This year the third annual Women in Business Forum was hosted in Hotel du Vin’s ballroom by the St. Andrews Management Society, the panel consisted of five highflying women with roles from a wide range of enterprises. Andrea Sullivan, the head of Corporate Responsibility at Bank of America Merrill Lynch; Louise Beveridge, the Senior Vice President of Communications at Kering; Louise Court, former editor of Cosmopolitan and head of Editorial Strategy at Hearst UK; Nancy Pedot, Founder of Salon Pedot Paris and Alexis Versandi, St. Andrews alumna and Founder of Just Picked CoCo Water.
After introducing themselves, the women proceeded to deliver their views about their experiences in the world of commerce. They started by describing the mounting pressure on women today to be perfect from the offset of their careers and how this is an unrealistic expectation so early on; no doubt a thought which troubles students of university age. Instead, they counselled the audience to take every opportunity with which they are presented and to not be afraid of taking risks; if mistakes are made, it doesn’t matter, as long as a learning experience is gained through any form of rejection.
Another issue tackled by the panel was one of the female presence in the workplace. “Ego”, Louise Beveridge rightly said, “has no place in the business world. Only skills.” They discussed the importance of finding the balance between being an assertive female leader and being overly domineering, as well as being intelligent enough to read people and make yourself approachable to all manner of clientele, even if opinions on matters such as politics may differ. Something I was very pleased with was how the talk could apply to men as well as women, as they talked about how everyone is equal, and that there is a need for gender diversity in the workplace as much as ethnic diversity, since a mix of the two sexes offers different talents and brains; an excellent example of how feminism doesn’t necessarily exclude men, but rather includes them.
The evening provided a chance for the attendees to understand in a greater depth what it means to be a woman in the 21st century cutting-edge world of business. The main tip I took away from the talk was the importance of assertiveness, understanding and communicating with people and most of all, networking and building a trustworthy reputation, as our future opportunities in the workplace starts now, with the endeavours we undertake whilst studying here at St. Andrews.