Have you failed yet?

23 01 2011

New Year over, January almost over so what about those resolutions?

Every year at the start of the year we write lists of things that we want to change about ourselves; our weight, our drinking habits our wardrobe. We are supposed to make fresh starts, indeed the January issue of the3rdi magazine pays homage to this seasonal rebirth.

The question is, why should we? Why should we improve ourselves? Wouldn’t it better to accept our own personal fallibility and try instead to change the world for the better?

Why not break out of the cycle of manic festive consumption followed by famine – good old boom and bust writ small and personal! Why not decide that, as individuals, we are OK as we are? We don’t need to be thinner, fitter, more thrusting or have a tidier wardrobe and decide to do something useful this year.

It’s something that we can, and should, do every day. It’s the same as last year and it will be the same next year until we affect the change that we need.

It is clear that the current system isn’t working; women are under-represented in the boardroom and in public office and issues such as work-life balance have slipped off the agenda. The bail-out of the banking system has continued to dictate public finances, with the perpetrators of the failures not only remaining in post, but seemingly unrepentant and still drawing huge bonuses.

Earlier this month the Daily Mail published an article in which it said, and I quote, “The idea of most women wanting to be financially independent is a myth”

Laura Penny published a column in the New Statesman discussing the article and the report on which it was based. The comments are as revealing as the article. Take a look.

Now I agree that the situation for women is better now than it was, say, a hundred years ago. Conditions have improved for us all in the west over that period, young children are no longer sent up chimneys, for example.

I also agree that there are other pressing inequalities in the UK. The difference in outcomes for those born in poverty compared to those born to privilege are greater than those experienced by being born male or female. But just because other inequalities exist does not mean that we should ignore gender inequality.

It would be wrong to ignore the steps that have been taken but it would be calamitous if we were to think that we had reached our destination.

Now we could sit back and wait for someone else to do something  … or we can take control ourselves.

We could keep struggling to lose that extra pound, discard a few more unworn jumpers or tidy our workspace and so keep choosing to repeat the cycle of feast, famine and personal failure … or we can choose to come together to change the world.

Over the past year I have become more and more persuaded of the need to change the way the world does business. Not the tokenism of introducing quotas to address the imbalance in the boardroom, but real systemic change.

The3rdi Magazine is building a powerful community of women, powerful on our own terms and we are the driving force behind the change we want to see.

Together we:

  • Foster better business practice by encouraging the authentic voice of women leadership.
  • Build and support improved self-esteem within the community of women and in the wider world.
  • Create powerful peer networking and mentoring opportunities within the community.

As a commitment to my absolute belief in the benefits of collaborative working, the3rdi magazine has been established as a member owned co-operative.

It’s no longer good enough to read what others have to say, to pay lip service to the need for change. The3rdi Magazine makes it possible for everybody to be part of that change.

Together, we women, working together, helping and supporting each other to drive our vision forward, we can be at the forefront of changing the way the world does business.


If you want to be part of the change you can find out more in this month’s editorial and find out about MEMBERSHIP HERE

Confessions of a teenaged 50 year old

16 01 2011

I was snowed in on Tuesday night and had to stay overnight in the middle of nowhere, well, the middle of rural Perthshire.

I hadn’t been planning to stay overnight so as well as not having a change of clothes, toothbrush, laptop and camera – all essentials for me when I stay away from home – I didn’t have anything to read. So I did something that I have never done before, something I was sure that I would never do, I read Fever Pitch by Nick Hornby.

It is not a good book. It is repetitious and full of poor excuses for his lack of emotional intelligence. But I read the book in just two sittings during which I was totally absorbed, immediately transformed back to my own adolescence and forced to confront my secret life as a football fan.

Actually, I’m wrong about that and Nick Hornby is right. In the same way that he is an Arsenal fan, I am a Liverpool fan. In many ways the actual football is incidental. I didn’t indulge my obsession as a teenager in the same way he did. As a young girl growing up outside Liverpool I was not allowed to go to games at Anfield alone and, since my Dad wasn’t interested in football, I didn’t develop the compulsion to attend every home match.

My passion started when I was about 8 years old and I have no idea why.  I remember liking Bobby Moore and flirted with the idea of supporting Everton as I was in love with Nicholas Banner. I was only 10 and both flirtations were doomed to failure. Though Nicky did go on to play for Everton I was doomed from an early age to support Liverpool.

I say doomed advisedly. It is a curse. It brings out the very worst in me.  I hate no one and no thing, except Manchester United. When I say that I support Liverpool I do. I support Liverpool and everyone who play against Manchester United. I know it’s pathetic, it shames me…but there you are.

Most of my childhood memories are lost to me but the ones tied to Liverpool games are fixed forever. I could bore you with many, many examples, as Nick Hornby does, but they would be repetition of the same pattern, so I’ll give you just one.

It was 1971, I was eleven. The school trip was for the top juniors  and took the form of a weekend in London. I didn’t want to go. Saturday was May 8th, Cup Final Day. Liverpool playing Arsenal at Wembley. I wanted to watch it on TV. I was forced to go on the school trip and remember only the Saturday afternoon from about 5pm onwards. Up to that time we must have been to Downing Street. In those days you could wander right down to the front door and I have a photograph of me next to a bobby. We must have been to Trafalgar Square as I have a photograph of me covered in pigeons but I can’t recall either event. But just before 5 we entered the Planetarium. The headmaster, who knew I was a fanatic, told me that the game had ended 0-0 and that Steve Heighway had just scored for Liverpool at the start of extra time.

I was excited and felt sick at the same time. We were going to win the cup.  Liverpool were not yet the all conquering team that they were to become. This would be the first trophy I would see them win.

I have no idea what happened at the planetarium other than it went dark. By the time the presentation had finished Liverpool had lost 2-1, to goals by George Graham (though it was later given to Kelly) and Charlie George. I couldn’t believe it. I cried all of the way out, all of the way back to the hotel and was excused tea so that I could go and cry in my bedroom.

I was allowed to stay up and watch the highlights on Match of the Day and I cried again. The sight of Charlie George laying on his back waiting for the Arsenal players to come and congratulate him haunts me still.  In my minds eye I can see him shape to shoot, the ball hit the net and him fall to the floor with his arms above his head, long, straggly hair stuck to his forehead,  head raised slightly waiting for his teammates to reach him, as if it is happening right now. He wasn’t even smiling. He just looked smug.

And here’s the thing, it still makes me feel sick to the pit of my stomach.

My support for Liverpool is something that defines me.

Take the Miracle of Istanbul. Liverpool go 3-0 down in the European Cup Final. As each goal went in I got texts from friends from all over the world, most of whom I hadn’t heard from form months/years before, some gloating but most sympathising. Then Gerrard scored early in the second half, 3-1. Smicer brought it back to 3-2 and then Alonso scored from a penalty rebound 3-3 and then victory after a penalty shoot-out! Absolute euphoria. I even took photographs of the TV celebrations, which I still have on my phone, and the texts flooded in. I have a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes as I write.

The point is that at that moment in time people from all over the world were watching Liverpool and thinking of me! I hadn’t thought of it like that before but now, thanks to Nick Hornby, I do now.

I’m not so swayed by results these days. We lost away to Blackpool last night and my rage lasted a mere hour. Did you notice that. “WE” lost last night. The first “WE” was “Clemence, Lawler, Lindsay, Smith, Lloyd, Hughes, Keegan, Hall, Heighway, Toshack and Callaghan. (and no, I didn’t have to look up the names. I embroidered their names on my scarf; chain stitch in red and white wool circa 1972).  The current squad are a bunch of overpaid journeymen, employed by an American consortium ruled by profit not passion…but I can still recite the team and it is still “WE”… I am still them.

The fact is that my mood can still be swayed by 11 men in red shirts, shorts and socks. Football, as Nick Hornby puts it, is a retardant stopping me from properly growing up. When faced with a home defeat I am no longer the successful businesswoman. I am, once more, the sulky 14 year old.  If King Kenny pulls off an unlikely derby victory on Sunday I will be the excitable teen, texting all my pals and returning the taunts of those amongst them who support United (yes, I do have some, my hatred is abstract not personal).

It’s like Jean Brodie says, ” Give me a girl at an impressionable age and she is mine for life”.

Putting my money where my mouth is

5 01 2011

When we first launched the3rdi magazine our aim way to provide something totally new, totally fresh.

Business magazines were largely written for men and about men; who was at the top, how much they earned, who their beautiful wife was, what car they drove … you know the sort of thing! We felt women wanted something different, that they were interested in hearing each others stories, to celebrate each others success and to inspire each other to greater achievement.

The3rdi has become the most extraordinary collaborative project, bringing together the UK’s most innovative and entrepreneurial women …and 2011 will see us uniting to change the way the world does business.

I have always been an advocate of collaborative working and believe that working together we can be more than just the sum of our parts. What better way to demonstrate that commitment than making the3rdi magazine; the business that me, Phil and the team have worked so hard to build, into a member owned and run co-operative. Rather than simply reading the magazine you can own a share of the business!

So what does that mean?
Well, it is clear that the current system isn’t working; women are under-represented in the boardroom and in public office and issues such as work-life balance have slipped off the agenda. The bail-out of the banking system has continued to dictate public finances, with the perpetrators of the failures not only remaining in post, but seemingly unrepentant and still drawing huge bonuses.

Now we could sit back and wait for someone else to fix it … or we can take control ourselves – together we can build a community of women, become powerful on our own terms and be the driving force behind the change we want to see.

Over the past few months three areas have emerged as key if we are to improve things.

Firstly, we must empower the authentic voice of women leaders
Getting more women into the boardroom is not enough. It isn’t just a numbers game. A quota system, even if it was to be accepted by big businesses, which looks increasingly unlikely, would fail if it only delivered lots of women in the male mould. By that I mean women who squeeze themselves into the current system rather than changing the system to better fit them and other women.

We need to be powerful on our own terms and effect change within the system which will allow others to follow in our footsteps.

As a first step we are working in an audacious collaboration with Inspiring Leaders, who are taking the lead in transforming the way we do business by supporting more women into influential leadership positions, pioneering corporate transformation and creating sustainable futures. Amongst us will be senior women leaders: women with spirit; women of action; women of courage; women who make a difference.

Participation is by invitation only and limited to 150 influencers so if you think that you could be one of those women, women who dare to step beyond traditional approaches and who can lead change please get in touch.

Secondly, we are committed to improving women’s confidence and self-esteem
Over the past year I have heard women who were heroes of mine, including figures as diverse as Shirley Williams and Leslie Caron, yes, Baroness Williams of Crosby and the star of Gigi and An American in Paris respectively, all saying that they didn’t really have the confidence to go for the big job, for that starring role. Now, no-one dislikes boasting and posturing more than I do but we have to start to promote our positives. Did you know of Sarah Brown’s involvement with PiggyBankKids? No, neither did I until it popped up on a US awards website!

And our young women need positive role models so that they can aspire to be more than a WAG or a contestant on a reality TV show. There is lots to do but there is lots of great work going on in this area, like the GirlsOutLoud programme delivered by the Well-Heeled Diva and the3rdi ambassador, Jane Kenyon.

The co-operative community will bring together and promote best-practice in this area and create a positive environment in which women can flourish.

And thirdly, we need to Network UP!
I have to confess that I am not a fan of most of the networks that currently exist. Many women’s networks are little more than ladies who lunch. Others are simple business exchanges, swapping a photography session for web site design, for example. Many are just frantic business card exchanges, like children collecting the lastest football cards in the playground, working out which they’ve “got” or “not got” and adding them to the pile, never to be looked at again. And at worst, as Lord Sugar recently tweeted, networking can deteriorate into people just “bullshitting with each other whilst they should be working”.

But there is a place for building a community of people you know; people who you can turn to for help, advice and support in growing within a business or in growing a business.

We need to NETWORK UP!, that is to network above our peer group, if we are to build and grow careers and businesses. Again, there is some good practice out there and the3rdi co-operative community will make that accessible to all women.

This is just a glimpse of my vision and of what we will achieve in 2011 and beyond when we all work together.

Karen x