LABS 90 High Holborn
90 High Holborn, London, WC1V 6LJ
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8th March 2022 | 8 min read
For International Women’s Day we, at LABS, are shining the spotlight on some of our brilliant female members.
Let us introduce you to Nanouche Umeadi who having founded her diversity and inclusion consultancy, Diverse Inclusive Solutions, following the death of George Floyd in America in May 2020 and the global protests that followed, now works with several schools across Camden, running tailored workshops focused on diversity and inclusion for staff, pupils and parents. She is also working on projects with Camden Learning. She is also a Labour candidate in this year’s local council elections.
What have been the challenges of establishing and leading a business as a woman and what have been the opportunities?
Knowing where to start and what the next thing to do after that was a major challenge to establishing my business, especially when you are new to the industry, and nobody knows you. I had to intentionally put myself out there.
It’s not a challenge that only women face, but what makes it unique to women is having to simultaneously bring up children. Even when there is a two-parent household, unfortunately, it’s still women that take on the larger share of childcare and household chores. There is a lot of pressure and guilt involved in being a mum and a business owner.
There is though, a lot of support out there and networking opportunities if you know where to look and a lot of it is just for women in business, which is great.
Who inspires you and why?
Not one person in particular, but certain types of women. Women that come from a disadvantaged background like myself. Women that have so many things working against them, yet still manage to not only thrive but excel. These women also do it in a way that they also give a hand to other women on their way up.
I started my diversity and inclusion business right in the middle of a pandemic whilst home schooling two primary school age children. I had all the excuses in the world to not start a business, but the fantastic women that I surround myself with encouraged me, pushed me and helped get my mindset right.
How have you developed your leadership skills and confidence? What advice have you for other women looking to do so?
I’m a big believer in investing in yourself. You need to take advantage of all the free help and advice available online and across social media, but also invest in paid for courses and/or a business coach. Doing a combination of these things has helped me a lot. On top of this I am also paying for services focused entirely on my mindset, to help me get rid of any limiting negativity and beliefs. There is so much negativity out there. Its tough to be a woman in leadership and particularly a black woman in leadership, so it’s important I not only know my stuff, but have my mind right.
As a business leader, how do you stay mindful of who’s at the table and who’s missing?
Because of my background and the nature of my business and how I volunteer my time, I am constantly thinking of who’s at the table and who is missing. I am often the only person from an ethnic minority background, and sometimes the only woman too.
When I’m in a meeting with leaders, this could be school leaders, council leaders, or leaders within the community and local businesses, I am not afraid to speak up for the groups of people that didn’t make it to the room. A broad representation is really important to me and as part of my work, I work to get more women and ethnic minorities into leadership.
What do you think is the most significant barrier to female leadership?
The number of things that are expected from us. It’s a lot and childcare is a huge barrier to female leadership.
For example, a typical week day for me consists of waking up before my children, getting ready and planning my day, waking the children up, getting them ready and fed, taking them to school, taking myself to my office, working until 3pm, picking the children up from school, doing homework, preparing dinner and having dinner and then it’s the children’s bedtime, after which I clean the house and then get back on my laptop to do an hour of work to prepare for the next day. It’s easy to burnout. I have to take active days of rest otherwise I am on the go seven days a week.
I’ve also recently been selected to be a Labour candidate for this year’s local council elections, so I have become even busier.
There can be a constant feeling of guilt whether it is due to missing an event because of childcare limitations or having to spend half of my weekend or a whole evening away from my children, which I’ve had to accept. It’s meant that I’ve had to learn to reach out to more people for help and support as I don’t want to miss out on opportunities.
We would all really benefit from a full time nanny, but who can afford that?
What are the benefits to having women in leadership roles?
A woman’s experience in general is very different to that of a man, so we provide a whole different perspective to men on most things. The things women have to take into consideration because of our lived experience and what we go through is unique to us. Having a bunch of men make decisions on issues that only effect women, such as on pregnancy, menopause or female hygiene and products, is ridiculous.
I recently did a women’s safety walk with residents and local councillors, looking at estates. Looking at this with the eyes of women is very different to a man. For example, certain walkways a man may not think twice to not use even if it’s not well lit, would give a woman pause for thought and she might use several different routes depending on the time of day to deal with things like this. Something as basic as street lights not working is more than just a small inconvenience for a woman, these small things need to be prioritised.
How do you balance career, personal life and passions in a leadership role? Is there such a thing as balance and is it achievable?
This is a huge question and one that I’m sure most women struggle with. The struggle is real.
For me personally it is starting to get easier as my children are no longer babies. I have a 4-year-old and 8-year-old and they are starting to understand that the world does not revolve around them, and that mummy not only has to work, but she also needs time out too.
I’m intentional about my day, the tasks I taken on, the work commitments I say yes to and even the social events I attend. Everything must serve a purpose as I don’t have time to just do random things.
Everything has to be pretty organised, scheduled and prioritised. I even schedule in movie nights with my children. If I don’t schedule it in, it just won’t happen.
Part of getting the balance right is having an intentional day of rest and self-care too. Also exercising is a big thing too, if I don’t feel good, look good, it effects my work and leadership performances.
With all these balls in the air some are bound to be dropped at some point, but you just pick them up and keep moving.
How can women support other women in their organisations?
Don’t see each other as a competition for one. We are all on one side and need to advocate for each other, unapologetically.
This year’s IWD theme is about breaking the bias. What strategies can work well to promote inclusion and equality in the workplace?
Don’t stick to the old way of doing things that haven’t really worked or has stopped working. Look at the strategies with new fresh eyes and ask the hard questions. Like why is it we only have one female on the board, yet 80% at the entry level? What happens in between? What are the challenges and cultural barriers in the organisation that is allowing this?
What advice do you have for women looking to establish and/or grow their own business or within the company they work for?
There will always be excuses, and push back, but we need to push back harder. Get educated, pick up new skills, form allies and invest in yourself. We have so much potential, and can achieve so much, but we need to demand to be invited into these big rooms…And if nobody wants to let us in, we need to make our own spaces and boardrooms.
90 High Holborn, London, WC1V 6LJ
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