When asked if I could help out with the event Good Growth: Unlocking the power of digital for women entrepreneurs, it didn’t matter that I had banned myself from signing myself up to more things – I knew I had to do it.
In the current climate, it seems like everyday I receive another link for a webinar or virtual event. I eagerly attended a few at the beginning of lockdown and continued to sign up to more that interested me or provided value for clients, but recently I have found myself saying no a lot more than yes.
Now, it is no secret I love female-led businesses. In fact when accepting the job at FieldHouse one of the things that drew me to it was the fact that Cordelia had started her own business and the director team had clear female visibility.
When asked if I could help out with the event Good Growth: Unlocking the power of digital for women entrepreneurs, it didn’t matter that I had banned myself from signing up to more things – I knew I had to do it. The calibre and diversity of the women speaking at the event was amazing and it was clear many other people felt the same, as the event had 1,200 registrations.
I have always loved events because of the vibe and energy in a room, the networking opportunity, the speakers and, frankly, who doesn’t love a glass of wine or an hors d’oeuvre? However, most of that is subtracted from the experience when it is virtual due to the distance of every member of the audience and speakers being behind their desk, kitchen table, sofa or makeshift study.
But the event was organised by Forgather to include virtual networking and several breakout sessions, which meant tailoring the event to your needs.
To kick off the afternoon we had Sherry Coutu, founder and chair of Founders4Schools; Matt Brittin, president EMEA Business and Operations, Google, and Claire Enders, founder of Enders Analysis. Each discussed the importance of women-led business, with a great quip from Matt: “If you want technology to work for everyone, it needs to be built by everyone.” The unfair impact that lockdown is having on women-led businesses was a topic of discussion, something Enders Analysis has a research report on, which you can read here.
Next up was a fireside chat with Janet Coyle, MD of London & Partners, and Clare Gilmartin CEO of Trainline, who offered some great advice on her hiring experience . “I always try to hire super smart, brilliant people with super low egos,” Clare said.
There were several other sessions including one on cashflow tips from Fluidly CEO Caroline Plumb, Depop CEO Maria Raga, Beautystack CEO Sharmadean Reid and Darina Garland, co-founder and CXO at Ooni. They all spoke about the importance of community and keeping their staff together during this time.
My personal favourite was the ‘Diversifying Access to Finance’ breakout session hosted by Erika Brodnock, co-founder of Extend Ventures, and Priya Guha, venture partner of Merian Ventures. As we know, access to finance is notoriously limited for some groups of society – female founders and founders from ethnic minorities often struggle to raise funds, impacting the scaling potential of their business.
A brilliant quote from Erika was: “We wanted to prove that it’s not only morally right to invest in more diverse companies, but also that it offers greater returns.”
During the break sessions there were networking opportunities where you were randomly allocated a person for three minutes and I connected with the women on LinkedIn afterwards and even exchanged a few messages.
The final Fireside chat was on ‘Building Better Business’ with Oona King, VP of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion at Snap Inc, and Lisa Gates, general counsel and head of Diversity and Inclusion Council at TCS. Oona was honest and very funny, with the most memorable thing she said for me being: “Diversity should be built at the very heart of your business plan.”
So whilst I have spent the most part of this blog post gushing at the amazing, smart talented women that spoke at the conference, it is a good reminder to try again to attend more events if you have recently felt a bit fatigued as I did. An event like that can make you all the more inspired once again.