Last night, to celebrate International Women’s Day, I attended the Badass Mavericks event at the W Hotel in Leicester Square. It felt like the perfect combination for me – Harriet Minter, three inspiring female speakers, and a room full of amazing women! Within seconds of arriving, I met Alex, a lab scientist, who introduced me to Science Grrl – a group of people who are passionate about science, and passing it on to future generations. The event was reassuringly well-attended, even without knowing that cocktails would be provided!
First to speak was Sue Tibballs, who is launching What Women Want 2.0, a global survey to capture women’s needs, wants and attitudes, following on from the original survey undertaken 20 years ago. Sue’s professionalism and clear breadth of knowledge was matched only by her warmth and geniality. Then it was Emma Sexton, co-founder of Flock, a collaboration of female entrepreneurs (who seem to know how to throw a hell of a party!). Emma articulated something I’ve felt for a long time – that the way we work is outdated, and the system was not designed by women, for women. So whilst we try to fit the mould in order to achieve success, sometimes we need to break the mould and create a new one that does work for us. I loved the idea of Emma’s collaborative ‘Business Buddies’ rather than the macho competitive corporate environment we are so familiar with. And finally Hanna Naima McCloskey, last but by no means least, she spoke with such energy and enthusiasm, as CEO for Fearless Futures. Hanna was so articulate and energetic that I found her presence inspiring – I could listen to her for hours!
All too soon it was time for the audience to participate. I always struggle when it comes to Q&A – I often feel they should ask if anyone wants to share anything, rather than ask a question, as I feel the pressure to come up with the ‘perfect question’ that’s insightful but not too serious. But I knew I had to speak – it was a room full of inspiring women, chaired by Harriet Minter! Never mind the fact that it was International Women’s Day, and someone had mentioned the Madeline Albright quote (clearly a sign, if I needed one!). We were all talking about how to work together – so if not now, then when? So I did! I put my hand up and said “me!” Of course I was immediately hit with crippling nerves! I could hear my heart pounding in my chest, no amount of deep breathing was stopping the churning in my belly, but my turn came, and I spoke.
I can barely remember what I said – I’m sure I spoke far too quickly – but I managed to mention the blog, and thank Harriet for her inspiration. And I think people clapped at one point. I’m not sure. I think I went into shock! And then it was over. I managed to speak to some of the panel briefly, and had positive feedback from them, as well as from some people in the audience who said they would check out this blog. I should have been relieved. Proud even. But instead I kept kicking myself for not speaking more eloquently, for not standing up and introducing myself, for not being perfect.
Strangely, yesterday morning, I had watched Reshma Saujani’s Ted Talk on how we Teach Girls to be Perfect but Boys to be Brave.
I was struck by how her words resonated with me – the crushing fear of failure if I were to try new things or to step outside the lines without clear guidance! She encourages girls to learn to code, to become more comfortable with repeated failure before achieving eventual success. So I was aware of the benefits of being brave, and last night I felt the pain of trying to be perfect.
I learned a lot last night – mainly that it is one thing to ‘put myself out there’ behind the protective layer of a blog, but it is an entirely different experience to do it in person. So I’m going to need to practice it more, and I’m going to need to be brave, but I’m ready for the challenge. Especially if it means I get to meet even more amazing women along the way. Do you challenge yourself to be brave? How do you handle that feeling of fear?