The sisterhood in business shown through at this year's Empowering Women In Business event
As a female-focused entrepreneur event novice, I was reliably told that Empowering Women In Business (EWIB) is a great place to start. And given the list of not only speakers but boss lady attendees, this British Franchise Association women-only business event did not disappoint.
Held this past week at the DoubleTree by Hilton Oxford Belfry, here are my key takeaways from the day event.
1. The sisterhood of franchising
Not to exclude the other gender, but being a female-only event created an air of candidness, comfort and vulnerability that I have never experienced at a business event before, and it took me by surprise.
Yes, it was a chance to network, collaborate and talk shop, but it felt more like the sisterhood coming together all under one roof. It was the perfect opportunity to speak with others about the difficulties brought about over the last year and a half, with female entrepreneurs offering assurances to those that were still a bit off their game.
2. Don’t sweat the small stuff
Being the first speaker, Pip Wilkins, CEO of the British Franchise Association, set the tempo for the event. Now, I have heard Pip speak before, but this time it didn’t feel like just a talk, it felt more like a friend being vulnerable, sharing her story of personal growth.
Something that a lot of women are guilty of – that all elusive work-life balance. Disguised under the broader aspirational topic of achieving the impossible, Pip, the spokesperson for British franchising ironically did not have a healthy work-life balance for most of her career.
And like many others, her epiphany that there needed to be a change came when she was diagnosed with a life-threatening illness. She realised that her impossible tasks – handing key responsibilities over to team members, taking a holiday, and being able to shut off at the end of the day – all stemmed from an unhealthy work-life balance.
After a lot of hard work and self-care, she is now a testament to achieving the impossible.
3. Breaking the script
An underlying topic of most speakers for the day was mental health – from Steph Gutman of Coconut Creative breaking down the five different types of Imposter Syndrome and how to check the triggers to Louise Harris of Franchise Projects metaphorically using the chameleon and its ability to change its colours based on its emotions (not environment) yet staying true to its form discussed our ability to change and adapt while holding on to our core values. Each topic discussed by “the big six” brought into perspective what being a woman in business really means today.
One of the keynote speakers, Penny Haslam, took a deep dive into remedying Imposter Syndrome through building confidence and the impact of how negative self-talk and the lack of a strong support system is what stands in most of our ways to make healthy choices.
However, the biggest revelation came during Rebecca Moore’s interactive workshop on making connections. “People are not drawn to perfection, rather to vulnerability and common interests,” she said.
This played out as we went around the room trying to make a speedy connection with other women who were complete strangers based on specific questions that were asked. The conversations that I remember the most were based on questions where we shared a common interest or dug deeper, rather than ones that discussed a personal or professional achievement.
Having participated in my fair share of larger mixed-gender expos and I can’t discount the enormous value they bring to the table, but smaller, focused events like EWIB offer a more intimate setting to dive deeper into situations, challenges and topics that the modern business woman is still faced with every day.
We also attended the International Franchise Show London 2021 earlier in the month, read our wrap-up of the event here.
Amanda Peters is a staff writer for What Franchise and Global Franchise.