Spark 2016 // The Closing Remarks

I thought very hard about the message that I wanted you to take with you when you leave Spark today. I thought about what I could pass on that would strengthen our belief that Spark is more than just a conference, it is a movement, one that began last year and that continues to burn brighter with every passing month.

While I was thinking about the message for you, I read an article about the resurgence in female-centric conferences that is happening in the US right now. The author wrote:

“Having been to many of these events, and having eagerly participated in a few, I can attest that they’re often stirring and, yes, inspirational. It can be galvanising to be around so many females with superhuman résumés, to hear their tales of surviving corporate battles or even actual wars. You often leave with a rosy glow, a sense of resolve, and a commitment to do more, for other women and for yourself. But then you return to your desk, probably next to a higher-paid male co-worker, and the old, familiar malaise sets in. There was no discussion of changing policies or lobbying members of Congress. No e-mail list to stay in touch and organise. In the end, one wonders if the explosion of these events is a reflection of how far women have come or proof that they haven’t made much progress at all. Why, in spite of all the energy these conferences generate, are women still just … talking?
— Sheelah Kolhatkar, February 2016.

And that stopped me in my tracks. It’s a great question, why are we still just talking?

At around the same time I read another article that focused on the lack of women authoring business books.

So I checked the top 20 business books in 2015, and the article was right. Only 3 of the top 20 were authored by women. 

Those books were:

Other than being authored by women, do you know what else they had in common? Those three books were all covering a broadly similar topic, that as women we don’t feel good enough to do what we do. All three wanted to challenge us to do better. None of those business books actually covered a core principle of how to run or grow a business.

Back to the article I read, the author asks:

Why does it matter if we don’t have business books written by women? It matters because if we don’t address this, if we don’t find ways to draw out and express in writing women’s expertise, everybody loses. We’re left with this outdated, skewed perception of business as a boys’ game, and the next generation of women leaders are robbed of women who could have been their role models and inspiration.
— Alison Jones for The Guardian (February 2016)

How many books need to be written, how many books do you need to read which tell you that you are enough, before you start to truly believe it.

You have a voice, we have a voice. What are we using it for?

Are we using it to educate, to inspire, to collaborate?

We talk too much about competition and not enough about collaboration. I am certain that every one of you can look around the room right now and spot someone that you perceive to be a competitor in your sector.

We have to stop doing that, we have to stop diminishing ourselves when the spotlight falls upon others. Tanya Geisler, a US based coach who specializes in Imposter Syndrome said on a recent webinar that when we catch ourselves seeing others as competition because they started earlier than we did or because they won a client that we didn’t we need to stop and reframe. This person is not your competitor, they do not do what you do in the way that you do it but if you are impressed by them then use that feeling to consider them not as your competition but as a model of possibility. I loved that concept because a model of possibility is one that allows you to create space and growth in your future. Whereas the alternative only serves to make you smaller and less sure.

Focusing on collaborative growth allows us to drive forward a new economic model that is focused on the value which we provide to our communities rather than the value that we can extract from them.

So we are talking but we’re not talking about the right things, we are writing but we’re not writing about the right things. What will it take for us to change that? It seems we have some work to do.

Spark is not just a conference, it’s a movement and it will take all our efforts to keep that movement going.

Will you join us?

Would you like to listen to the Closing Remarks?

After my talk, I was approached by Elianne Oei of Tipping Point Consultant who told me she had recorded part of the closing notes, from approximately the first quote. It was one of the most surprising and kindest things anyone has done for me. Elianne has generously shared the audio file with me, so that I can share it with you.