I’ve been thinking a lot about the impact on women - and young women in particular - of the, at times misogynistic, rhetoric in the US election campaign and beyond.
Regardless of one’s politics, I know how much of an impact that words can have on young people who are just starting out in their lives and careers – and in the business world specifically.
My daughter Holly is grown now – and a qualified doctor and accomplished business leader. But if she were 16-years-old again at this moment, my advice would be to tell her: Never mind the bollocks. Do not let others define you. Keep working for what you believe in. And do not give up.
When I was first getting into the business world there were very few, if any, role models for women, and certainly very few in positions of power.
The world has been turned on its head (thank goodness!) since then – and as we all know, many of the most dynamic, creative, and smart leaders in industry, politics and the non-profit world are women. From Sheryl Sandberg to Mary Wittenberg, Melinda Gates to Jayne-Anne Gadhia, I’ve been inspired by many of them both inside and outside of the Virgin Group.
The world has changed whether people want to admit it or not – and it has made our businesses inarguably more successful and innovative, our communities stronger and the world a better place. Although there is much more work to do, including at Virgin companies, I cannot imagine this world or our companies without the brilliant, driven female leaders we have today. We are leaving more than half our talent as a society on the table if we do not encourage women and girls to aim for the top – and if we don’t hear their stories.
In that spirit, Virgin America has partnered with LeanIn.org, an organisation led by Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg, and LinkedIn, on a campaign to encourage women to pursue their career ambitions and share their career stories. In addition to free professional development sessions available free on Virgin America flights equipped with its new high-speed WiFi, the airline named one of its new Airbus A320 aircraft, ‘Lady Boss’, a reminder that the sky should – literally - not be the limit for women in leadership roles.
Although that ultimate glass-ceiling wasn’t broken in the States last week, I know it will be someday – and I hope, in the near-future.