In partnership with Ford
As we begin to edge closer towards a new year, we have the opportunity to reset and fresh personal goals. Full of inspiring wisdom, here's what happened when Marie Claire’s digital editor, Holly Rains, met up with inspiring women who have made it their mission to move things forward and create positive changes to their working worlds.
‘Fortune favours the brave,’ is a lesson that has put Ruth in good stead. To the casual observer, the model, entrepreneur and all-round beauty maven’s entire career appears as an objective lesson in making brave choices and reaping the benefits.
Ruth credits no small part of her success to meeting the founder of the social media agency Gleam, Dom Smales, when in its infancy. The pair ‘just clicked,’ she says, and – crucially – could envisage a new way of working long before their peers. Ruth fast established herself as one of Instagram’s first breakout stars and has gone on to build a business empire that includes co-founding the Colab Dry Shampoo brand.
She credits her years as a model – travelling the world solo, getting thrown into ‘crazy situations, with no one looking after you’ – as excellent training for navigating her life path with ease.
It’s ironic then, that one of her most challenging career decisions centred around an issue that was, literally, closer to home. Ruth was considering a move from London to the countryside: ‘I was worried about it,’ she says. ‘Would I be able to run the business I’d so carefully built, far from my city base?’
After talking it through with a friend, Ruth made the move. And, as she says, ‘it was the best thing I ever did.’ Fast-forward to now and she’s on the move again; to a more remote location in beautiful Somerset, and with a career that has continued to go from strength to strength.
As the same friend told her all those years ago: ‘You will make it work and evaluate what’s important.’ An object lesson in bold, decisive decision-making, worthy to us all.
Inspiration comes in many forms. For Abadesi, it was watching The Social Network, Aaron Sorkin’s Oscar-winning film on the early days of Facebook, that sowed the seeds of her career.
‘I didn’t realise that work could be fun,’ she says, looking back. ‘I was surprised that you could start something with your friends and change the world.’ What Abadesi also didn’t realise at that career-changing milestone was that, in London – where she was working – start-up teams were so diverse. However, this wasn’t the case in the wider industry.
‘Everybody uses tech products, so the people that build these products should look like everyone.’ And so began Abadesi’s parallel career – that of diversity champion, author and Hustle Crew founder – the ‘career advancement community’ that aims to make the tech industry more inclusive for all. Which isn’t just impressive, but actively inspirational, right?
Of course, it must have come from someone with cast-iron confidence. Well, not so. Abadesi admits to the same insecurities that affect so many of us, revealing she had ‘a real fear of being disliked,’ she says. ‘You just want to please everyone, but then you end up making yourself miserable. You don’t speak up when you want to; you don’t express your true feelings.’
‘I realise now that it's important to own my voice, even if there’s a risk that it’s saying something that people don’t want to hear. I’ve learned that the truer I am to myself, the more respect I get.’ Proof, that staying true to yourself and making the most of what comes to you, should pretty much be a mantra for life.
When comedian Ellie Taylor exploded onto our screens she did so with comedy guns blazing, as if fully-formed and bursting with confidence. The truth, as so often is, was rather different. For while the decision to switch to comedy happened quickly, she very nearly passed it up.
Ellie’s lightbulb moment came after watching a friend perform at an open mic night: ‘Seeing her do what she did made me think I could do the same,’ she says. Just a short time later, Ellie was auditioning for a reality television series that she can only describe as ‘the X-Factor for comedians’. Ellie was offered a place on the show, but very nearly didn’t take it. ‘I wasn’t sure if I should do it,’ she says. ‘It felt very risky.’
Luckily friends and family thought otherwise. With their insistence, Ellie signed up, got noticed and things moved rapidly. ‘I really do rely on [getting] that kind of confidence from other people,’ she says now of how a need for reassurance almost hobbled her then. Of course, the dreaded imposter syndrome has felled many a promising career or great idea, but as Ellie’s come to realise, ‘everyone permanently feels like an imposter, especially women. It’s so frustrating, but I think acknowledging that and letting that thought go, and then doing whatever it is anyway – that’s all you can do.’
So silence your inner voice and carpe that diem – you never know where it may lead. But without trying, you’ll never find out.
There’s impressive, and then there’s impressive. The kind of impressive that anyone who’s spent any time at all in the company of social impact entrepreneur Joanna Abeyie will understand.
It’s found in the letters that bookend her name. The former – Dr – awarded by the University of West England in 2019; the latter the MBE she received in 2020’s new year’s honours list for her services for diversity and inclusion in the creative and media industries. But actions speak far louder than any words or letters ever can – and Joanna is a woman of action.
In 2009, Joanna was working as a journalist when she first established Shine Media – an award-winning recruitment business committed to improving diversity in the creative industry. But it was a conversation with a member of her Shine advisory board – Karen Blackett – that took Joanna’s work from notable side-hustle to the next level, with a small but invaluable piece of advice: Charging people for services ‘doesn’t make you disingenuous or greedy’.
The idea that ‘you can still do good and earn a living from it, and that it doesn’t make you an awful person’ was a ‘lightbulb moment’, says Joanna. It gave her, as she says, ‘permission’. And with permission granted, she ran with it. As a direct result of her efforts, thousands of diverse talents went on to find placements in an industry that has long had a reputation for recruiting to ‘type’. But, Joanna isn’t stopping there. ‘We’re now auditing businesses and noting how they attract talent and recruit,’ she says. ‘What culture do they have, and how do they develop and promote diversity.’
That’s got to be good for us all, epecially at a time when so many aspects of the workplace and our careers are in flux. ‘We can’t control what’s going on in the world,’ says Joanna. ‘But, we can each control some of what is happening for, and to us.’
See what we mean about impressive?