Building a Network for those who Hate Networking with Zella King


Financial Times HQ, London. February 2nd 2017

Academic research shows that it tends to be harder for women to have a strong network and here’s why:

– the force of numbers: the top is dominated by men who are likely to seek out and promote people who are like them e.g. other men

– women are less likely to use their network connections for their own advantage

– women are afraid to be seen as too pushy because success and likeability are seen as being positively correlated with men and negatively correlated with women

Here is what we learned about what it means to use your network to get ahead:

– 20 per cent of the time you should be out there meeting people

– think about the three categories of people in your personal boardroom: those who can bring you power, those who can bring you information and those who can help you develop

– if you’re not telling your sponsor what you achieved, someone else will be telling your sponsor what they achieved

– ask people for help with a specific question (avoid “will you be my mentor?”). They will be likely more willing to meet you on a specific topic.

– think about who are the people who shape decisions outside the meeting room; try and have the “meeting before the meeting”

– if someone says no to your request for help, you’re still in the same position. Therefore there is only upside to asking, as they might say yes.

– which role do you fill for others in their personal boardroom? It’s a two-way process.

Further reading: Leadership BS: Fixing Workplaces and Careers One Truth at a Time by Jeffrey Pfeffer


Sex discrimination and gender at work – a discussion with leading barrister Marina Wheeler


Jean-Jaques Restaurant, London. November 25th, 2015

Marina Wheeler led a very lively discussion, so lively that the waiters started clearing up around us as the restaurant was closing! Marina admitted to having a resurgence in feminist beliefs, driven by a sudden realisation of how slow progress has been over the last 30 years.

Marina was a wonderful speaker, and left us with 10, and more, things to think about from her excellent talk:

  1. Women are not being kept out anymore but it’s not all sweetness and light. Only one in five High Court judges are women; and there are fewer women leading FTSE firms than men called John.
  2. Society’s main preoccupation seems to be how attractive a woman is – and this falls within a narrow definition. eg Hilary Mantel, Mary Beard, Cherie Blair, and Samantha Cameron’s lack of pedicure
  3. If appearance is the main currency, it objectifies women and ensures that they will only flourish for a short-lived period of time.
  4. Women are guilty of objectifying men (albeit to a lesser extent). Just look at the reaction to the new Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau…
  5. Charlotte Proudman and LinkedIn-gate…one woman’s charm is another woman’s flirting – the two are very open to personal interpretation. Excessive focus on women’s appearance limits our freedom and it should be addressed – but what is a constructive way and forum in which to respond? Is failure to shout out colluding and condoning sexism?
  6. The media is inconsistent in its portrayal of sexism and related issues. A month before the Charlotte Proudman case, the Telegraph published Britain’s 25 sexist solicitors.
  7. Women’s choices aren’t as free as we think they are: we face a spectrum of overt discrimination, internal barriers and practical considerations such as the cost of childcare.
  8. Why do we hold ourselves back? Assertive females may be respected but they’re not liked. Women are brought up to put others first. The Heidi/Howard test shows that success and likeability, concludes Sheryl Sandberg, are positively correlated for men and negatively for women.
  9. “Kids are the killer to progression.” Sometimes older women are unsympathetic because they want to validate their own choices.
  10. Gender stereotypes are still going strong. Women end up doing the lion’s share of the housework. Women need to lean in at work; men must lean in at home. Men and women’s happiness benefits from greater flexibility of roles and a breaking down of stereotypes.

Further reading:

  • Living Dolls: The Return of Sexism, by Natasha Walter
  • Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office: 101 Unconscious Mistakes Women Make That Sabotage Their Careers, by Lois Frankel

And finally some words of wisdom from Marina’s husband: “Mess it up and move on.”

Fertility: focusing on the facts and debunking the myths


Grace Belgravia, London. July 8th, 2015

Grace Belgravia, the luxury women-only private members club focused on health & wellness, hosted us for an evening focused on fertility. Fertilty is a topic that rarely seems to leave the news, whether it’s Google deciding to offer egg-freezing to their female employees, or scare stories about the impact our lifestyles have on our ability to have children. With such speculation and often hysteria in the press, we sought out the advice of specialists who could tell us what was true, what was myth, and what we can do to protect our fertility for the future.

Dr Tim Evans, Medical Director at Grace and doctor to the Queen, introduced the event to our members, and advised us of the importance of looking after our physical and mental health at all times. Balancing busy lives and careers can be tough, and stress can have a detrimental effect on our health, including our fertility.

Following a delicious and healthy meal in the Grace restaurant, Dr Marie Evans walked us through the facts about fertility, fielding our many questions and guiding the debate. Alongside Dr Marie our member Sapana Agrawal, founder of egg-freezing company Smart Egg, told us what we need to know about egg freezing. It’s a controversial topic, but a subject that is on any career-women’s radar so it’s important we’re armed with the facts.

There’s so much more to learn beyond the below, but we hope it’s a good starting point for future conversations and debate

12 things we learned about fertility

1. Fertility varies widely across age groups and across lifestyles. While statistics can talk about probabilities, there is a broad range of factors that determine individual fertility levels. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle – regular exercise, a balanced diet, avoiding drugs and excessive drink – is advisable whatever age you are.

2. Women are born with all of their eggs; men start making sperm when they are born and will continue to do so throughout their lives, although the quality deteriorates as they age.

3. For most women, there are only 12 opportunities to get pregnant each year (once per cycle). For men, there are roughly 60 million sperm each time they ejaculate. Sperm can live in the woman’s body for 48 hours before ovulation, so the window of opportunity is three to four days each month.

4. Female fertility declines with age as the number and quality of eggs reduces: a 30-year-old woman having unprotected sex for a year has a 75 per cent chance of getting pregnant; a 40-year-old woman having unprotected sex for a year has a roughly 45 per cent chance of getting pregnant within the year.

5. One in six couples will find it difficult to conceive. One in 10 couples will need fertility treatment.

6. The average age of women to have their first child is 28; this age is greater in high-achieving women.

7. Fertility declines with age and studies suggest that the pace of decline steepens after the age of 35.

8. Don’t catch STDs and if you do, treat them quickly. They can have major impacts on fertility.

9. There is no relation to when you started your period and when you will go through menopause.

10. Taking the pill and the morning after pill are unlikely to have a long-term impact on your fertility. It is a myth that it prevents you from using up your eggs though!

11. The older the mother, the greater the risk of genetic abnormality in the baby.

12. You can have an AMH fertility test done at most clinics for around £60. This tells you whether you are above or below average fertility and so whether egg freezing might be particularly relevant for you.

12 things we learned about egg-freezing 

1. Typically you freeze 15-20 eggs; most women produce 8-12 eggs per cycle.

2. In the UK the cost of egg freezing is around £4k-£4.5k per cycle, with storage costs of £100-£300 each year.

3. Over 90% of eggs survive thawing.

4. The process of egg freezing is similar to the early stages of IVF. It involves injecting yourself with hormones for 10-15 days. The effect of these hormones varies by woman – it’s like PMS but multiplied by 10!

5. Harvesting the eggs then involves either sedation or a general anaesthetic. The procedure should take only around 10 minutes.

6. Eggs are frozen in liquid nitrogen and stored safely. Only mature eggs are frozen; at this stage you can’t tell if the eggs being frozen are genetically normal.

7. The whole egg freezing process should take no longer than 20 days from start to finish.

8. Once the eggs are thawed, they are mixed with sperm and the embryo is implanted into the woman about five days later.

9. The risks are low. Roughly 0.5% of women experience hyper-stimulation from the hormones and there is very rarely long-term damage.

10. If you are going to want to freeze your eggs for social reasons, sooner is better rather than later. The younger the eggs, the better quality they are.

11. Pick a clinic that has had as many successful live births from social egg freezing as possible. Only 20 babies have been born in the UK from frozen eggs; the industry is still in nascent stages.

12. While there are relatively few cases in which women have had their eggs thawed and fertilised for pregnancy, studies in Italy and Spain suggest that success rates in IVF using frozen-thawed eggs are just as good as those using fresh eggs.

HE FOR SHE: What can we all do to ensure men and women are equals at work?

PWC HQ, London. May 12th, 2015

PwC kindly hosted us, and male friends and colleagues, for a inclusive evening focused on what we can all do to ensure equality in the work place. Our four brilliant panelists – Ian Powell (PWC’s Chairman), Sarah Drinkwater (Google’s Head of Campus), Jane Marsh (Innocent’s Head of People) and Kieran Foad (Santander’s Chief Risk Officer) – openly discussed what they’ve managed to achieve, what policies and lessons they’re focused on, and what they hope to achieve in the future.

There was a lot to take away from the evening, so we’ve wrapped our 10 key takeaways on what we can we all do to ensure men and women are equals at work:

  1. Men and women need to do this together. Take personal responsibility and have the confidence to speak up if something is not right.
  2. Equal pay is one of the the most effective measures. Encourage this through pay transparency and preventing secret salary negotiations.
  3. Beware of unconscious biases. Job descriptions and team socials are good examples of where they can sneak in.
  4. Flexible working should be endorsed, supported and demonstrated from the top. It needs to be enabled right through the organisation, not just for certain groups.
  5. Lead with examples. A senior man working effectively part time disproves the critics and paves the way for others.
  6. Internal networks are as important as external networks. Both should be cultivated.
  7. Look around, not just up, for mentors. They don’t need to be at the most senior level. Initiatives such as upwards mentoring can have benefits for all involved.
  8. Targets and metrics help speed things up and encourage the right behaviour. But no one wants to feel that they are being promoted by positive discrimination.
  9. Smaller companies with more limited resources can take advice on gender equality from bigger companies.
  10. The UK is doing better than most! And companies like PwC are leading the way. But we’re all responsible for making it better.

Career Advice for Ambitious Women – an evening with Mrs Moneypenny


Gail’s Bakery, Marble Arch. April 22nd, 2015

We had the fabulous and thoroughly entertaining Mrs Moneypenny aka Heather McGregor – FT columnist, TV personality and owner of the very successful executive search firm Taylor Bennett. Heather took us through her book ‘Career Advice for Ambitious Women’ and gave us much to reflect on and practical advice to follow.

We did our best to put together the highlights for our BroadMinded members, but can highly recommend the book for even more helpful advice for planning the future of your career:

1) Get some qualifications – what you know will always be important, so build your human capital.

2) Build a network – connections and people are invaluable in any industry and any field. So get out there and network (BroadMinded is the #1 place to start of course!)

3) Never think it’s too late – there is no time for regret. If you wish you had done something in the past, find a way to do it now.

4) Learn to say no – unfortunately while men are conditioned to perform, women are conditioned to please which means we find it hard to say no to anyone. Think about what and how to prioritise now, as we’ll only be pulled in more directions as time goes on.

5) You can’t have it all – The dream is of the perfect house, marriage, children, challenging job, charity work, pilates on the weekend…of course free time to read and continue to learn. Unfortunately the reality is that having all of this is near-impossible! But choose what’s important to you, and plan time to fit in everything you can.
6) Be prepared to do more than a man – but also learn to let go. Choose your arguments, and learn to delegate.
7) Control your own finances – being financially literate is incredible important in order for you to know what options you have in front of you. You need to be able to evaluate what career and life choices are financially viable.
8) Do something outside work and your family – a real BroadMinded plug! It’s important outside of your work and home life to have a project that you don’t do for money, but something that improves your human and social capital. You may make connections and live experiences which impact your future options.
9) Promote yourself – build the brand! 85% of communication is non-verbal, so how we look is incredibly important. Don’t forget to accessorise with an FT or an Economist poking out of the large lap-top ready handbag!
10) You can’t do it alone – relevant for both your career and home life. With a strong team of people around you, anything is possible.

Coding & Cocktails @ Decoded – Demystifying code with Kathryn Parsons


Decoded HQ, London. March 18th, 2015

Kathryn Parsons and the team at Decoded hosted us at their HQ near Silicon Roundabout, giving us a quick lesson in how to code, how to hack, and why understanding what goes on behind the screen is so important for every one of us. This is even more so for women, who continue to be significantly under-represented in the technology sector.

Kathryn walked us through how the Decoded mission – to demystify code. Technology is disrupting, expanding and changing so many industries around us, it’s difficult to point to any business that has not and will not continue to change due to the rapid growth and development of the internet and the technology around it. Kathryn and their team left a clear impression on us – learning the language of code would help us develop, move with the changes, and be a force for change in the future. The other choice is to put our heads in the sand and risk being left behind.

After warming us up with cocktails and an incredible spread of food from their in-house chefs, we first learnt the basics behind coding – the use of the three principal programs HTML, CSS and JavaScript. On first glance code frankly looks like an alien language, but after a little while it looked a little less terrifying. We then learnt some serious lessons from the hacking team – be wary of free wifi! When you connect to free wifi, whether in Starbucks or the London Underground, your connection is open to hackers who can see everything you’re doing, including the logins and passwords you use for any number of platforms. To know you’re safe when signing in to anything, look for a green padlock at the beginning of the URL.

We’re all very seriously considering signing up for the Decoded day courses – the future is in the coders’ hands!

‘What I know in my 40s that I didn’t know in my 20s’ with Julie Meyer

J Meyer Oct 14

The Orange, Pimlico. January 28th, 2014

We were thrilled to have Julie Meyer, serial entrepreneur and founder of venture capital firm Ariadne Capital, come to talk to us. Julie has had a fascinating career, dating back to 1998 when she founded First Tuesday, the network of entrepreneurs which many credit for igniting the internet generation in Europe. It was sold in 2000 for $50m, and Julie went on to found Ariadne Capital to create a new model for the financing of entrepreneurship in Europe; that of ‘Entrepreneurs backing Entrepreneurs’. She has also launched EntrepreneurCountry – a global forum for entrepreneurs.

The subject of Julie’s talk was ‘What I know in my 40s that I didn’t know in my 20s’. As someone with such a varied and successful career, we thought Julie might have some good advice for us, and we certainly weren’t disappointed. The presentation and Q&A crossed a breadth of subjects, but we keenly wrote down the advice below to share with everyone.

  1. Understand what you can do as a person
  2. Worry less about the money and more about what you can do; the money will find you
  3. Ask yourself what you should do rather than using everyone else as one big advisory board on your life
  4. Don’t try and fix things to be perfect at everything; play to your strengths and then you understand your unfair advantage and your unique contribution
  5. See yourself as a premium; don’t sell yourself at a discount
  6. You don’t win by playing by someone else’s rules
  7. To win big, work for yourself
  8. Don’t worry about breaking the glass ceiling; create new rules
  9. Society works best when it’s organised around the entrepreneur
  10. And remember: Now is a good time to be a woman

To hear about what Julie is up to, follow her at @StrongJules. And follow this link to read more about her other venture EntrepreneurCountry.

We also asked all the members at the dinner to introduce themselves, and say something that they know now that they wish they’d known when they were 20 – it made for a very lively conversation! We thought what came out was really interesting – many of the comments could apply to any age and are still worth reminding ourselves of now. This is a selection of what was said:

Be braver

Don’t rush

Trust your gut

Say yes

Don’t think about what everyone else is doing

Don’t try to please everyone

Don’t be too quick to judge people or situations

Keep up passions outside of work

Time is your friend

Do anything – you don’t have to follow a path

It’s okay to blag it

Speak up – your opinion is valuable

Don’t take it personally

It’s okay to fail

Be more confident

Don’t set milestones

Spend more time alone

Pick your battles

Ask for help

Care less about what other people think