In recent years a wave of girl power has swept the world’s stage with women taking the political lead from Finland to Bangladesh.
Away from the presidential races, however, it seems that women managers in less high profile jobs are still less visible. I support entrepreneurship in the arts and feel that women in business need to look at ways of making their mark in the world whilst feeling comfortable in their own skin.
While the world watches Hilary Clinton battle against Donald Trump in the fight for the White House, I am reminded of the adage that Ginger Roger could do everything Fred Astaire could do - but backwards and in heels. Recent research has highlighted a "systemic gender imbalance" in the arts, with the film maker Amma Asante recently quoted as saying that there is still a male “misguided distrust” about women in the film industry. Women shouldn’t have to work so hard just to achieve what they deserve. I believe that women can shake things up in any business by being themselves, but for many this means changing our perspective on how we see ourselves and being mindful of our strengths. Our Creative Entrepreneurship Scheme at the Guildhall offers business training, mentoring and funding support to aspiring entrepreneurs in the performing arts and creative industry. Working with Cause4, who deliver the programme, we are responding to the challenges for business in the creative world and gender inequality features on the agenda.
So what are the challenges faced by women in any business? For too long we have had to fly in the face of a long established male culture which is by and large free from the complexities of being female. Men are rather more free from the challenges that motherhood brings and are not expected to perform a juggling act between work and children. The performing arts is a particularly difficult arena within which to work if you have a family. Long, unsociable hours, no maternity leave for freelancers and the cost of travel and childcare are often a deal breaker for a life as a female performer. On a psychological level, our ability to multi-task will often lend itself to a cycle of self-doubt and over thinking. Whilst men may take negative feedback on the chin and deal with it head on, women tend to dwell on criticism, taking it much more to heart and thus stripping us of confidence.
Our strengths, however, are numerous. Apart from being fabulous at multi-tasking, I believe that our secret weapon in business is our ability to listen. Instead of her male counterpart who in a meeting may nurse his own agenda, the business woman is more likely to see all sides of a debate without the need for personal gain. We know that all the best ideas arise from interaction, collaboration and the pooling of ideas.
Women in business need to break the mould. Our mission at Guildhall is to help all talented professionals in the performing arts to realise their potential. They can only do this if they make their careers sustainable. If working as a female performer no longer suits, thinking outside the box and forging a creative initiative is possible. The Trumpeter and Guildhall alumni Alison Balsom is one such inspiration. Initially the darling of the classical world, she has since become a mother and has diversified her career by helping young musicians in the Third World.
Negative feedback need not be a problem if we view it from a perspective of engagement and collaboration. Liz Lerman, the American dancer and choreographer is one such trailblazer whose Critical Response system, which we implement at the Guildhall, nurtures the development of artistic works in progress through a four step facilitated dialogue between artists and audiences.
The girl can help it. Change comes from within and it is women themselves who can start to make a real difference if we want to re-address gender inequality at work. Enjoy being a girl and start to shake things up whether you do it backwards, forwards or in heels.