We held our annual International Women’s Day event yesterday, an energising series of presentations and discussions with three women who shared their very different journeys with us and tackled the topic of “balance”.
A common thread was that to achieve balance in business and in life, we need to look after our own needs – our mental health, physical health, be aware of what we need to be happy, and seize opportunities to help us achieve that.
Each of our three speakers has taken a very different journey, proving that there are very few “right” or “wrong” ways of doing things. They are three very successful women (bios below) with enviable track records in business, and it was interesting that the theme of looking after your own happiness came through strongly in different ways with each of them when asked to speak on the topic of balance.
There were many standout moments, here is a flavour:
*Being self-aware: recognising who you are, accepting yourself, and creating situations that feed into your balance and happiness, rather than trying to change yourself to suit an environment that you’re not happy in.
*Unapologetically pursuing a schedule that you know works for you. For Linda, CEO of the West Lothian Chamber of Commerce, this includes doing the school run everyday but it also means arranging time to pursue her passion for fundraising challenges, challenging herself physically and mentally. “Every time I do something like that [a recent 100-mile Sahara trek] people tell me I am off my head. But I think you’re off your head if you don’t do it.”
*Recognising the things we do to “create an illusion of balance.” Maggie Georgopoulos was diagnosed as bi-polar when she was a teenager, and it was a long time until she started talking openly about it. She buried it deep to create that illusion as she climbed to the very top of the corporate ladder. She now feels that she has been successful in business because of it, not in spite of it, and is a mental health awareness advocate.
Maggie has also written up her thoughts on the event, which you can read on her LinkedIn page here
*Recognising that every journey is individual. It is liberating to say “this is me.”
*Doing things on your own terms: Anna Payne left the lucrative but high pressure world of recruitment to set up her own business, because, she says, “I wasn’t being the parent I wanted to be.” So although she is now working longer hours and for less money, she says, “I’m OK with that, because it is on my terms.”
A huge thanks is due to our three speakers for giving their time to come and share their experiences with us; and thanks to everyone who came and participated. The event was once again kindly hosted by Oracle at their premises in Linlithgow.
Linda Scott, CEO of West Lothian Chamber of Commerce and Director of Scottish Chambers of Commerce.
Linda lives with her family in West Lothian and started her career with her first catering business at the age of 17. From attending and competing in equestrian events, Linda used her experience and contacts to start her own business offering a quality service to a wide range of clients.
Linda’s first business, Gourmet Events Scotland Ltd, grew into one of the top catering companies in Scotland. Her prestigious client base included Aldi, Mercedes, Lexus, Coca Cola, Samsung, Pacific Life, Sainsbury’s Bank, Terex and many more. Gourmet Events was sold in 2014, Linda then launched Axcess Training which provided a mix of college based and “hands on” training for the catering and hospitality industry.
Linda took up her position as CEO of West Lothian Chamber of Commerce in 2012 and then became the first director of Scottish Chambers from a non-city Chamber in 150 years in 2016. She also serves on several other boards and committees which cover a range of economic responsibilities including employment, education, enterprise and commerce within the West Lothian area of Scotland. As a Director on the board of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce Linda is engaged with a number of national forums including international trade and further education.
Linda has travelled extensively over the last 3 years, working with partners from Spain, Italy, Greece, Romania and Turkey. She was involved in a visit with Scottish Chambers of Commerce to China and has led two trade missions to Ireland in 2018 including a trade mission to Donegal with Ivan Mckee, Minister for Trade & Investment.
Linda has supported various worthy causes by completing numerous challenges including Tough Mudders, Sleep In The Park and she has just completed her most testing yet, a 100 mile trek across the Sahara for the Michelle Henderson’s Cervical Cancer Trust.
Maggie Georgopoulos, Author, “Up the ladder in a skirt”; Mental Health Awareness Advocate
Maggie is an award-winning authority on Mental Health in the Workplace. She has a unique story which she shares about her own mental health journey as a change maker and leader in the workplace. She is a strong advocate of ingraining a strong understanding and support of mental health into the cultural psyche of organisations.
She also works closely with individuals and organisations on career development for women in male dominated industries. She is the author of the book, Up the Ladder in a Skirt, which is hailed as the book for women in challenging roles globally by women in organisations such as the Lloyds Banking Group and Visit Scotland.
A mechanical engineer who climbed to the top of the leadership ladder, Maggie was the executive chairman of a large agricultural company, responsible for the 75% increase in the retention of staff through career development pathways, by the age of 32. Maggie is a sought-after consultant in oil and gas, agriculture, manufacturing and automotive industries. Having achieved goals such as being the youngest member of the plastics pioneers’ education initiative which went into companies such as Monsanto and Nylex.
She has directly impacted the career choices and progress of over 10,000 women in over 32 countries around the world. With a deep commitment to diversity and well-being she is an ambassador for sustainable career and business development for women the world over.
Male Dominated to creating Change: the road to gender balance is often littered with the great actions of many. Balance can be seen in many lights. We talk about work life balance and balancing our roles with our expectations and just balancing the books. From Engineer to Executive Chairman of the board of a large Agricultural Company and onto Volunteer Leadership and the lessons of running your own business, Maggie shared some of the stories that show how she endeavoured and still endeavours to create balance in organisations, from Gender Balance to pay balance and thought balance.
Anna Payne, Owner and Manager, Merbabies Swim School
Coming from a background in high-pressure recruitment and ending up almost burning herself out for someone else’s benefit, Anna decided to quit and set up her own business.
Since taking over a small baby and toddler swim school in February 2017, she has successfully grown the business and Merbabies now offers lessons to around 500 children a week. Having taken on specialist teaching staff, Anna looks after all the business development and behind-the-scenes work for the business.
Moving into West Lothian from Edinburgh relatively recently, Anna is also the person behind the “West Lothian Women” Facebook community, which she started at the end of 2018 to connect with other women in West Lothian for support, socialising, networking, sharing positive stories and experiences. The group has grown very rapidly and now has nearly 11k members.
Having travelled and worked overseas, Anna has a rich variety of experiences to share.
Anna spoke about her journey to date, in relation to the IWD theme of #BalanceForBetter. We heard from her about the lack of balance that led to her leaving a high-pressure employment, taking the plunge into self-employment, balancing the books whilst developing the business, and balancing work with raising two small children.