We’ve teamed up with The Eve Appeal to raise awareness of the five gynaecological cancers affecting women today. As part of the Get Lippy campaign, we spoke to four of its inspiring ambassadors to get to know them a little better.
Dame Helena Morrissey
As Head of Personal Investing at Legal & General, Founder of the 30% Club, an acclaimed author and a mother of nine children, it’s safe to say Dame Helena Morrissey has her hands full. Despite this, she is also a passionate ambassador for The Eve Appeal, making time to raise awareness of the charity’s work in combating gynaelogical cancers.
She took five out of her busy schedule to talk the gender pay gap, how failing can be a success, and what it means to be a woman in 2019.
On the Eve Appeal
The mortality rates from gynaecological cancers are so shocking, and there’s such low awareness, so I was keen to do whatever I could to help. I love the way The Eve Appeal has always pioneered experimental research – I’m proud to be involved.
On being a woman in 2019
It really is a good time to be a woman. Of course, there are still obstacles, but there’s such will to see the results of all the gender-equality work – including on the part of many men – that I’m really confident we can take a big leap forward.
The fear of what might go wrong holds too many women back – remember, things might go right, too! And if they don’t, failing can teach us so much and make us stronger for the next challenge.
On solving the gender pay gap
At this point, it’s time to focus on the other side of the equation: what it means for men. We need them to have more choices, too, and definitions of male success that go beyond a big job title and salary.
Businesses can help – but not through policies so much as culturally. It’s time to really modernise how we work. There’s no reason why we can’t use technology to work smarter, and be measured on the work achieved, not hours at the desk.
On having more women on corporate boards
The point of having better gender balance on a board isn’t just to improve the representation of half the population, but to shake-up the thinking, and provide other perspectives and experiences. We haven’t yet seen the true benefits of more women on boards yet – that will come when it’s so much the norm that they feel comfortable acting as women and not needing to fit in.
On the 30% Club
For several years I’d tried to help other women progress at my own firm – but I realised that women talking to women about women’s issues was never really going to get us very far. I realised we needed to involve men more – powerful men with the authority to change things.
When we launched in 2010 only 12.5% of directors on the UK’s top 100 boards were women. Today they make up 31.4% of FTSE100 boards and there are just two all-male boards left out of 350.
The approach taken by the 30% Club was feminine, we weren’t hectoring or militant. We were offering a solution to a known problem. The boardroom isn’t the be-all and end-all, and neither is gender when it comes to really improving diversity, but it was a good place to start.
When I look back at my own career, the failures have been just as important as the successes. I was passed over for promotion in my first job, and that really motivated me. Not only was I determined to prove my boss wrong, but I also realised that the typical ‘women’s way of working’: head down, doing a good job, waiting to be recognised, was not the way to get ahead.
On commanding a room
It’s so obvious but you need to come across as confident (even if you don’t actually it!). It’s a state of mind – though great clothes can also really help.
On ‘having it all’
I think ‘having it all’ should mean having a normal, balanced life, combining family and career if that’s what we want to do. We shouldn’t have to choose between two aspects of life that are both so important.
Having been diagnosed with cervical cancer at 24, Karen turned to stand-up comedy as a platform for her experience, and to raise awareness of the importance of smear tests. She debuted her solo show, Tumour Has It, in 2016, tackling the often-taboo topic with hope and humour.
Now an ambassador for The Eve Appeal, we took some time out with Karen – and looked through her phone – to get to know the woman behind the laughter.
What was the last text you sent?
“I do”. No, I wasn’t getting married via a messaging service, I was saying yes to dinner.
What was the last text you received?
I saw on your Insta Stories your anxiety has been bad, pussycat. Not to totally jump on the bandwagon but mine, too.” It was from my friend and, yes, she is jumping on the bandwagon. I’m the only person who’s allowed to get anxious and talk about it on Instagram.
If you could create an emoji what would it be?
A vulva. No doubt about it. The best we have at the moment is a taco.
What one book should every woman read?
This is the hardest question I’ve EVER been asked. I don’t think female friendships are spoken about often enough, so Dolly Alderton’s ‘Everything I Know About Love’. It includes very honest thoughts on the complexities, love and jealousy we typically think only applies to romantic relationships.
What’s your spirit animal?
I really want to say a lioness, or wolf – something fierce, strong and beautiful. But, I think it would probably be a bichon frise. I’ve got curly hair and am very yappy.
Which song sums you up?
My go-to karaoke song is Tina Turner’s ‘Proud Mary’, no doubt about it. Or one of Florence and the Machine’s songs – the lyrics to ‘Shake It Out’ also pretty powerful. Like me.
If you could make up a word what would it be and what would it mean?
Sensashe. Short for sensational. Sounds ridiculous, feels incredible.
If you could sum up your experience with cervical cancer in three words what would they be?
Doesn’t feel real.
If you could say anything to a woman putting off going for her smear test, what would it be?
For reasons less serious than trauma, disability or religious and cultural reasons – for example if it’s a case of not having the time, feeling embarrassed or that it’s not relevant to you – please know that anything can happen to anyone at any time. This screening programme saves lives.
Nimco Ali is a Somali-British activist helping transform the approach to ending female genital mutilation (FGM). Co-founder and director of Daughters of Eve, a non-profit organisation working to protect girls at risk, she works to raise awareness and change the narrative around the cultural practice.
Here she tells us what working with The Eve Appeal means to her, and answers some of our thought-provoking questions.
What was your last Eureka moment?
It was at an event in New York. Bill Gates was speaking about global poverty and how it’s going to double by 2050. I realised that gender inequality is feeding that poverty and it really pushed me to want to start the business case for ending FGM.
What’s your secret weapon?
Resilience and stubbornness. Being the eldest child in my family, I’ve always managed to get my own way by standing my ground. You need conviction in your beliefs and a clear vision of your own self-worth.
What’s the worst decision you’ve ever made?
Thinking that I have to be perfect in every decision I make usually ends up in me making bad decisions.
What’s your philosophy in life?
Never take yourself too seriously.
What was the last lie you told?
I don’t tend to lie – I just don’t always deliver the whole story. I live between two different cultures so I have to tread carefully in some situations.
Tell us something you’ve never told anyone
I’m a persistent over sharer so there is nothing I haven’t told anyone. I tweet whatever is on my mind.
Is social media inherently good or bad?
Twitter has been extremely powerful in creating conversation between us and political leaders. It can allow people to find their voice and find a community of like-minded people.
What does it mean to you to be involved with the Eve Appeal?
Silence around the female anatomy is killing women and girls on a daily basis. 200 million women globally are suffering the consequences of FGM, which makes it harder to diagnose certain cancers. It’s so important to talk more and ask questions, which is why working with The Eve Appeal is so important to me.
Having founded PR agency Neville McCarthy in 1962 – a time when the industry was male dominated and women entrepreneurs were few and far between – Caroline Neville is no stranger to beating the odds. Married for over fifty years with two children, she is now President of Cosmetic Executive Women and a passionate ambassador for The Eve Appeal. Here she tells us the life lessons she’s learnt throughout her 76 years.
We beat ourselves up trying to be superwoman
It’s tough with travel schedules for work, children’s needs and everything else that goes with being a working woman, so we shouldn’t beat ourselves up trying to do everything. Women today are more than capable of reaching the top but some choose not to focus solely on a career and that’s fine, too.
Building connections is important
It’s such an advantage to have connections, especially in entrepreneurial fields, so I believe internships and work placements are a good place for young women to start. If you’re thinking of setting up your own business you have to work extra hard, but it’s also a lot of fun.
We shouldn’t be so judgemental
Don’t make snap judgments about people – always give them a chance. You never know, they may prove you wrong!
We need to talk more about women’s cancers
I am passionate about our work with the Eve Appeal and the Get Lippy campaign. It’s so important for young women to understand what they need to know about vaginal health and their own bodies.
Women need to celebrate their successes more
I have been very lucky in my life, but I’ve also worked really hard. CEW UK is 26 years old and we have chapters in New York and Paris, with 10,000 members. I feel proud of the work we’ve done in mentoring women and helping them progress in their careers.
Take the opinions of naysayers with a pinch of salt
I had a very important American client once tell me I would never make it to the top because I had chosen family life. In December I received an MBE in recognition of my services for supporting women entrepreneurs and my charity work. It doesn’t get any better than that, as far as I’m concerned.