If not now, then when?
I recently became a WES Ambassador, although I’ve been aware of the programme since its inception in 2014. When I was approached at the time that the programme was kicking off, my response was “oh no, not me, you need really well known people who can raise awareness of your goals” along with the perpetual issue of “I couldn’t give it any time” and so I didn’t join. And over the years, I’ve watched the announcement of friends and well respected acquaintances sign up and it’s niggled me…..where are my priorities?
When the call came out this year once again for new Ambassadors to join the programme, my immediate reaction “I’m running a start up, I cannot give time to this”. I then received no less than six messages from friends and colleagues asking if I was going to apply, "that I would be perfect for it”! After all, I spend a lot of time addressing the issues which WES focuses on, I try to call out the ridiculousness of conferences with panels after panels of male speakers and I run the mentoring programme for Women in Tourism, to encourage our members to step outside of their comfort zone and make a difference. So why did I not feel like I should be an Ambassador? It’s the usual impostor syndrome, that little voice that says “you are not perfect” and “you? an Ambassador, be serious!” plus the concern about stakeholders not thinking I am fully focused on the business.
But these are issues about which I am passionate and as a woman in business and now a woman in technology, its incumbent on me to make a difference for those that follow and so I shook off the negative voice and applied and I really wanted to be accepted. Thankfully I was.
As soon as I was in the room with my fellow new Ambassadors, I knew the decision had been the right one. I was surrounded by women who are already making a difference and when Carolyn Currie, CEO of WES said we need “real models” well I knew I was in the right place. So that’s what I’m going to be, a real model. Someone whom other women can look at and think, “if she can do it, I can too”.
It's more important than ever that everyone is a real model. In this day and age, it is no longer acceptable that the gender pay gap runs at 14% and for self-employment, the gap is a staggering 33%! Nor should we just accept the status quo that that men are twice as likely to start a business as women. Women led businesses account for 20% of all SMEs in Scotland and contribute £8.8bn to the Scottish economy. Imagine what the economic and social impact would be if we all make it our imperative to improve these statistics? I can no longer put it off, can you?
Julie Grieve is the founder of Criton and a WES Ambassador