I’ve been thinking a lot about letting go! The more I work with people experiencing change, the more I realise that in order to move forward we have to be able to let go of the past. International Women’s Day (IWD) has become a marker for me, a time to reflect on where I am and where I want to go in the next year and to work out what I need to let go of in order to make it happen. In order to let go something has to shift in our heads and in our hearts. We have to let go of our previous view of how things ’should be’ otherwise we remain stuck.

International Women’s Day

Two years ago, whilst still in a corporate role, I published my first piece to LinkedIn about the work we were doing internally developing a women’s forum to address talent in balances across the organisation and the role of men as advocates.

Last year, I was starting my entrepreneurial journey having just established my company. I had not fully let go of my corporate existence nor established myself as a business owner, I was in a place of limbo! My sense of identity was challenged by the fact that I was no longer employed by a recognisable brand, yet I felt an imposter when I called myself a business owner!

It is very easy to become stuck.  Reflecting on International Women’s Day this year, I have come to realise that maybe that is what has happened with women’s progress towards equality.

Whilst there is a lot of discussion about women on Boards and quotas I have not witnessed much truly positive change. Indeed, recent discussions of ‘locker room talk’ have led me and many others to question whether we had made any real progress in our fight for equality.  Yet, as Annie Lennox has recently pointed out this has helped re-ignite the women’s movement and we are now starting to see women coming together to be heard in a way I haven’t seen since I was a teenager!

What does letting go mean?

Letting go means confronting and being honest about how we are feeling, even if you are still angry, still sad, still frightened. It is also about believing that things can be better and different and that one day you won’t feel like this. It means facing our fears and then starting to move forward with optimistic thoughts.

Looking to move forward from my concern that we may not have made any real progress, I wondered how I could get involved this year, most of the companies who participate are large organisations such as Vodafone, Pepsico, EY and BP.

As well as signing the pledge, I decided to mark IWD by attending a Business Women’s Network conference. The theme for the event was ‘inspiring women’ and the aim is to motivate, inspire, connect and celebrate women in business. This was an event also celebrating the 3rdanniversary of a local business women’s networking group who meet regularly both online and face to face.  It can be isolating to be a female business owner, sat working from home. I was motivated by the inspirational stories and positive messages about success from the female outstanding speakers.

What a day we had! The conference was held in a marquee, filled with helium balloons from which hung beautiful inspirational quotes.

We heard from speakers ranging from an ex-alcoholic who has turned her life around using yoga, a former corporate executive who felt dead inside and now runs a ‘tuneless choir’ and advocates choosing ‘to laugh as it builds resilience’ and an ex-BBC journalist who now produces 20,000 pots of smoked hummus a week from her Devon HQ!

What amazing inspirational women all of whom had had to let go of something that was no longer serving them in order to move forward!

Later there were Awards for local business women.  All in all a fabulous day.  Women supporting women.

Dress for Success

Yet, whilst I am grateful to be able to attend an event at a beautiful location, I am aware of the fact that IWD was has a wider remit than just women’s careers. The conference had decided to partner with a local charity “Smart Works” that provides interview clothes and confidence-building support for women in need and ran a ‘Dressing For Success’ Drive. We all brought with us a donation of an item of clothing or a suitable accessory for a woman in need to wear during an interview.

Additionally, we listened to a lovely woman tell her story of how she had been supported by the charity when she was at her lowest point. A fabulous testimonial of how the right support at the right time can help you turn your life around. The speaker emphasised how she had to admit how low she had got and let go of the belief that she was coping in order to accept help and ultimately move forward.

So my question to you is…. What do you need to let go of in order to make progress?

I’d love to know, leave me a comment below.

Suzanne