Lucy Elphinstone – Head Mistress of Francis Holland School

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What motivates you?  

Love of children, a desire to help them find confidence, fulfilment, happiness. A sense of privilege and honour in being in such an influential position, and a desire to give something back after a life of much blessing as well as hardship. Fathoms of energy and the sheer joy of working with young people and dedicated teachers.

What has been the biggest learning curve in your career?

My life has been a pattern of taking on jobs for which I’m completely unequipped and unqualified so most things have been a big learning curve. My first teaching job was as Head of Montessori Nursery School. There are several words there I knew nothing about.

What matters more: ambition or talent?

Determination and courage matter much more than ambition. Talent is overrated. I’m with Matthew Syed.

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

There is never a right time or a good time. Seize every opportunity and you can make it work. Fortune favours the brave. And never, ever, worry about the future.

Who do you admire?

I’m not much into role models. I meet many women who inspire me with their energy, creativity and passion. I seldom see the same combination in men as they are more self-regarding and less spontaneous.

In what place are you happiest?

Emotionally, when I’m with all my children and their partners.  Physically, when I finally get to bed (without my children).

What’s your biggest extravagance?

Spending thousands, I mean thousands, on an oil painting. One painting! But it’s given me great joy. Generally, though, a simple life means that even small things can seem luxurious. Like a very deep, hot bath with masses of oil or bubbles and a very big white towel.

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

Not interested. I don’t agree with political interference and I’ve never really experienced a problem. But then I enjoy working with men and women often do themselves no favours.

Do you believe in quotas?

No.

Describe yourself in 3 words

Happy, generous, focused.

Karina Robinson – Entrepreneur and leading campaigner for increasing the proportion of women on boards

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What motivates you?

Learning something new every day. connecting people and seeing what comes out of those connections.

What has been the biggest learning curve in your career?

Setting up Robinson Hambro. I wasn’t a natural entrepreneur. Everyone should have to set up a business – and virtually everyone would find themselves capable of it.

What matters more: ambition or talent?

Without persistence, those two attributes won’t get you anywhere.

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

Get your foot in the door. It is crucial.

Who do you admire?

Those who accomplish great things like Nelson Mandela and those who make the world around them – however small their circle of influence –  a better place.

In what place are you happiest?

As long as there is contrast in my life, everywhere from the ski slope to my desk.

What’s your biggest extravagance?

Travel to places like Bhutan and Malawi.

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

Childcare must be tax deductible.

Do you believe in quotas?

My 20-year-old self abhorred the very idea. My 30-year-old self didn’t believe in them. My 40-year-old self started having doubts. And my 50-year-old self is adamant that without them, progress is too slow.

What is the greatest achievement of your life so far?

Raising a magnificent son, as well as continuing to believe in the innate goodness of humankind.

Britt Lintner – Hedge fund MD and fashion entrepreneur

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What motivates you? 

Working with a conscience.

What has been the biggest learning curve in your career? 

Negotiating and setting boundaries.

Ambition or talent?

Ambition.

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

Save your money and sleep as much as you can.

Who do you admire?

Countless people but at the moment, Arianna Huffington.

In what place are you happiest? 

When I’m genuinely focused in the moment, I’m tired of leading a distracted life. It’s a work in progress…

What’s your biggest extravagance? 

Clothes and accessories, by a long shot.

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

I would re-define flexibility. Let part time work be based on merit and meeting targets. Therefore a ‘4 day work week/flexi-time’ role may mean 5 days one week and 48 hours straight (e.g. an IPO hitting the market) the next depending on the work load and the job at hand. Face time and clock watching needs to stop. I spoke at Goldman recently and they put this quote of mine on their intranet: “we need to re-define flexibility. Not in the sense of hours but in terms of output and work ethic. Trust me to do my job regardless of when or where I am working – women need to have the confidence to make a point of this.”

Do you believe in quotas?

Yes. We need solutions to this 4th wave of feminism we’re in. The awareness is there but solutions aren’t.  I love the suffragettes slogan, ‘deeds not words’.  It should be a mantra for all aspects of life.

Describe myself in 3 words? 

I prefer modesty.

Susan Treadgold – Entrepreneur and professional coach

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Describe yourself in three words.

Powerful, funny, compassionate

What motivates you?

Helping people be successful – to have better coping skills personally and professionally, better relationships and better health so they can live big lives with purpose

What has been the biggest learning curve in your career?

Learning how to manage people. When I first managed a team the only managers I had to model were men in the city. Generally, not a great starting place! Later, I also made the mistake of trying to manage and motive people the way I wanted to be managed and motivated. Managing people (including children) is a journey in self-awareness. And I am still on the learning curve!

What matters more: ambition or talent?

Ambition –assuming it translates into taking action. I have seen so many talented people waste their gifts by not taking action – letting fear of some sort hold them back.

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

Listen to your intuition. Be yourself. Eat your greens! Do your power pose. Be grateful for what you have. Appreciate people more. Stressum notum!

Who do you admire?

Angelina Jolie, Janet Atwood, Oprah, Madonna, my mother in law. Although some are over-exposed in the media –they are all strong, authentic female leaders that tirelessly and passionately share their gifts.

In what place are you happiest?

When I am learning new things and sharing what I learn to help others be more successful. Spatially? Walking or hiking in mountains with my husband

What’s your biggest extravagance?

International travel to see friends and family and shopping at Waitrose.

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

Do you believe in quotas?

Yes. I have changed my position on this having seen how little things have changed over the past 20 years that U have lived in the UK

What is the greatest achievement of your life so far?

Co-creating two little people. And having the courage to leave the city and set up my own business.