This post is sponsored by H&M.
I cannot tell you how excited I am to be sharing this post. H&M’s Fall Campaign could not be more perfect. They are focusing on the ongoing conversation around gender equality, the evolution of women and the importance of equality. There are many parameters still set for women, and H&M want to challenge that by showing what it means to be #Ladylike, through sharing stories of incredible women who strive to redefine gender inequality, and to not be held back by it. They asked me to sit down with someone who inspired me every day, a successful woman who encourages me to be my best and achieve greatness. So, of course I had to interview my Mum! So many of you know my Mum through her regular appearances of my weekly vlogs. She also takes almost all of the images you see on this blog, answers my endless questions on how to book trains/file receipts/cook chicken/answer tricky emails/change lightbulbs… the list is endless. My blog would not be what it is without my Mum’s support and help, which is just as endless as the questions I ask.
So I wanted to share some of her wisdom with you guys too. Both my Mum and Dad instilled confidence in me, but more than anything they always taught me that if I worked hard enough I could achieve whatever I set my mind to. My full time blogging career is a testament to how much they have allowed me to believe in myself, and I think having that belief is a great way to overcome gender inequality on a personal level. With that in mind, I asked Mum questions about her career, positive mindset and personal life, all with the aim of illustrating what can be achieved despite any inequalities faced on a day to day basis. I hope you can use her experience to motivate yourself and succeed regardless of any barriers that may be put in your way.
Hello Mum! So, let’s start with introducing yourself and what you do for a living, and a little info about your career?
I am now semi retired and involved primarily with property, but my career was always based in advertisingand marketing. I started in marketing in my early twenties, set up my own business at 29 and retired at 58.
Your business partner, who you still work with now, is a man. Has there been any instances throughout your career together where you have felt at a disadvantage because you were female?
Not while we were running our own business. But when being employed by others I don’t think there was the same level of equality that we brought into our own business. Did you put a big focus on equality in your business? Not in terms of gender. it was a wider equality based on merit, commitment and ability which has nothing to do with gender.
So, at 37 you had me, how much pressure did you feel as a businesswoman when you were pregnant/mother of a young child?
You feel inevitably feel more pressure as you want to do the best you can in all areas of your life. So to avoid burn out you need to be clear about your priorities. No-one wins prizes for having the cleanest house in the land.
Was that pressure part of the reason you didn’t have a child until your 30s?
No, but it put me off having another!
I think that if you are determined to not be affected by any gender inequality it can be very motivating, do you think gender inequality actually had any positive impact on your career?
I have never made a conscious decision about my gender and the business - it’s never been at the forefront of my mind. I think there are advantages and disadvantages for both genders, it isn’t just women who feel pressured, they are just different pressures. I personally have never felt a disadvantage as I have been lucky to work in an industry that is very supportive of women and their careers. Different environments can of course breed different experiences, but my own has been very positive.
But what about the pressures of how women should look. That has been prevalent for such a long time - how have you seen that change throughout your lifetime?
Yes, I have seen it change. But, you can’t underestimate the impact that how you present yourself in the workplace can have. It affects how you are perceived by both men and women. You have to be professional within the parameters of your industry which changes with age and position. It doesn’t have as much of an impact on men as they don’t have as many options with outfits but it is important for both genders. I think as you go up your career ladder you almost create a uniform for yourself, without even knowing it and without others knowing it. But, if you waver from that uniform in a dramatic way, it can disrupt people and their perception of you - especially if you are running a business or team. I always wore minimal outfits, often trousers suits - if I came to work in a bright pink dress it would throw people off! This isn’t ‘Anne’, it breaks out of the image they have of me and that would be true for senior and junior colleagues, clients and suppliers.
Do you think that is a bad thing?
I don’t think it’s something we are conscious off. Sometimes I would have to encourage others to be conscious of it though, as it can add gravitas and foster confidence in them. It doesn’t make that right, as it’s a regulation of self expression, but I would say it to a man just as much as I would a woman. Of course it’s different in every industry, so I am only speaking from my own experience and knowing how clients would expect people to look and what is perceived as professional.
Do you think it’s easier to be a woman in your 20s now, or was it easier in the 1970s and 80s when you were in your 20s?
I think it’s harder now. There is a greater expectation for success in every aspect of ones life. And a greater level of comparison via social media that makes people believe everyone’s life is perfect - that construct sets an incredibly high bar that people aspire too, without always being cognizant of the fact that it is a construct of the perfect parts.
One thing you certainly taught me is that I can achieve anything I put my mind to, if I ever have children that would be something I would hope to instil in them too. Do you think that because of gender inequality it would be more important to instil that in a daughter, than a son?
No, not at all, I think men are also under great pressure to achieve in a world where the goal posts have moved and their “role” is much more fluid .The drive to achieve, while comparing that to other’s achievements, is hard regardless of gender.
How do you make someone believe they can achieve anything?
Positive reinforcement is something we built throughout your life and teaching you to believe in yourself. We never told you couldn't do anything you said you fancied doing, we just said you had to do your best - which is all anyone can expect from anyone.
Through your involvement in my blog, and since creating your own, you know quite a lot about the industry. What do you think the blogging industry could do to challenge existing preconceptions about women? Do you think it does a disservice to gender equality?
I don’t think it does a disservice, other than to people who take everything too literally. It is an amazing platform for everyone to share their views. Of course, if everyone was showing a ‘perfect’ body, career, life, family etc then that would be disturbing. But some people are sharing the more realistic aspects of their lives, you just sometimes have to look for it.
I also think it’s because you generally have a very positive outlook on things. One that never plays the victim or looks for reasons to be victimised. How do you manage to maintain that mindset?
I am lucky that I am naturally a glass half full person. Focussing on the positive within a situation, which isn't always easy, helps you feel positive about yourself. Negativity breeds negativity in my view and if you expect the worse it becomes a self fulfilling prophecy.
Finally, and sticking with the idea of positive mindset, please can you give us all a bit of advice on how to remain positive despite whatever life might throw our way? You have overcome a lot of loss in your life, how do you stop life’s curveballs from holding you back?
I genuinely believe that we are all individually responsible for our own happiness, however we define that. Relying on someone, or something, else to provide happiness for us is just not sustainable. Be clear and realistic about what makes you happy - socially, physically and materially. Set your objectives and then work towards them. Nothing goes to plan all the time and bad things happen, but if you let the bad things define you then life will not be fun.
I would love to hear all about the women you guys find inspiring too, and examples where a woman in your live has encouraged you to achieve, and be your very best. Share you own stories using #HMAutumnFashion #Ladylike on Instagram and Twitter. I am going to be keeping my eye on that hashtag as I can’t wait to read them all!