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Women in Leadership: Q&A with Women’s Coach of the Year, Jenny Garrett

Rhian Morgan

Jenny Garrett

Award-winning author, business expert, and Women’s Coach of the Year (2014) Jenny Garrett talks to Rhian Morgan about her latest role: inspiring young women as part of Nivea’s #BringItOn campaign

As role model for other women, who inspired you when you were growing up?

I was inspired by a diverse group of people when I was growing up, from Vivienne Westwood to Whitney Houston. My biggest inspiration has always come from my family; my mum, who had me as a teenager, took a degree in her thirties and became a teacher, my grandmother who left the Caribbean to start a new life in the UK in her twenties, and my daughter who is full of fun. I believe role models are everywhere, in our friends, our teachers, our families and our colleagues.

How did you become so successful? 

I think the first question is: what is success? Success for me is being happy with where you are, while still striving for more.  If you're talking about business success then I think that my inquisitive nature, and a thirst for knowledge, and need for variety have driven me. I've always loved education, reading, learning, attending courses. I studied O- and A-Levels at school but couldn't get a grant to go on to a degree, so I went to work. I studied for my degree in the evening while working full time and later went on to study for a masters, also while working full time. I went into business after qualifying as a coach, because I couldn't see any full-time coaching roles on the market; the only way to do the thing I loved was to start a business. I reduced my hours to four days a week in my role and started to build my business on the fifth day. Within a year, I was completely freelance, that was in 2006. My life outside work is very important to me and, although there is a lot of talk about a more blended life where the boundaries of life are blurred, being present for my family and having good friends is an integral part of what success looks like for me.

Regarding the Nivea survey, do you think attitudes have changed/are changing since you were a teenage girl? If so, how?

I was so excited to help NIVEA analyse their latest research. It confirmed what I know to be true of the new generation of women who don’t wait – they make things happen. More than 2,700 UK women took part in the skincare brand’s study #BringItOn. It found that 94 per cent believe you can be single and happy; 74 per cent say ‘being me’ comes before being a ‘wife or girlfriend’; 56 per cent agree young women are more confident than ever before; Jessica Ennis Hill, Nicola Adams and Brooke Kinsella inspire the under-30s, and technology powers the ‘career lift’, as almost a third reject the career ladder. These women make things happen but with their own individual style. I call them ‘Happenistas’. I think attitudes have definitely changed since I was a teenage girl. Women are more ambitious, more highly educated and want to use the education. I love the fact that the Nivea survey says young women are not taking the career ladder. Instead, they are using the lift and using technology to power it. Social media and the internet have made finding opportunities and sharing your message so much more possible.

Women are more confident. I'm excited about that and excited for the next generation of women.

Tell me more about the projects you’re involved in and why

Rocking Ur Teens. I’ve co-founded a community interest company called Rocking Ur Teens, our vision is to connect teens for a positive and vibrant future.

Generation Success. I am an Advisory Board member of Generation Success, an organisation which brings together entrepreneurs, young professionals, and business leaders to allow you to discover how success is created, how to get there and the important skills needed for the journey.

Twenty Ten Club. I'm vice-chair of the Twenty Ten Club, an award-winning social enterprise set up to help minority ethnic and female entrepreneurs.

Cherie Blair Foundation. I’m a mentor for the Cherie Blair foundation and mentor female entrepreneurs in developing countries, as well as provide webinars and panel discussions.

Happenista Project. As a result of my work with Nivea, I have created the Happenista project, an online programme which harnesses all the learning from the research, combined with coaching and expert input to help women make it happen in their lives.

Aurora. I facilitate the final day on the groundbreaking Aurora programme. Developed by the Leadership Foundation for Higher Education, Aurora aims to encourage a wide range of women in academic and professional roles to think of themselves as leaders, to develop leadership skills, and to help institutions maximise the potential of these women. 

Do you think it’s harder for minorities to make it up the career ladder?

If you look at the Race for Opportunity statistics, it’s clear that it’s harder for minorities to climb the career ladder. The combination of unconscious bias and more covert forms of bias mean that it’s very difficult to tackle. Gender has become high on the agenda but when there is an intersection between, say, gender and race for example, it brings in additional levels of bias, which is often not taken into consideration.

Those from minority backgrounds can be more highly educated and experienced but be passed over as not fitting the mould, or being seen as a risk. I believe that we are all unique and have something to bring to organisations. A more inclusive workforce at all levels can only enhance an organisation’s performance and that includes diversity of thought. However, that requires skilful leaders, who embrace difference as a strength, are aware of their own biases, and are open to opposing views.

How difficult is it for the average female breadwinner? And how do you balance family and career?

It may surprise you to know that, in the UK, around a third of women in relationships are the main earners in their home, according to an IPPR think tank. This is a whopping rise of 80 per cent over the past 15 years. Being the main earner is therefore no longer rare; it is an aspiration for some, and definitely worth talking about. Why? Because recent statistics circulated illustrate an increase in the likelihood of divorce, cheating and even erectile dysfunction as a result of the woman earning more. This has created a real backlash for the women who have taken this path, which is not always by choice.

Do you have some tips for getting the balance right?

Drop the ‘Superwoman Syndrome’; take off your superwoman cape. Listen carefully, it’s okay not to be able to do it all. Remember, you always have a choice. Sometimes you don’t exactly choose to become the breadwinner but you can choose your attitude to your situation. Take back control of your emotions.
Don’t let money be the elephant in the room, talk about money with your partner. Decide who manages money, how it’s managed and how you will make financial decisions. Ensure you have two-way communication about finances, your relationship and your work. Your physical, mental and spiritual health are critical, investing in you now will avoid painful derailment of your work and family life later. Take time for you, it could be with dance classes, developing yourself through courses, dates with your partner or even full-on retreats. My thing is meditation. Do whatever restores balance, gives you space to breathe and let go of all the roles you play in life.

Guilt will drain your energy and take away the freedom you have to enjoy your life and time with loved ones. Trust that for others to be happy you don’t have to be unhappy. Think quality rather than quantity where time is concerned.

What advice do you have for anyone who wants to leave the nine-to-five and make it on their own? 

It might not sound like the sexy option but starting a business part-time on a small scale may be just the approach you need. Small steps rather than a giant leap can still get you to the same place and perhaps with fewer hitches on the way, because you will be able to review your progress with clarity. Make sure you do your research and that it’s financially viable, and that people are willing to pay for what you have to offer.  

Find a like-minded support group.

Develop self-discipline – there will be no boss to answer to but yourself. It’s easy to press the snooze button on your alarm clock every morning when you don’t have a deadline to get to work. Motivation is key to get you out of bed early and get into action.

Make education your life-long commitment. Read daily to develop yourself and your business to ensure you are constantly evolving with changes in technology.

Focus your efforts on evaluating the return on investment of everything you do. Instead of just completing tasks for the sake of doing so, ask yourself, is this task going to move me closer to where I want to be? The key is to become ‘results’ driven rather than ‘activity’ driven. For example, one can easily spend hours on a social media post which will engage a few fans without driving traffic to your website that converts into sales. Think about whether that was time well spent.

Jenny Garrett’s book, Rocking Your Role: The ‘How To’ Guide to Success for Female Breadwinners, is published by Panama Press.

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