We’ve all heard about resilience – but when it comes to making it, determination is key: Dogged determination, inclusive determination and determination as a secret weapon. The new book Female Determination, by portrait photographer Tom Campbell and author Melissa Collett, celebrates and explores determination and some of the women who possess it.
On International Women’s Day 2022 – which was also Noon’s 1st Birthday – we hosted a very special panel.
The theme was Female Determination, inspired by Melissa Collett’s book of the same name. Melissa – a savvy, pint-sized New Yorker who epitomises determination herself – has been interviewing high-flying women from all walks of life in her role as Professional Standards Director at Chartered Insurance Institute. She had been struck by the role determination had played in their success. “We hear a lot about women and resilience but not much about determination which is a key part of making it,” she said. (Check out her book Female Determination now!)
We kicked off our panel discussion by talking about women in war and those suffering around the world. Fitting, since on the day we spoke around 2 million Ukrainian women and children were on the move, fleeing the Russian invasion, with millions more huddling in basements, short of food and everything else.
Christina Lamb, OBE and respected war correspondent who had just returned from Poland, said, “In war it is always the women who suffer.” She spoke about how in the past 10 years she had seen an escalation in sexual violence being used as a weapon of war against women. Yet she’s witnessed the courage of women throughout, trying to create as much normality as possible for their children, getting them fed and educated in extraordinary circumstances.
We talked about that kind of determination to survive, or flee, or the terrible kind of determination required to continue after being raped, a common tactic in war and conflict. “Many of the women who had suffered such a fate said they wish they had died instead. They bear the scars of these attacks for the rest of their lives,” she said.
Christina herself is a model of what determination can achieve. When I was her editor at The Sunday Times, we used to joke that the beginning of any assignment was us asking the official channels for any conflict or country if she would have a visa/interview/access. The answer was nearly always a firm “No” – which for Christina is just the start of the journey. If anyone embodies finding a way through despite obstructions, it is her.
Louise Minchin, BBC broadcasting legend and triathlete, had the unenviable task of following this topic. She talked about how “determination has always been my secret weapon, whether at the BBC in the gender pay dispute or during training for triathlons. Other people may be better but no one is more determined than me. Determination goes through me like a stick of rock. When things are really bad, I am just determined to get it done.”
Determination can be infectious. — Jennifer Romano, Chief People Officer at Accenture
Genelle Aldred, author of Communicate for Change: Creating Justice in a World of Bias, spoke about the extra dollop of determination required to make it as a woman of colour — and about the need for tough, honest conversations. She spoke passionately about how other women are not always sisterly — a theme that was taken up enthusiastically on the chat. If we are not honest about how other women can hinder and bully others – particularly when they are in power – then the whole International Women’s Day conversation about supporting each other becomes whitewashed, all the speakers agreed. Genelle, true to her brand, drove a tough but important conversation.
Nemone Metaxas, DJ on Six Music and a psychotherapist, spoke about the anxiety that can accompany determination and how we can best handle that. And that determination can be borne of anger or other emotions. She talked about how Drive, resolve determination, strength and power can sound like very masculine qualities and we need to take some of those back for women, but also understand the fear and anxiety that can accompany pushing women to be determined. We talked about how it is ok to decide that “you will try again tomorrow. To have a quiet voice and accept that sometimes we need to regroup and nurture ourselves and come back to the fight another day.”
Really enjoyed that. Determined women create space for each other. If there are women behind us, we need to find a way to get them by our side. — Noon member Vanessa Bold
Tara Cemlyn-Jones also appeared — Fintech whizz and Founder of 25×25, a new initiative to get 25 female FTSE CEOs by 2025 (there are currently only 8 out of 100). She explained how data and facts drive her determination to shift the dial on gender bias. “We must be laser-like in our focus on what is achievable and what isn’t and let go of some of the other stuff so we can put our efforts into what works”.
Lisa Burger, CEO of the National Theatre, talked about how her own path to the top has meant she must be quietly determined and stoical in difficult situations. “Sometimes it’s about being quiet and listening and dealing with the issue in the moment and staying calm and strong.” Of course there are particular aspects of a creative career – learning to take criticism, bouncing back – putting your whole soul on the line which requires huge amounts of determination and courage.
We have to be able to hold women up to account, all the time being fair. — Lisa Burger
Last but by no means least was Jennifer Romano, Managing Director at Accenture and Chief People Officer UK, who is spearheading the charge to keep women in leadership in midlife. “It is not about fixing the women,” she said. “I am determined to change the culture in the corporate world so it is not always the loudest voices in the room that get heard. And to really listen to what women and other less represented groups want.” In terms of her own determination, she put the wellspring of that in her psyche into having “such strong determined female role models in my Italian-American family and a mother who insisted we play sport to learn about competition and using our bodies for ourselves rather than as something to be given to someone else.”
The panel was wide-ranging with many different aspects of determination explored. Watch the full discussion below.
Noon would like to thank all of the panellists for giving their time and wisdom to our community to support other women.
The panel featured:
- Christina Lamb OBE, the war correspondent and author
- Genelle Aldred, social justice campaigner and author of Communicate for Change
- Louise Minchin, BBC Presenter and extreme sports aficionado
- Lisa Burger, CEO of the National Theatre
- Nemone Metaxas, DJ, broadcaster and psychotherapist
- Tara Clemlyn Jones, Fintech pioneer and founder of 25×25
- Jennifer Romano, Chief People Officer, Accenture
- Melissa Collett, author and inspiration of Female Determination
What people said about the event and female determination
“Tara makes a really good point about leadership. There’s more than one leadership style and in many contexts, a communal leadership approach is more effective than an agentic one.” — Sumitra S.
“One thing I have noticed is that men give each other (and themselves) a lot of slack for mistakes and misses. Women tend to hold each other (and ourselves) to a much higher/different standard.” — Karen P.
“The worst put-down I had was from a female head when I was on the board of a girls school.” — Wendy R.
“Do we have to accept that some industries/professions will be male dominated as women don’t want to certain roles?” — Nin D.
“There are a lot of men and women in traditional leadership cultures who believe they are cognitive of change, but I’ve not seen much evidence yet. I fear for my shy and retiring adult daughters who are much better at their jobs than they think they are.” — Julie P.
“It would be good to examine more closely the lens with which we’re looking at determination…often the patriarchal framework endures and is so pervasive…integrating the masculine and feminine elements of determination….” — panelist Nemone Metaxas
“Think there are plenty of un-supportive women in the world for sure (as well as supportive, as here!). Love Genelle’s point: It’s hard to deal with but also understandable and borne out of insecurity, anxiety, ignorance sometimes?” — Jo R.
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