WinTrade women leaders
They are friends, colleagues, business partners and for many years have told us that they lead by example. Three women who have came with a great initiative to open doors for women entrepreneurs and encourage them go global. This week they have invited more than 200 women business-leaders from across the globe are to convene in London for the 2nd WINTRADE Week Business Trade Summit 26th to 28th September 2017. Women Business Leaders will attend from a diverse range of sectors and include, Inventors and Innovators, Designers, Health & Lifestyle Management, Retail, Professional Services, Financial & Medical Services Tourism, Personal Development Services, Communications and Event Management, to name a just a few.
Author, entrepreneur, Founder WINTRADE Week
For the last 30 years Yvonne Thompson, as an entrepreneur, has worked in the Communications, Marketing and PR industry. During this time she has advised corporates, public sector, educational establishments and government, developing a stellar reputation as being an activist and a campaigner for supporting women and minorities in business, as well as tirelessly championing equality and diversity, particularly in the workplace. In 2003 she received a CBE in Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II Birthday Honours List for her work with small business, women and minorities. In 2005 she received a doctorate for her work with women and minorities in small businesses and supporting entrepreneurs from London Metropolitan University, and in 2015 she received her second doctorate for work in Global Diversity and Equality from Plymouth University. In 2015 she published her first book, “7 Traits of Highly Successful Women on Boards”. A book promoting greater gender diversity in company board rooms.
Gender equality and diversity is an important area for you – how was it for you growing up as a girl?
My mother was my inspiration on this subject and always ensured that she treated her girls as equals to her boys, whilst back in my younger days, boys always had priority, whether it was the best seats, the best clothes, the best education and eventually the best jobs. I learnt a lot from my mother. I am always asked who is my mentor, and I always say – my mother. I went through the usual prejudices with race, but there was always the additional layer of gender. If you were not racially abused, you could bet there would be something from a gender perspective. I had to be twice as diligent to get to where I am now.
You received a CBE in Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth’s Birthday Honours List for your work with small businesses, women and minorities. Can you tell me what led to this recognition?
I am a big fan of reciprocity, respect and resilience. These are three things that rank high in my credo. I also like to remember three stages of life – Learn, Earn and Serve. With these things firmly fixed in my mind, althought my education was not the best, I was like a sponge and soaked up a lot, which served me well in later life. I went on to focus on making a living for myself, and ended up working for myself (again because of a racist and gender biased industry – record companies). I quickly learned that there were other women in the same situation as myself and if I could help them – we’d all be better off for it. So I started my first women’s business network – which will be 21 years this year. Through this network, sitting on various committees which also looked at women in business, minorities in business and equality in the work place, I was nominated for a Queen’s honour. I was then awarded a Commander of the British Empire medal in 2003 in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list, in recognition of the work I did and still do in equality and diversity and the business arena.
determination, focus, and self confidence got me through
Much of your work is around greater gender diversity in company board rooms and with inequality between race and gender, can you tell me the biggest problem/challenge you have faced and how are you or have you dealt with it?
Throughout my time of running my company there have been many roadblocks, from going to the bank for a loan and being told I have to bring my husband – I was not married, my father – who had passed away, or a male business partner. I did not have any of these men I could turn to so I had to find a way to start my business without a business loan. These were the kind of challenges I had 35 years ago. There was also the kind of business I wanted to start, PR and marketing. PR was not recognised as an industry back then even though it is one of the most popular areas where people want to start a business. So I had to persuade people that my gender should not be a problem, my colour should not be a problem and the skill is a recognised one. So there was a triple whammy! But determination, focus, and self confidence got me through.
Can you tell us about one thing that has been difficult for you in life and how did you overcome or deal with it?
Deciding to start my business with a 5 year old, and being a single mother at the time. 35 years ago it was not the done thing to be a young single parent, it was not the done thing for a woman to be starting her own business, it was not the done thing for a black woman to have the audacity to think she could run her own business – and on top of all that – especially in PR. As I said before, it is about knowing what you want, and having the longevity in that field, so you become known for what you know. You become a trusted source for that industry and people know where to come and find you.
What is your next step in your career and could you tell me about your project/collaboration for WINTRADE Week?
Carmen Breeveld, Justina Matale, Chantal Clairicia, Dr Shola Mos- Shogbamimu and Mirela Sula are partners in WINTRADE Week. They are people I’ve known for a long time and trust that they can deliver on what they promise. We are women in a man’s world and I felt it would be great if we could come together across the diversity of thought, languages, race, and industry to bring women from around the world together in one city to meet, and make contacts for contracts. WINTRADE Week is the vehicle on which we can do that. My next big thing would be to repeat this successful format in different countries across the globe. I am also continuing to promote my book, 7 Traits, which I also wrote to assist women careerists who would like to know the tips, traits and advice given by successful women on boards and also in business. WINTRADE Week is at different prestigious locations in London and at Cambridge University from 25th to 29th September. https://seventraits.lpages.co/wintrade-week-london
My offer to the first 10 people to respond to this article is that I will give a FREE copy of my Amazon Best Seller ”7 Traits Of Highly Successful Women On Boards”. You only pay for the postage and packaging – £4.99. Email me on firstname.lastname@example.org and I will tell you how to get your personally signed copy of the book
President – Women Entrepreneurs Netherlands
What one thing happened to you in your life that was a life changing moment, and how?
Besides giving birth to my two lovely children, I had a life changing moment, when I launched my first marketing concept to compete with the big five recruitment agencies in the Netherlands. I wanted the niche market of Human Resource Managers and had launched a concept called Human Talent Trophy to award the HR Manager of the Year in 1998 and all of a sudden the fortune top 500 companies contacted me asking how they could join this great event. After I told them that this was a closed event for clients only, most of them became new clients, just because they were determined to be present to meet other decision makers at my event. Since then I have needed all hands on deck to manage the growth of my company and I have reached a 7 figure revenue within two years’ which was incredible and unexpected. Another life changing experience happened between 2003 and 2005 when I was asked to join the advisory board of Princess Máxima in her first official role in the Netherlands, to help her integrate within the Dutch culture. It was a great pleasure serving Her Majesty in her first official role, before she got married to our current King Willem Alexander.
You joined the political committee within the Federation of Businesswomen Netherlands – why is this an important thing in your working career?
I was the founder of the political committee that was connected with the Federation of Businesswomen Netherlands. In 2003 I was bestowed with an award by the European Federation of Black Women Business Owners, and in the same year the umbrella organisation, the Federation of Businesswomen Netherlands, was founded. There were three main objectives for this federation. The first objective was to create a platform for all women entrepreneurs to connect, reflect and influence politicians and other decision makers. The second objective was to create more visibility for women entrepreneurs in society. The third objective was to influence on legislation and regulations. For this last objective, I was asked to create a vehicle that enables us to voice our views in the political arena. This was the beginning of the political committee that was created by and for women entrepreneurs, to bring more influence in the political arena. We were supported by the female parliament members of the four big political parties, which makes it a lot easier to share our thoughts with them. Since then, several changes have been made in legislation to protect and strengthen women entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs in general.
You are working in International Trade, supporting business development processes, and you focus a lot on women in business. Can you tell us more about this and why you want to support female entrepreneurs?
In 2010 I was appointed as chairwoman for the umbrella organisation in the period that we all were suffering the economic crisis that hit Europe very strongly. Companies were all busy downsizing and a lot of SME’s didn’t survive this huge crisis that affected us. As the chairwoman of the umbrella organisation, I took the initiative to organise two international women conferences to connect, to reflect and to inspire other women and create a common ground to reflect on the role of women in the economy, and how we can achieve more as a group rather than struggling on our own separately. For men, this is common ground to help each other but for women it is something we still need to work on. Most women are ashamed to call for help because they are scared that other women will judge them badly, instead of helping them. This is something that needs constant attention. Since the labour market collapsed during the economic crisis, I started to encourage myself and other women to look across their own borders and start organising women trade missions to other emerging markets. We first went to China and this was an extraordinary experience to meet so many successful female entrepreneurs, who have a strong connection with each other. They have taught me that entrepreneurship always opens the roads to happiness and self-development, regardless of religion or political flow and I’m thankful that I have connected with them. After China, we have also been to the Dutch Caribbean (Aruba, Curacao and Suriname), New York, Washington, London and Tanzania.
how we can achieve more as a group rather than struggling on our own separately
This second edition of the WINTRADE Week, is caused by the success of our first visit in 2016 and I’m very proud to be part of something as big as the WINTRADE event. After all the inspiration that I’ve got out of travelling to so many places and meeting all kinds of different businesspeople and politicians, I have decided in 2015 to shift my business model into international trade and development. I noticed that there is so much more to share and to help others with capacity building and exchanging knowledge, to enable both men and women to develop and grow their surroundings, that I have decided to continue doing this full-time.
What is your biggest inspiration source that keeps you wanting to jump out of bed every morning?
I am determined to positively influence and motivate as many people as possible to make the best of themselves and to leave the world behind a little bit better than I found it and to allow women to realise that they have to perform a much bigger role in society, if we want to leave behind a better world. The international approach that I have chosen since 2014, keeps me going and made me realise that there is so much more to fight for, since I have seen how bad decisions can be destructive for so many people around the world. This is unacceptable for me and hopefully I can make an active contribution through the activities that I am currently developing.
Can you tell us more about your collaboration for WINTRADE Week from your perspective and why connections and collaborations are important for you?
I have known Yvonne Thompson since 2003 from her role as chairwoman and founder of the European Business Awards for Black and Minority Women. We have been in contact in recent years and last year after the first successful trade mission, we decided to pull together and bring together more female entrepreneurs more often. I’ve recently met Justina Matale through Yvonne Thompson and I’m happy about that, because Justina can bridge the gap between African and European women entrepreneurs. During preliminary discussions I experienced the conversations as very enjoyable and constructive and hope to work with these partners for a long time and I am looking forward to the upcoming WINTRADE Week.
Dr Justina Mutale
Founder Justina Mutale Foundation
Can you tell us about the most cherished memories you have from your childhood and where you grew up?
I was born and grew up in my beautiful country, Zambia, located in the southern part of Africa. How many know that Africa is the birthplace of humanity and birthplace of civilisation? Well, growing up in Africa and learning the true history of the world gives me a special edge in understanding humanity and the world that we live in. I am the sixth born child in a family of 13. As a huge family, we had all kinds of characters, many of whom I continue to meet along the way in my personal and professional journey across the globe. And of course, in my family, we had the never-ending sibling rivalries and frequent fights. I had seven younger siblings (five brothers and two sisters); and five older siblings (three brothers and two sisters). Growing up in such a huge and loving family instilled in me the importance of love – love for the self and love for others. It also instilled in me a sense of pride, positive competition and to strive for what I wanted in life. It taught me diligence, discipline and dedication to duty. It also taught me a sense of community responsibility and how to handle the outside world. You see, growing up in a huge family was a lot of fun, and one literally met the whole world in my family. And this gives one an edge on navigating life’s many different personalities and obstacles.
You are a woman with many awards and recognitions. What have these done and meant for you in your career?
It is a very humbling experience and feeling for one to have one’s efforts and work recognised across the globe. I have received many awards, on many different platforms, in many different countries, in many different parts of the world, for many different reasons. Appearing on so many Who’s Who lists; Power lists; and Influential lists across the globe has given me and my work global visibility, which has in turn boosted my career and my professional standing on the global stage. Through my work, I find that I have become a global brand in my own right, with my name highly sought after to attach to commercial, humanitarian, community and charitable causes around the world, and speaking engagements lined-up across the globe. In recognition of my work and impact on the welfare of humanity, I have been inducted to the distinguished membership of the Royal Biographical Institute, which is the pre-eminent intellectual and literary platform for the research and documentation of the pedigrees, lives, careers and businesses of Royals (Emperors, Empresses, Kings, Queens, Princes, Princesses, Dukes, Barons, Duchesses, and Earls) and Leaders in the realm of Political Governance and Global Statesmanship; Business, Entrepreneurial & Industrial Legends and Icons of the World’s Popular Professions including the Sciences, Arts and Humanitarian Deed. So far, I have been honoured with six Honorary Doctorates, one of which is Doctor of Humane Letters. Notable recipients of this prestigious Honorary Doctorate include former U.S. President Bill Clinton; Hollywood Actress, Meryl Streep; Evangelist Billy Graham; CNN Journalist Christiane Amanpour; Historian, John Hope Franklin; Entertainer Bob Hope; and Documentary Filmmaker, Ken Burns, among other prominent world personalities.
The Doctor of Humane Letters is conferred upon leaders, scholars, inventors, artists, entrepreneurs, and celebrities who have earned national or global reputation to recognises excellence in individuals with long records of achievements in the humanities and philanthropic work and is conferred upon individuals who have distinguished themselves in areas related to the humanities and to honour their contributions to society in general. Furthermore, I have been honoured among the greatest humanitarians of the world in the Global Officials of Dignity Awards held at the United Nations Headquarters in New York. I have also been honoured as Africa Goodwill Ambassador; Ambassador for Peace; and Missionary of Peace; in addition to being honoured as a Stateswoman; African Woman of the Year; Woman of the Decade; and Iconic Women Leader of the Decade. However, when all the applause stops and the red carpets are done, all these accolades reinforce my belief in my work, in the goodness of humanity and make me work even harder.
The areas you have worked with such as Gender Equality and projects to stop spreading AIDS/HIV must be both rewarding and probably difficult at times. What drives you every day?
I am blessed in that I work in an industry for which I have a natural passion. When you love what you do and enjoy your work as much as I do, and when one is focused on getting the job done without focusing on the reward, there no limit to how far one can go. When I was very young, I wanted to become a Catholic nun or priest because I wanted to serve God. I also wanted to serve and save humanity. I wanted to feed the hungry. I wanted to comfort the poor. I wanted to clothe the naked. And I wanted to save sinners from burning in hell. And so here I am now, all grown up, a humanitarian, trying to save humanity from a hell on earth! I am a born go-getter and a highly ambitious person with an insatiable drive to succeed. I therefore, work very hard to get things done. I also believe that if one wants to see one’s dreams come true, one must never go to sleep! I believe that for anyone to succeed one has to work hard and put in 110% in everything they do. Once I have a vision in my head I will do whatever it takes for that vision to become reality, despite all the obstacles that might stand in my way. I am also a very resilient person, a trait that is very important in the industry that I work and which has been very beneficial to me in terms the area that I work in. My determination and focus for reaching and achieving my goals are some of the qualities that have driven me to be the person that I am today, and to accomplish what I have accomplished thus far.
As a woman what has been the biggest barrier you had to cross over?
I do not see obstacles, I only focus on the goal at hand. Limiting beliefs, traditions, cultures and social conditioning have prevented many women from unleashing their full potential. I can confidently say that I am one of the lucky exceptions when it comes to negative cultural and social conditioning, as I come from a background of very positive, strong, powerful and assertive women – women who have defied negative gender dynamics for centuries. My mother and other women in my family background taught me that a woman has the power to lead and to shape the world. They have shown me that women are the backbone of society and the world’s most potent force as natural born leaders.
I do not see obstacles, I only focus on the goal at hand
At an early age, I could see that the strong and powerful women around me had a strong sense of community and channelled their connection to the community in all their work. An inbuilt generosity of spirit and strong emotional intelligence also made them sensitive to the needs of others. This taught me to utilise emotional intelligence, self-awareness and social-awareness skills, which gives me the ability to be aware of, and understand how others feel and to relate positively with to others. This knowledge from my childhood experiences reinforces my belief in the capability of women to lead and has shaped my work ethics and leadership style.
What is the next step for your project with WINTRADE, and why do you think the collaboration between all of you is important?
WINTRADE Week 2017 is a project that is very close to my heart as a gender activist. I am a civil society delegate and Speaker at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, as well as the African Union High-Level Panel on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment, held in the wings of the Heads of State Summit. The international development frameworks from both the United Nations and the African Union place their emphasis on gender equality and the empowerment of women. WINTRADE Week responds directly to the United Nations CSW61 theme of “Women’s Economic Empowerment in a Changing World of Work” and the African Union 2016 theme of the “Year of Human Rights with a Special Focus on the Rights of Women and Girls”.
WINTRADE Week is a phenomenal experience for me
I have great respect for Yvonne Thompson and her admirable work on women’s empowerment over the years. I also have a lot of respect for Carmen Breeveld and her work in women’s economic empowerment. Combining our various talents, experiences, global networks, and sharing good practices to put together WINTRADE Week is a phenomenal experience for me. I also believe that WINTRADE Week bridges the gap in the many endeavours towards women’s empowerment, as women in international trade has so far not received as much attention as other areas of women’s economic empowerment. My sincerest hope is that that WINTRADE Week will grow from strength to strength and become a global phenomenon.