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women in business

Wiltshire journalist shares her story to inspire women throughout the UK

Have you ever thought – I’d like to write a book? I’d like to tell my story? Can I write a book? Would anyone actually be interested? 

 

As a person who does a lot of writing as part of my business, it may seem strange to tell you that I’ve often asked myself all of the above. When I was a child I always wanted to be an author but, as I got older I wondered if I truly had anything to say of value. I was also pretty sure I couldn’t sustain a story of fiction for long enough.

After several years of running my own business I realise that I do have a lot to say, and some people will want to hear it.

 

In fact, I’ve learned that we ALL have something to say and there will always be those who want to hear it. All of us have value.

 

Once I truly accepted this fact, I found it surprisingly easy to share one of my stories. I’m now in a place where I’m not worried about those who don’t want to listen – those people will always be around – I’m reaching out to those who are life’s do-ers. Those who at least have a go at their ‘thing’ and those who want to live life with few regrets.

This week, my first foray into writing about myself in a book came to fruition. The book – available on Kindle – is Playing & Staying At The Top of Your Game – http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00KB2XRYI .

It tells stories from a dozen business women from across the south west who want to encourage and inspire other women to try and to persevere if they want to start or develop their own business. Each story is very different. It’s thanks to my women’s business club – I Am Woman – that I’ve finally taken the plunge. I’m already thinking now about doing an entire book covering many aspects of my professional life.

My story shared in Playing & Staying At The Top of Your Game

My story shared in Playing & Staying At The Top of Your Game

My story about starting my own business and what I learned in those early days is not what you think. I’m not the business person who nurtured an idea, let it grow and then went into it with rose-tinted glasses and making a million in a month. My story is very different.

I had my dream job – and I lost it. I never wanted to be self-employed, I didn’t want to run my own business and I was devastated that life had thrown me such a curve ball. However, I couldn’t change the fact that this had happened. All I could control was what I did next – and that’s the story I tell. Looking back, I realise my more negative start actually stood me in good stead. It didn’t mean I didn’t make any mistakes – I made loads. But my view was always realistic and I seemed to be able to spot when something wasn’t working. To find out more, of course, you’re going to have to read the book.

Is this being arrogant? Some might think so – but why do we women often feel embarrassed about blowing our own trumpet? Is it because men think less of us? Not in my case – I actually think it’s more because some women think less of us. Some cannot stand the fact that others are more ‘out there’ than they are. Women can be women’s own worst enemies. Truth is, I don’t actually care what anyone thinks, those who are interested will read the book, those who are not – won’t.

So I’ll end on these two notes – the woman who writes thousands and thousands of words each year about others has now written some words about herself. She also remembers one very important lesson in life which has sustained her. It was a saying which a teacher, Christopher Drew, put into my autograph book on the day I left primary school back in the 1970s. It’s always reminded me that life is always a journey of discovery and, thankfully, there’s so much more left to learn:

‘HE WHO KNOWS NOT AND KNOWS NOT THAT HE KNOWS NOT. SHUN HIM FOR HE IS A FOOL’.

 

Wiltshire mum breaks free of corporate trap

This article was first published in the Wiltshire Gazette & Herald’s family column, written by me, in October 2013. Due to requests from various sources, I’m reproducing it here.

 

The day I met Holly Scott-Donaldson from Pewsey, she was sitting on the sofa trying to get comfortable as she awaits the imminent birth of her third child.

None of this stopped her talking to me, sorting out the washing and taking the odd telephone call.

For some, especially those in a corporate world, Holly, now 41, is a nesting mother-to-be luxuriating in being a stay-at-home parent. Appearances can be deceptive.

Those odd telephone calls related to her new business, Donaldson Business Bureau, which is growing fast and particularly engaging women in the county. Her clients are blue chip companies and small one-man or woman bands. Business is continuing as well as preparations for a new family member – a little girl.

When Holly started out in her career she could not have imagined being where she is now, living with her husband Rod, sons Magnus, five and Ranulf, two, in a picturesque rural town in Wiltshire.

She’d had a career in banking, IT and marketing after completing a degree in international business studies at the University of the West of England – UWE. She’s been headhunted for virtually every job she’s ever done. She’s travelled the world professionally and also spent time helping her father run his own hotel in South Africa.

“Single people in the corporate world will often realize that some of their colleagues are more settled and they are prepared to be more flexible. However, if you are not careful that behaviour can become a habit. In my job I was one of the last unmarried people so stuff rolled downhill to me which I did, but which weren’t necessarily part of my role.”

However on returning to work after having Magnus, the expectation was that this ‘stuff’ would still keep rolling Holly’s way.

“My professional relationships changed. I returned to my corporate job to a new team, new tech and I was in a situation where I was a cog in a wheel and my view of my job had changed. I was married now with a baby.

“I was trying to start everything from scratch, I had masses of guilt and I wasn’t feeling appreciated. I was so tired and often not emotionally strong enough but the demands on my time were still there.”

So when asked, Holly jumped at the chance to work for a smaller company as head of marketing. A happy couple of years followed.

“It was a great job until the day when I said one word to the directors – ‘miscarriage’. It was a Sunday, I’d had a miscarriage, was in hospital and was due in London the next day. I called one of my bosses, explained the situation and I feel I was never treated the same from that day onwards.

“The relationship collapsed. Previously I was part of the management team and we’d meet and discuss our direction together. Now, even though my job hadn’t changed technically, I was out of the loop, I was not included in those discussions and was issued with a set of instructions.”

However, Holly found herself in a professional trap. Doing a job she no longer liked but needing the money and feeling unable to move. Plus she was now pregnant with her second son.

“I reasoned with myself and thought I would just do my job and go home. But it was demoralizing, having my professional input denied just wore me down and over time it actually changed my personality. I was in a depressed state, and felt I was just living a humdrum routine with no vitality.”

Then she was told she was on ‘redundancy watch’ and her role was reduced from five days a week to two.

“It was equally devastating. My husband was unemployed at the time and I was the breadwinner. Overnight our finances plummeted. But I had to go on with it – I had no choice. So for two days a week I ‘played job’, it was so hard.”

Anxious to earn money for the other week days, Holly did what many mums do – enter the direct selling market.

“I found that time and again I was called on to train other people who wanted to sell the products rather than selling the products myself. I decided to make training and business advice, the focus of my own business and I pulled out of the direct selling.”

However, a few months into her third pregnancy, she was made redundant from her two days’ a week role. She believes the two things were linked.

“Looking back just a few short months later, I can see that I needed that to happen. I needed to lose that job. If you have got people sitting on your shoulder every day telling you they don’t value you, it’s no good.

“The first Monday when I got up and didn’t have to deal with that was the best day of my life apart from my wedding day and the birth of my children.

“There are so many women and mums out there in my position. They are worried and they have to put up with so much corporate stuff and often are made to feel second class. They are worth so much more than that.

“My message to anyone out there who is stuck – remember anything is possible. You can do anything you want to do if you’ve got the right people around you.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where does sexual innuendo between men and women at work cross the line?

Just felt the need today to blog about the whole discussion over sexual harassment in the light of the latest debate surrounding a particular politician.

I’ve faced up to sexual harassment – but did I do it the right way or not?

I listened to a discussion on a weekly political show, on a weekend discussion programme where the issue was discussed in some detail. It’s a mixture of women, men, power, control and sexual desire. A variation on the whole theme of the ‘casting couch’, ‘men in power’ etc etc.

It made me reflect on more than 20 years working in various areas of the media and the times I’d encountered such practices. Which have been few, I should hasten to add. There is  no part of the media where I’ve thought ‘can’t work there too many men with wandering hands’.

However there have been a small number of occasions where the behaviour of some men, and women, have surprised me. I won’t say shocked as it takes a lot to shock me.

Please bear in mind, I’m not talking about inappropriate flings or relationships here – I’m talking about moments or revelations which happen and which completely blindside you.

I should set a context – I’m a naturally tactile person, many journalists are, I’ve noticed. I will often touch someone while talking to them, it’s part of my natural body language I suppose. I can be flirtatious but I have a line which cannot be crossed. That is where healthy contact and banter becomes something overtly sexual, makes me feel uncomfortable or seedy. But I’m good at making it clear when that line has been crossed.

I can think of several occasions both professionally and personally where my outgoing personality has led others to think I’m romantically interested in them. I have had to have several difficult conversations about the feelings not being returned, reminders about the fact that I’m married and I take that seriously, and, in some cases, friendships and connections have remained intact. I had these conversations when I was single and when married.

Occasionally however, none of the above apply and here are three incidents I’d like to share.

One: 

 

What do you do when, as a very young green journalist, an older journalist who is always friendly suddenly thinks it’s okay to touch you inappropriately? In this case, it was a man in his 50s, probably, who thought it was okay to stroke the back of my neck. Not abusive but creepy to me.

When it happened the first time, I let it go. The next time, I told him not to touch me again. I have no memory of his response. I think he beat a hasty retreat.

I did tell my boss at the time but I was postively encouraged to take it no further. After all, nothing had really happened. I was told that the person would be ‘told’ about it. Must’ve worked, it didn’t happen again. I just hope it didn’t happen to anyone else.

 

Two:

 

Another time was personal. A man known to me, retired and someone I saw relatively often, pinned me against a doorframe in his house and tried to snog me. A whole tongue down the throat affair while his wife was in another room. I was a teenager.

It was completely vile and even now, I can recall the feeling of disgust.

Again I told the man, who was in a senior position within his community, to ‘never touch me again or I’ll tell your wife’. Seemed to work.

But I’ve always wondered if he ever did it to anyone else….I also spoke up about it at home but I think it took a long time for my parents to believe it had happened. I know for sure, that my natural revulsion and pushing him away, may have stopped things being much worse.

 

Three:

 

The other incident I recall was far more recent – within the last five years. I was working alongside someone I’d known for a long time but had not worked directly with and we were in a small room together, we had to be for the job we were doing at the time.

A discussion was taking place which had got around to families and relationships. Nothing unusual in that. Then he asked me a question which really threw me – he asked ‘if I liked three-in-a-bed relationships?’

I looked at him and I think my reply was something bland like ‘I’m a one-man woman me’ and tried to forget it.

The context didn’t set up a question like that and I immediately knew this could all go horribly wrong. I also felt I didn’t want to work with him again straightaway. I did, however, finish that task and nothing happened. I never worked with him again.

I didn’t ever complain about this inappropriate moment. But I find myself asking the same question yet again  – did it happen to anyone else and was it even worse?

 

My conclusion is that most women will have experiences like these both privately and personally. I feel I dealt with them to the best of my ability at the time. I have no idea if I was right or wrong. I can only say that I trusted my judgment of how it made me feel and acted accordingly.

 

What has Twitter done for you this week? Come on – share the pr love!

Today, I decided to talk about a week where social media has really started to show its power.

I’ve been taking social media seriously now for the last two years, sometimes feeling as if I’m too embedded in a virtual environment – a bit like that scene from the Stargate movie where they put their heads through the ‘watery’ porthole which sucks them in….

But I think it’s paying off in so many ways. First and foremost it’s the friends I’m making all over the world – I can’t believe that someone from Singapore, or San Francisco finds anything I say remotely of interest. This week, I’ve connected with Jason in America (no I’ve never met him) and we’ve decided to mutually appreciate each other for a month. So choosing positive key words to describe someone you’ve never met – and probably never will – across Twitter. Might seem a bit pointless but it’s strangely fun and all in the best possible taste.

Also I’ve been flagging up a DIY PR event we’re holding in the south west next month for women in business. I had four inquiries on the first day I started tweeting about it. I wasn’t expecting that!

With my even more business-like hat on I’ve got two lots of paid work in the last two weeks purely through messages put across on social media. How did that happen? I think it’s a question of engagement and being there – that simple, replying at the right time. And, of course, we are good at what we do…

None of that covers the countless RTs we’ve enjoyed and I’ve enjoyed from people all over the place – as you can tell Twitter is my favourite site though I’m also active on Linked In and Facebook.

On the downside I did have one nasty attack as well. Someone thought it would be funny to call me names – I didn’t know this person so I just blocked them. After  saying ‘sad little man’ – if, of course it was a man at all.

Twitter and social media outcomes

Get tweeting – don’t be afraid to show off a little….

All in all, I’m enjoying my time online and it’s paying off in unexpected ways. Long may it continue….

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