at. We as businesswomen, can achieve greater impact collectively, rather than just as individuals.
Our women’s network is not about smashing the glass ceiling, but it is about creating a floor, or foundation so that young women from deprived communities do not fall through it! It’s amazing what people can achieve when someone says ‘I believe in you,’ ‘I support you’ ‘stand on my shoulders to see how far YOU can go’
This network is about using our collective experiences to stop young women from deprived communities, disappearing into the sinkholes of despair, alienation and life on the margins.
Through mentoring, coaching and supporting, our second objective is to ignite a spark of interest in business that becomes a raging flame of new ideas and inspires a generation of young women from disadvantaged communities to be bolder, strive harder, go further and achieve more, turning innovative ideas into new ventures and community projects.
Jo Swinson, Government Minister for Women’s Equality delivered the keynote address on how the Government is working towards creating more opportunities in business for women.
Issues around affordable childcare solutions are still unresolved. Today, it can cost mothers up to £11,000 per annum in childcare fees. Diversity in the workplace benefits business and is good for the global competitiveness of UK plc.
She went onto say that quotas for more women on boards is not desirable in the UK but the Government is working with FTSE Business leaders to encourage, find, nurture and identify female talent for UK Boards.
With limited growth options for the economy, the Government sees the potential of creating and nurturing more female entrepreneurs. According to Jo Swinson, helping women to create businesses would generate an additional 150,000 new startups. Many may not succeed but of the one’s that do, they will make a significant contribution to the economy, create jobs and generate tax revenues.
Jo Swinson is very supportive of Mosaic Associates initiative to mentor, support and encourage young female entrepreneurs from deprived communities. In research carried out by Government and Equalities, women from Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities have the highest rate of unemployment. Some have even resorted to changing their names to get that first interview. There is a clear problem in the UK where some employers and recruiters discriminate and restrict access to jobs if your name is not very ‘English.’ She recognised the potential impact of helping young women become more productive within deprived communities. The result could potentially be profound in reviving local economies.
We heard from Deborah Leary OBE, voted one of the top 100 female entrepreneurs in the UK. Deb, described her journey growing up in the North. Money was so scarce that her family hid behind the sofa when the milkman came to collect his payment.
At school the careers advisor wrote her off suggesting a range of menial tasks and stereotypical jobs for women. When Jo started her first business, she reflected back. At the end of the day, she decided, it was not about her school, lack of money, her environment or even the careers advisor. What had changed was that, she had taken responsibility and ownership for what had happened in the past and what she was going to do with her future.
One thing that is true as she built momentum in her business was that as the business grew, and as her responsibilities grew, she had to change. It is imperative to change at every step of your journey as a businesswomen the more senior you become. If you do not you will stay at the limit of your own competence.
In her final piece of advice, becoming an entrepreneur is not the easiest of options to choose. You are living and breathing your business 24 by 7. There are good days and there are bad days. To succeed you have to be passionate, pragmatic and always promote your business. Look bigger as a business than you actually are and eventually with your own self-belief you will be!
Her advice resonated with many in the room, and the advice drew a warm reception from the audience.
Yasmin Qureshi MP for Bolton South East, our host for the evening at Portcullis House, described the issues in her own constituency with one of the highest rates of economic deprivation in the UK. Women from deprived communities face gargantuan challenges with the lack of good education, lack of opportunities and some of the highest childbirth mortality rates. Yasmin is an enthusiastic proponent of affirmative action for women, providing childcare free at the point of use and forcing Scandanavian type quotas for having more females on the Boards of companies.
Yasmin Waljee OBE Vice Chair of Mosaic. Yasmin highlighted the benefits of mentoring young women and students. Many women from deprived communities, especially Muslim women are underachieving and there are some Muslim households where no one works. For these communities men are part of the solution. It’s an elephant in the room that no one wants to discuss but we need to think about educating the men.
She cited the benefits of mentoring and the impact on a community. The winners of last years APAX / Mosaic Enterprise Challenge, primarily girls took the initiative and mentored girls from the local primary school. They showed them what could be achieved with self-belief, support and determination. Living proof that mentoring is good for society and this is a great example of people within communities learning from each other.
The evening ended with a series of questions. Some controversial, but we firmly believe in getting issues on the table.
Thank you to all the participants for making this an informative and engaging event. Keep looking on this site for details of our next event in June.