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The Secrets of Two Superwomen

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Recently the Wellbeing of Women team were delighted to host a special lunch at Fortnum & Mason with best-selling author Joanna Trollope.

A rector's daughter from the Cotswolds, Joanne, who is now an impossibly glamorous 69, chatted at length about her life.

Having completed her schooling she won a scholarship to Oxford University. She then got married and combined a teaching job with raising her two daughters.

Joanna's burning desire was to write fiction, which she did in secret after she had put the children to bed. She admits she lacked confidence. After a rather humiliating rejection from a (male) publisher during her early twenties she put her ambitions on hold.

Said Joanna: 'Various attempts I made to write were greeted with sentiments like: "Why aren't you looking after your husband properly?"' And when the marriage ran into trouble: "Well, what did you expect?"'

I can't help but wonder - if Joanna had been coached by a female mentor, someone older, more experienced and very successful in her own right, could things have been different? Perhaps she might have enjoyed success in her youth rather than waiting for decades to strike out as a rather brilliant novelist.

The whole issue of mentoring for women particularly in an increasingly competitive work environment is never more relevant.

This is one of the reasons I'm so proud that Wellbeing of Women is the chosen charity for Women on Boards who have recently launched in the UK with a series of inspiring events. (www.womenonboards.co.uk )

The Women on Boards team seek to build female confidence in the work place - and it's not just senior women they help. They also coach their younger members in working solidly towards a successful future. It's all about laying strong foundations from an early stage.

Similarly, Wellbeing of Women is keen to educate women about their health today so they can reap the benefits over the course of their life times.

The need to do this was never more apparent than when my team and I ploughed through decades of Wellbeing's medical archives to put together a special newsletter.

As we went through files full of fascinating photographs and projects spanning some five decades the need to safeguard one's health a day at a time was never more obvious.

While we are on the subject of female empowerment - I'm delighted to announce that superwoman Karren Brady, 43, recently designed an office capsule wardrobe for BHS in association with Wellbeing of Women. (www.bhs.co.uk)

Karren, who is a Wellbeing of Women ambassador, feels it's important to try and look the part if you want make your mark. Her stylish collection features four very elegant dresses which come in black and purple and range from sizes 8 to 22.

Says Karren: 'I have chosen these dresses in the hope that it gives the women wearing them that bit of extra confidence.

'I want to make sure that the women wearing them look and feel good enough to take on anyone in the boardroom!'

Needless to say, Karren is extremely well versed at succeeding in man's world. She had to fight tooth and nail to become the success she is today.

Having been appointed managing director of Birmingham City Football Club at the youthful age of 23 she found she was excluded from the boardroom at other clubs and asked for her vital statistics in press conferences.

It was only through sheer determination and tenacity that she swept her opponents aside and is now a hugely successful businesswoman in her own right.

Interestingly enough, she says she has one key regret.

'My greatest mistake? I once took a three-day maternity leave,' she says, ' My daughter was born 16 years ago, and back then there was no such thing as work-life balance, flexible working, all the communications we have now with mobile and Wi-Fi - these hadn't really been invented. I didn't understand that a career lasts a lifetime.

Now I know taking time off, especially if you've had a baby, is absolutely fine. Your career will still be there when you get back, and you don't have to feel guilty for taking the break you need.'

So, I will conclude this blog with a big thank you to Karren and the team at BHS for their support - and let's please raise a glass to the intrepid team at Women on Boards!