As we recognize National Women’s Equality Day, I reflect on the many strong females who surround me, the journey I have taken as a woman business owner and ponder the significance of this day.
Since Emily Pankhurst organized the women’s suffragette movement in the UK, my country of birth, at the turn of the last century, women have made a remarkable transition to being, arguably, the driving force of the planet. I do not doubt that the glass ceiling for advancement needed to be shattered and remains very much in place in many institutions and industries, but fortunately, I can think of few instances in my journey where this has applied.
Nowadays, the events industry is female dominated. However, when I started one of the first event management companies in the UK back in 1987, it was almost an entirely male-dominated industry for the first decade of my company’s existence. In that time, I was aware that there were different standards of professional conduct for women…we had to be more perfect, and any failings were viewed much more stringently than with my male counterparts. I certainly had many ‘rocks’ thrown at me that took some skillful dodging in the early days, but truthfully, I believed being a woman, for the most part, had more advantages than disadvantages then. I found that businessmen would be more courteous and grant me an audience to offer my product and services. Maybe natural politeness came into play… who knows… but I found it easier to reach decision-makers than some of my male peers in those days.
I’ve been around strong women for my entire life and can attribute who I am today to them; driven and committed to the importance of laughter! My Grandmother was a true matriarch of our large family. She was a ‘Black Marketeer’ or Bootlegger as it would be called in the US during World War II. I am blessed with three sisters and a huge tribe of female cousins who provided such a support network that I always felt a shield of invincibility around me. If you’ve met any of my closest friends, you’d find them all to be strong, funny women, and I have gravitated in business to the same personalities. I am grateful for the enrichment that my female peers have brought to my life; and certainly, during the last 18 months of the biggest crises to face our profession, we have provided much comfort, sounding boards, and sage advice to each other. The sisterhood has never been stronger.
At home in North Carolina, I very quickly gravitated to the NC State Auditor Beth Wood, my best friend in this region and such an accomplished woman who has never lost sight of her roots on a farm in the eastern part of the state. From the instant we met 10 years ago, when we were both about to be married within a couple of months of each other, we had an instant bond. I was so pleased to be able to host a small gathering of award-winning women business leaders when she was awarded the Triangle Business Journal’s Women in Business Lifetime Achievement Award. You can watch a recap of the event HERE. She is now in her third term in one of the most powerful positions in our State, and politics aside, is grounded, warm and humble.
About a decade ago, The Special Event Company became WBENC (Women’s Business Enterprise National Council) Certified, something I highly suggest all women-owned businesses should obtain if they qualify. This certification has granted us with a vast network of women trailblazers paving the way for the next generation of female business owners, as well as access to supplier diversity and procurement executives along with opportunities for business with corporate and government members. This organization has significantly helped thousands of women-owned businesses find opportunities to develop lasting business relationships with major corporations.
Today, The Special Event Company has been in business for 34 years. COVID forced us to transition our business significantly into a new area of virtual events, and we decided to take the plunge and build our own virtual communications studio, again putting me in a minority position of being a female owner of a broadcast and production company; a typically male-dominated industry. During this transition, we educated ourselves on virtual events and broadcasts, we perfected our craft in new ways, we listened to what our clients were communicating to us and adapted to those needs. We took each of our areas of expertise and together built The Studio. In all the trials of the last 18 months, never once did I think we would not survive, we just needed to figure out how to adapt – which is another trait I know I’ve been blessed with through my upbringing around many strong women always finding a way.
On this National Women’s Equality Day, I am grateful for past generations of women who paved the way for myself, my family, team, and friends to be able to vote on issues that are important to each of us, individually. I am reminded how much of my upbringing has shaped the woman I am today. I am also reminded that there is still work that needs to be done to continue to level the playing field, across industries, to ensure a fair chance for women in business.
So as the quote goes… ”Here’s to strong women. May we know them. May we be them. May we raise them.” Happy National Women’s Equality Day!