Today is International Women's Day and this year's theme is all about pathways to decent work for women. In recognition of International Women's Day I want to tell you a bit about Hillary Shaw. You probably know her best as the manager of Cheryl Cole and Girls Aloud but – way back when – she managed me during my Neon Nights era and she taught me one particular lesson that has stood me in good stead ever since...
Music is Hillary's background and I was impressed by her reputation even before I met her in person. She'd worked with major artists like Bananarama, the original 'girl power' band, who'd sold millions of albums worldwide, and she'd attended iconic events like Band Aid.
I remember being fascinated that she managed the 'Bananas' through their heyday and is still alive to tell the tale! Those girls were wild and they're still wild now. I remain fascinated by that even today and I'm trying to persuade them to write the ultimate autobiography of girl power - Pop and Roll - because they've done it all.
Ours was an interesting partnership because in music, I'd only previously been managed by one other person – a man (Terry Blamey). The music management business is traditionally a guy's world.
I met Hillary through a friend and we really worked well together. We flew around the world several times, got the job done, and still managed to have some girly fun along the way.
One of the things that made our relationship work was that there was a lot of stuff I didn't feel I had to explain to her because I was talking girl-to-girl. Maybe that's how the 'Boys' Club' thing started in society: guys feel that they relate to each other and choose to employ other men because they don't feel like they have to explain as much. (Hmmm...? I am pondering and pulling my Garfield quizzical look now!)
Hillary had an excellent handle on the artists she worked with, understanding what they wanted and making sure that translated into success. Her greatest strengths are communication, liaison and negotiation – working out the needs of the artist and the record company and helping them to meet somewhere in the middle.
The most valuable lesson she taught me was how to tackle a heavy workload. I use to look at a whole project and think: "it's insurmountable, arrggghhhhhh!" Hillary taught me to break things down into do-able bite-sized chunks and not to think all the way to the tenth step in a project when you're actually only at the step one. She showed me how to take things on, bit by bit.
That coaching has never been more helpful to me than in the past 18 months of my whirlwind life. So, in honour of International Women's Day, I'm here to say a big thank you to Hillary Shaw.
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