On 8 March, International Women's Day, my business partner June Sarpong and I will bring our New York women's empowerment event, the WIE Symposium back home, to London.
WIE is a women's conference, a forum for this generation's leaders to inspire and empower the next. The event has attracted some incredible thought-leaders over the years - Arianna Huffington, Sarah Brown, Donna Karan, Melinda Gates, Queen Rania, Iman, Diane von Furstenberg, Nancy Pelosi and Jill Biden to name but a few. They all shared valuable lessons, gave practical advice and provided inspiration.
We founded the WIE Network to progress a fundamental idea - that all women need to be more encouraging and supportive of one another, especially in the workplace. Let's put our focus on mentoring and championing. While competition occurs naturally in the business world, we need to balance that with help and support for each other so that everyone moves forward.
WIE London's theme is "Owning Your Success". And there are a number of personal reasons for that choice.
Living in America has changed me a huge amount. Here, I've learned to cut to the chase, pursue my dreams, express my feelings without fear, and hold my own in any situation however intimidating. In the rapidly changing, densely populated metropolis that is New York City, you learn to adapt quickly to new situations. People come and people go and you adjust accordingly. There's no time for fear, you either jump on or get left behind.
The UK taught me the value of humility; the benefits of self-deprecation; the importance of objectivity and analytical thought; the ability to truly listen. I appreciate the art of great conversation and the joys of quick fire wit. I treasure my longstanding friendships.
I'm so grateful for all these experiences and have benefitted greatly from both worlds. With WIE, we wanted to share a little of what the Americans call 'chutzpah' with our UK friends. Self-deprecation and humility have their place, but not to the point where they overshadow the person and their accomplishments.
The brilliant array of speakers we've assembled for WIE include the indomitable Lynne Franks - my first ever boss; the fashion legend Vivienne Westwood; luminous actress and philanthropist Rosario Dawson and the incorrigible author, Kathy Lette. Entrepreneurs such as Ruby Hammer of Ruby and Millie, Jo Malone and Anya Hindmarch will share the secrets to building and sustaining a company.
Businesswoman and investor Lynn de Rothschild will lead a panel entitled Businesswomen Leading The Way. Why do women only account for only 14% of FTSE 100 directors? How do we improve female representation in leadership positions?
Julie Meyer of the BBC's Dragons Den will teach women how to navigate the world of finance and fundraising. The perception is that women are uncomfortable talking about money and reticent about asking for it. Well, women make up half the workforce. We are driving this economy and we need to take our place within it.
On Unstopppable Women, we'll hear from philanthropists such as Toyin Saraki, working to improve conditions for women in the developing world and from the Labour Party's rising star, Stella Creasy who speaks up for women's domestic issues.
The Huffington Post UK's Editor-in-Chief, Carla Buzasi, will moderate a discussion about telling women's stories through the media and increasing our visibility. Her panel will include a diversity of opinions, such as those of Oscar nominated Middle Eastern actress Shohreh Aghdashloo and journalist Celia Walden.
I can't wait to see what my hometown makes of WIE. But my real hope is that by the end of the conference, a few more women will be encouraged to truly own their success, comfortably pursue their ambitions and be open and proud of who they are and what they've achieved. If we don't, how can anyone else?
The WIE Symposium is on 8 March. Ticket sales and information here.
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