08 Mar 2023
I am Emma Harris, the Founder and CEO of Glow London, we are a brand agency where we do external and internal branding. We connect the external face of the brand into the culture of the business, to motive, align and create the culture to deliver that brand.
I started out my career in the FMGC space, specifically in brewing. Then I spent 10 years in travel at Eurostar leading sales and marketing. During my time at Eurostar what I found the most frustrating was that my agencies didn’t understand that my job wasn’t just advertising. In order to deliver a brand, particularly in the service industry, you have to be able to deliver your promise through your people. My energy went into HR, customer service and product and I’d look around and no agencies were following, hence the reason I set up Glow!
Through the mentor academy I also mentor and coach a lot of young and senior women. Most importantly I am a mum of 4, married to an actor and, in May of last year I had a cardiac arrest. This was caused by a mixture of too much stress, travel, lots of late nights and early mornings and a lot of caffeine. I posted about this on LinkedIn and it got over 9 million views. I wrote about being a mum, working for 2 businesses and told people to #slowthef**k down which started a bit of a movement.
I have never felt that my gender has held me back in my career. It might be that I don’t notice these things, but I have had a fantastic career. When I was at Eurostar I was the highest paid senior manager and very successful. However, when I was working for other people at Eurostar I didn’t have kids then, so perhaps things may have been different. I have friends who have been bypassed for promotions due to maternity leave.
I attribute this to a couple of things. Firstly I am a massive football fan, I used to go to whiteheart lane as a kid with my dad and when I was old enough my sister and I used to attend every game. There wasn’t many girls there then, so this accustomed me to the male environment. Secondly, my mum was a huge inspiration. She was an incredible woman who ran the house for 3 kids, worked for an accountancy firm and was very glamourous. She showed me that women can do anything. When I was 12 my mum got very ill which caused her to lose her short term memory, so she wasn’t able to be the alpha female anymore. I, despite being the youngest, decided to step up and become that alpha female, which has made me the person I am today.
A Combination of the two is why I’ve never felt disadvantaged, but I know that is unusual and I am really lucky for that.
I work with, mentor and coach a lot of women, so I see the effects that inequality has on others. I think everyone has imposter syndrome- the voice in your head that tells you that you aren’t good enough, but women generally have it a lot louder.
So many senior women that I coach are terrified of coming back from maternity leave to find that they no longer have their job. Women generally have such a lack of confidence. I have met many women who were terrified to tell their boss they’re going on maternity leave. I remind them they also came from a woman and we shouldn’t apologise for maternity leave, if it didn’t exist how would anyone be here in the first place.
So if I could change anything it would be confidence. There is systematic gender inequality taking away their confidence. But also if you have the ability to know the voices of doubt in your head don’t have to be listened to and back yourself and know your worth then you will be successful. Evidence shows that women entrepreneurs make much more sustainable businesses, are more ethical, cultural, more financially successful and women are typically more cautious, so women need to back themselves more.
Leaving Eurostar, I wouldn’t class as an achievement in itself, but I was pregnant with no maternity leave and no other job lined up, so I really had to back myself and believe ‘jump and the net will catch you’. I am a big believer in the power of visualisation and setting outcomes, and knowing where you’re heading and relaxing into the knowledge that it will happen. By reinforcing your beliefs, your unconscious mind will take you there. At the time my husband had no regular salary and we had two kids and one on the way, yet I knew we would be ok.
To go from leaving Eurostar with nothing lined up, to now having built something that feels really purposeful, working with great people and doing great work that makes a difference is what it’s all about. In life you need to prioritise the right things and align your priorities with what you do daily. Love, family, friendships, yourself and your health should be prioritised. We tend to have a mindset of ‘when I get this or achieve that, then I will be happy’, but then you are putting your happiness in front of you, the goal is self-acceptance and to surround yourself with what’s important.
From a business perspective I could point to when we opened St Pancras, I’d led the change management, I’d been doing night shifts at the depo with the engineers and we really changed the hearts and minds of Eurostar over 18 months.
To achieve confidence, when all of those voices of doubt and imposter syndrome are really loud, remember your thoughts and feelings don’t exist. The only thing that’s real is this second now. When the voices are really loud in your head they feel like you, even just recognising ‘that’s just a thought’, that disassociation allows you to replace the thought with something else.
I often tell people to ‘give someone else the mic’ – this is a way to reframe your thoughts. If the voice in your head tells you that you aren’t good enough, pass the mic to the ‘kick-ass you’ who tells you that you are. It’s a Journey of getting to know yourself and the different voices, even the bad ones can be useful to an extent. Be in control of it as it is your mind. Often we are so alone in our thoughts, but you don’t have to be. I’m not saying don’t feel stuff, but it’s about recognising when it is or isn’t useful to think those thoughts and when it isn’t, realising you have the ability to change that thought.
– Emma Harris, Founder and CEO of Glow London
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