South Yorkshire has transformed into a fantastic community for women in business. Sophie Scott from Women Mean Business Networking spoke to unLTD’s Georgina Kerr to discuss her experience working within the financial sector in Sheffield.
Tell us about Women Mean Business Networking. Why did you start this event?
Claire and I started this event back in June after meeting at a networking event where we discussed what events we had been attending. We mentioned that we had been looking specifically for a ‘women in business’ event but couldn’t find one in the Chesterfield or Sheffield area. So we decided – why not create our own?
We wanted to have an event where women felt supported and could discuss any problems they were facing with their businesses, hoping that it would give us, and other women, the opportunity to talk to people who were going through similar experiences and needed a couple of hours away from their ‘work life’ to relax and chat. I hoped visitors would be able to expand their networks, get more exposure for their businesses, and make meaningful connections with other professional women. We’ve tried to keep the event small and intimate, to allow each guest to have a good amount of time to introduce themselves, say what they do, and follow up with discussions from the group. So far we have had a very positive reaction to our events.
Many of the ladies have thanked myself and Claire for organising the event and said they will be seeing us at the next one. We’ve had a few regular faces and some new faces at each event. As we feel we are having a positive impact, we are continuing to host events on the first Thursday of every month.
What changes are you seeing within the South Yorkshire business community that are helping to promote inclusivity and uplift women?
I have attended a few networking events now with a lot of women present. They come from all different career backgrounds, whether that’s in the financial industry, marketing, or coaching, to name a few. As I’ve spoken to these women, I hear that their businesses have been encouraging more women to seek roles at their companies, especially in the financial sector. The fact that businesses are actively seeking women to fill vacancies is showing an increase in inclusivity for women in South Yorkshire, giving women more confidence in finding roles in traditionally male-dominated careers.
Other than your own events – what networking events would you recommend to women within South Yorkshire?
There are plenty of great networking events out there. I mainly find events through Eventbrite, so that would be the first place to check. Recently, I’ve been enjoying the Sheffield Young Professionals Networking Event. It’s a great place to meet individuals in a similar position, in a relaxing environment. I’m also a part of the Inspire BNI network , but currently, I am the only female member of this group. I’m trying to encourage other women to visit the group to show what it can offer to them and their business.
What has helped you most along the way in your business journey?
I think the best thing for me is to surround myself with people and keep talking about the journey I am on. I always have my loved ones to lean on, but it’s just as important to stay connected to people outside of your group and make new connections. Being able to talk to other individuals in a similar position to what I’m in has made me realise that everyone is going through the same struggles on their business journey as I am. There is also a lot of wise people out there with really helpful advice when you need it. My advice is to keep connecting, make sure you spend time away from your desk (especially if you work alone), and also ensure you listen to others to find where you can be of service to them.
Have you seen an increase in women beginning their careers in your industry/sector?
There is a massive increase in women starting careers as financial advisers. St. James’s Place, the company I work for, is actively seeking women to help them start their careers as advisers. I think it’s brilliant seeing this inclusivity from such a large company.
Do you have any ideas on what could be done to further support women in business within the region or beyond?
With businesses actively seeking women to fill their vacancies, and networking groups aimed at women specifically, we are already starting to see a boost in the support we are receiving.
One of the reasons I wanted to become an adviser was to help bridge the gap between men and women and their finances. Women tend to be in a poorer position with their finances, lacking in all areas, such as retirement planning, investment planning and protection planning. As a woman myself, I would feel more comfortable speaking to another woman about my finances. That is why I am trying to get my message out there, to say that if you are a woman that wants to ensure you have a solid financial plan in place, I am happy to help you along your journey. I’m hoping as a woman, I can be more relatable and make my clients feel more comfortable during the process.
I am a strong believer in women supporting women, hence why we started our networking group!
Jay Bhayani, managing director at Bhayani Law
Being a woman in business has its challenges because we often have to interrupt our career for children, and carry a greater burden in our home lives. My advice is to look around your sector- find good role models, ask them how they did it, take inspiration and advice from other women and ask for help if you need it. The amazing thing about women is that most of us like to collaborate and help other women. If you don’t ask, you don’t get, is my motto!