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TGtB Meets...Esther McMorris - International Women's Day Special

Founder and Managing Director of design consultancy Nine Feet Tall Esther McMorris spoke to us ahead of International Women's Day on March 8th.

Which woman would you compare yourself to?

Emily Eavis. At the age of 21 Eavis became involved in Glastonbury Festivals Ltd, the company behind the annual event, and since then has raised the bar year on year. Through fresh thinking and hard work she has reinvigorated the festival, creating a sustainable platform that ensures Glastonbury will be a success in the future. She’s passionate about excellence and through her work with Oxfam, makes a real difference outside of her direct line of work. Most importantly, she has remained modest and true to her roots, a quality I really admire.

What would you say is your most valuable skill and why?

One of the most important things in life is to stay true to your values. This means being open and honest. I think it is important to tell it how it is. That doesn’t necessarily mean hurting other people’s feelings, but rather being clear and direct to make sure people understand what’s not working and what is. I feel people will respect, appreciate and want your opinion if you express yourself in that way.

Why do you think it's important to have an International Women's Day?

In the last decade there has been significant progress made towards women’s equality. Success is becoming a notion that is independent of gender. There are definitely many great female role models and achievements today, but for me IWD should not be a forum to complain about inequality, but instead a great event that celebrates the positives and achievements inspired by women.

Do you have family (and/or children)? How do you maintain a work/life balance?

Yes – I am married with two children aged 3 and 6. I am lucky that my husband plays a key role in bringing up our kids, which provides me a great level of support. The nature of my job allows me to be flexible with my time (as long as the work gets done), which means I can do many of the school runs, swimming lessons and spend time a lot of time with my family.

Have you ever had to give up or miss out on anything in order to pursue your career?

There will always be sacrifices you have to make and the hardest part of running your own business is there will always be something to worry about. You can never get away completely. Significant events often occur at inconvenient times, for example just as you are about to go on holiday. It can be difficult, but there are always ways and people who will help you cope.

Do you ever experience any discrimination in the work place because of your gender?

No I haven’t. The challenges of being a woman in business are becoming less obvious. There are and always will be industry ‘alpha-male’ types, which in turn creates the industry ‘alpha female’ type. Personally I think it is unnecessary for the modern workplace. People and clients recognise that gender actually isn’t important – it’s about who you are, how you are and what you do, not how loud you can shout. Results, not noise are the key. Women, and of course men, are good at that!

Based on your own experiences, what advice would you give to fellow females looking to get into your profession?

Be fearless and get stuck in! Consultancy may be a huge arena, but within it you meet such a wide range of interesting people. You learn something from all of them and this interaction helps you grow every time. This is a fact that never stops. Do not be afraid to make mistakes or fail. Failure is not a flaw - it truly does make you stronger and again, you learn from it. Listen to everyone: advice, criticism, war stories, but ultimately trust yourself and follow your instincts in making what you believe to be the right decision. Remember that success is not just about you, but also about helping others succeed. That itself brings its own reward.

Do men ever feel intimidated by your success?

No. My approach is not hostile and I like to work with people – men and women.

If you could have dinner with 5 inspirational women dead or alive, who would they be?

Emily Eavis, Michelle Obama, Clare Balding, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Eddie Izzard (does that count? – a woman in a man’s body?)

As a successful female, where do you see yourself in 10 years’ time?

I would like to continue to be involved in a mixture of things including work, charity, family, sports and travelling. Basically make a difference and have fun doing it.

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