Women inspiring women: 12 leaders share their stories

Posted 5 March 2024 by Faith Liversedge

January’s article, ‘Empowering advice for women in finance’ asked leading women in the profession to share their advice with others looking to develop their careers.

This time we turn the spotlight onto the personal stories of inspiration that have fuelled their own journeys by asking them to share examples of when they’ve been influenced by the resilience, innovation, and leadership of their female peers.

These accounts reflect the profound impact that women can have on each other’s professional journeys.

In sharing these stories, we aim to not only highlight the achievements of women in the profession, but also to inspire a new generation looking to pave their way.

Laura Barnes, Director of Business Development, Nucleus

Entering sales in financial services 25 years ago meant there were very few female sales role models I could look to. But I wanted an opportunity to get ahead.

There was one time I watched a very competent female leader navigate a board room of men and carve a space for herself not by default, but by design. The thing that stuck in my mind was about how she operated when things went wrong for her. The saying ‘don’t get mad, get even’ was one she dismissed, not because she wanted to ‘cope’ differently, but because she wasn’t satisfied with just ‘getting even’. She wanted to ‘rise above and get ahead’. Everything she did in those situations followed that pattern.

This showed me that thinking first about how we react to challenge or conflict can create an opportunity and may even help us to alter direction completely.

Philippa Hann, Head of Solicitor Engagement, RQ Ratings, Non-Executive Director Paradigm Norton Financial Planning and Nicholls Stevens Financial Services, ex-Lawyer, Coach and Professional Speaker

I’m constantly inspired by the women I see in financial services - from Carole Nicholls to Ruth Sturkey to Sam Seaton.

Carole set up Nicholls Stevens in 1986 when there were only a handful of women with their own advice firms and, 37 years later, she’s still leading the firm and loving what she does. Ruth created Red House Consulting which later merged with Paradigm Norton and who is now president of The Institute for Financial Wellbeing. Sam is CEO of data and payments fintech Moneyhub

These women found something they believed in and put the client, not profit, at the heart of their businesses. I love that and I cannot help but be inspired by what they have achieved as a result.

Gillian Hepburn, Commercial Director, Benchmark Capital

I had always believed in the power of the network and during Covid the ‘Women in platforms’ group took this to a new level. As we entered lockdown, the network moved from ad hoc get-togethers to a weekly online meeting. The four key organisers identified that some of the women in the network needed help and support and were able to provide it through the group.

The first couple of meetings were a chat over a glass of wine, but we then decided to use the meeting to explore various topics, invite guests and as an opportunity for some personal development. New professional relationships and friendships were formed and many side conversations and mentoring sessions took place. The energy from the whole group was truly inspiring! 

Cathi Harrison, Founder and CEO, The Verve Group

I’m always inspired by women I see at the ‘top’ of their respective field; whether in a hierarchical sense (CEOs of large firms) or in a knowledge sense (absolute experts in specific matters). Anyone who strives to push themselves and also, isn’t afraid to speak up and talk about the important matters (particularly because, as women, these qualities don’t often come naturally to us) really helps inspire me to push and develop myself further in the same way.

Gretchen Betts, Managing Director, Magenta Financial Planning

One example that has inspired me is now a close friend of mine: she’s highly driven and motivated, an expert in her field and prides herself on giving the best advice to her clients, which isn’t financial planning, but is in professional services.

She coached me into a senior role 12 years ago and she’d personally worked her way up to director and was flying high, living her best life. This continued for about 10 years, until the company she’d helped to build was taken over. Her role changed, she had increasingly unachievable targets, and was very unhappy. This coincided with the pandemic, menopause and a period of poor mental health. I’ve never seen her so low, but from somewhere she found the strength to get help medically, find another role, and is now a much better place. I’m inspired by her tenacity, confidence and resilience every day.

Michelle Hoskin, Director, Standards International

Over the last 25 years that I’ve been in financial services I have had my own personal challenges balancing building business, taking care of clients, starting a family and sharing my time with those that matter the most. There are many women who continue push forward despite these same challenges – women who try to change the world of financial services while at the same time holding down the responsibilities of running a home, coordinating their family and keeping all the plates spinning. These are the women that have inspired me the most and have shown me that it can be done – you just have to keep moving forward. 

Cathy Brennan, Founder, Resourceful Planner

I’m inspired by two former work colleagues who became informal mentors and are still working in their 60s and 70s. They aren't afraid to offer advice, speak their mind and vote with their feet when it comes to moving roles when experiencing ageism.  

Laura Robinson, Partner, Clarke Willmott

For the past 12 years I’ve had the privilege of working alongside Philippa Hann; an innovative thought leader and enormously successful lawyer. She’s been the strongest and most inspirational, energetic and supportive leader for me and so many others. Philippa speaks out, and loudly(!), to stand up for what she believes in and repeatedly makes great things happen for people around her, be they clients, employees or friends. She does all of it while raising three children, training for Iron Man and completing triathlons, and raising huge amounts for charity, among other things. A seriously impressive human being.

Helena Wardle, Founder of Money Means, Partner and Chartered Financial Planner at Smith and Wardle Financial Planning

I saw an email from Heather Hopkins about the 'Women in platforms' group when lockdown started and I asked if I could join. It became and incredible source of inspiration with some brilliant conversations and great relationships.

Samantha Secomb, Director at Pentins and Women's Wealth

Cathi Harrison of The Verve Group has been my recent inspiration. She sees through the limitations and constantly ideates. Her business and her ethos promote people and progress with as much weight as profit, which is not always evident in financial services as a whole. It takes strong leaders to challenge embedded culture and I get braver watching women like her doing it.

Michelle Darracott, Non Executive Director, The Pensions Trust

I have so many examples of inspiring women for many different reasons, the ones I am most inspired by are those that realise their power through following their purpose.

Melissa Kidd, Director, Motem

There are a few: I really love listening to the 'We can do hard things' podcast by Glennon Doyle, Abbey Wombach and Amanda Doyle. They interview great guests and what I find so inspiring is their ability to be incredibly honest about themselves and their relationships. They can mix vulnerability and humour in a way that's rare and we, as the listener, are all the richer for it.

Sometimes when I've had to have a difficult conversation, I've been inspired by artists such as Little Simz or Eva Lazarus - both women who really own their space. Their songs and stage presence are really powerful, and they've been useful role models for me.

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Faith Liversedge

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Faith Liversedge