Vanessa Vallely – Founder of leading women’s network WeAreTheCity

Photo©John Cassidy The Headshot Guy® www.theheadshotguy.co.uk 07768 401009

What motivates you?

Any form of unfairness in society or lack of equality motivates me to drive change. I am a very passionate person, and once I get my teeth into something I don’t stop until it’s done and done well. I am lucky enough to be very motivated by what I do for a living, so work isn’t work to me at all. I get to work with individuals I deeply admire and for causes that are very close to my heart like gender equality and youth empowerment.

What has been the biggest learning curve in your career?

Leaving the corporate world and starting my own business has been my biggest learning curve. I honestly thought after 25 years in finance that I knew almost everything there was to know but I was wrong. I learn, I make mistakes and am often stretched far beyond my capabilities, but I wouldn’t go back and change a thing. I truly believe that I am where I am meant to be, doing what I do for good reason.

What matters more: ambition or talent?

I think a bit of both. I can honestly say I got by for the first 10 years of my career based on ambition. This led to opportunities to learn and grow which showed me where my talents really are. When I first started to work ambition was a dirty word and came with all sorts of negative connotations, but I never saw my ambition as something to be ashamed off. I had a career plan and part of that plan was to achieve success, albeit my own definition of success.

What advice would you give to your 30 year old self?

I would tell myself not to adopt elements of anyone else’s brand and stick to my own! I look back to my 30s and realise I was trying to be someone I thought I needed to be in order to fit in with the environment I was in.   I would also advise myself not to be too hard on myself and to stop trying to be a superwoman. When I was 30 I was rising in my career whilst trying to bring up a young family. I wasted a lot of time feeling guilty because I couldn’t be everything to everyone!

Who do you admire?

The list is endless. There are many women and men across the City I admire from afar. The common elements between these individuals are their passion, tenacity and sheer drive to fight for their respective causes. It’s people like Helena Morrissey of the 30% Club, Andy Woodfield who is a Partner at PWC & Founder of GLEE, Heather Melville who is chair of RBS Focused Women, Paul Sesay who founded the National Diversity awards, Sue O Brien who is CEO of Norman Broadbent – I could go on!

In what place are you happiest?

I am happiest when I am at home with my family, working in schools or on the rare occasion when I get time to run.

What’s your biggest extravagance?

I own about 100 pairs of shoes – they are definitely an extravagance of mine. My 4 month old pup stole a pair of my prized Louboutins from my wardrobe this weekend, which he then went on to eat! There was almost a pup for sale.

How would you change government policy to help women in the workplace?

We need more tax relief for working families to alleviate the rising cost of childcare. So many women are forced to give up work because of escalating childcare costs. Something needs to be done if we are to retain female talent in the workforce who chose to have career and family.

Do you believe in quotas?

Absolutely not. I believe that women can and should get the top jobs on merit. I understand the desire for quotas, though. You only have to look at the most recent FTSE stats for women on boards to see that we are making progress at 23% now, but it’s still slower than we would like and only 8.3% are Executive Directors.

What is the greatest achievement of your life so far?

My greatest achievement is my two children and completing my 40 before 40.   I complied a list of various things I had never done prior to my 40th birthday. It included things like visiting Buckingham Palace, running the London Marathon, writing my book, speaking in the Middle East and going to Las Vegas. I managed to complete my entire list in one year so I then spent 2013 sleeping it off!

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