Our MD Lynn Everson attended the National Conference of Business and Professional Women (BPW) in Chester. A huge BPW fan, she writes about the organisation and what it’s done for her and for others
“Look – attack things with your eyes. See them fiercely. Hear everything. Ignore nothing.”
Terrence McNally, “A perfect Ganesh” (quote collected in April 1999)
One of the best rules for living by I’ve ever encountered, this ethos seems central to Spanish telephone etiquette with a caller opening the conversation “Oigame” (“Pin your ears back!”) to which the recipient meekly responds “Dígame” (“Let me have it!”).
A friend of mine – an international trucker – once told me the same while hauling 20 tonnes of onions back from Spain “Don’t miss anything! Whatever you’re doing, keep your eyes open and ears pricked – your next BIG opportunity could be just around the corner!” Ever since, I’ve collected quotes like these and tried to live by them – and I’m baffled how anyone can fall asleep on buses or trains, there’s always so much new stuff out there to learn!
We all have unmissable dates we book into our calendar every year. For me, the national BPW UK Conference is one and I’m just back from this year’s event at the Hilton Doubletree in Chester. Business & Professional Women is a fantastic international organisation (www.bpw-international.org) – I’ve been a member since 1989, and it’s given me enormous support in both my business and my personal development.
When I lost my job the same year, members who barely knew me would take me to club meetings, helping me rebuild my shattered self-esteem. Guest speakers inspired us, describing how they built their successful companies, and BPW also trained us on public speaking and hosting formal dinners for hundreds of guests and local dignitaries – I did both, including hosting a Single Europe Event and several black tie dinners (very good for your confidence!). BPW essentially convinced me that I really could make my dream happen, and I started Lifeline as a telephone interpreting service for truck drivers the following year. We featured in the local and national press and I travelled the UK building a client base and speaking at BPW events.
Meanwhile, BPW generously awarded me 2 sets of funding: the MacLaren Award to attend European Conference in Vienna, and the International Award to return to Spain to develop my undergraduate dissertation research into the consequences of women joining the ranks of the Civil Guard and National Police (which was revolutionary back then – under General Franco women had to ask their husbands’ permission to travel out of their home area). Partly thanks to BPW’s assistance I’ve retained this lifelong interest in the interface between police and public, which went on to form the theme of my dissertation for my Masters degree in Translation, graduating from the University of Bristol in 2010.
As well as the intensive networking and mentoring at BPW, the organization’s international dimension means we learn a great deal about the status and roles of women around the world, and the fantastic part BPW plays in global affairs (which includes Consultative Status at the UN and CSW). As importantly to members, we also have a great deal of fun – this year’s event was no exception!
BPW represents a tremendous force for good worldwide – with no political, denominational or other bias and members drawn from most communities on earth, BPW really does succeed in drawing together the will of its members for positive change. It’s done a lot for me personally and for many women I know – so if you’re a professional woman, anywhere and any age, reading this (or you know some) and are looking for something that will help you to develop yourself AND help women worldwide to access opportunities they may otherwise never see, why not look for your local BPW group and give it a go? Here’s a great place to start: www.bpwuk.org.uk
I’ll close with a few snippets from conference:
- 12.5% of board members in UK FTSE companies are women (but it’s 32% in Norway…)
- There are only 4 centres in the UK for male rape victims (as against 38 for women).
- People find Community Support Officers a reassuring presence on the streets (there’s that police fascination again!).
- Leymah Gbowee from Liberia was one of 3 Nobel Peace Prizewinners in 2011
But the most important piece of advice…
- You have to store hats upside down in their boxes (or else the rims go soft!)