“I think I’m the only person in London who has kissed all the James Bonds”

Impact: Be the inspiration. 

On Wednesday evening I attended the Deutsche Bank Women in European Business annual conference. Held at the Barbican, just under 2,000 women came together to be inspired by the excellent selection of speakers that had been hand picked for our audience.

First up, was the naturally absolutely fabulous, Joanna Lumley. In an interview conducted by Mishal Husain from the the BBC (who couldn’t get a word in edge ways) Joanna had us captivated with her tales of campaigning, acting and designing what is set to be the most beautiful bridge in London yet, The Garden Bridge.

Lumley started by regaling advice her mother had for her, “stand up for the underdog” and always volunteer, as you never know what exciting challenges it might bring you to. This advice helps to explain Joanna’s enthusiastic approach to charities and campaigning for justice in causes such as the Gurkha Justice Campaign. Which although was powerful in itself, was complemented effectively by Joanna’s involvement as she was born in Cashmere, India and her dad was a Gurkha who fought in WWII.

The absolutely fabulous AB FAB brought Joanna and Jennifer Saunders together via Ruby Wax’s recommendation, Patsy being everything that Joanna had never played before in a character. She commented how brilliant Leonardo diCaprio was in Wolf of Wall Street and jokingly bragged “I think I’m the only person in London who has kissed all the James Bonds”.

Her latest project “The Garden bridge”, is a fantastic collaboration between her vision and the creativity of designer Thomas Heatherwick who designed the famous cauldron at the 2012 Olympics and the new London buses! The plan is to have the bridge from Temple, over to the South Bank just near itv and our IBM offices and it’s estimated to cost £175 million!

Lumley doesn’t own a mobile phone and always ignores whatever the media say about her. She gave an analogy of people being so addicted to their phones, slaves to them, in the same way downstairs have to always respond to the bells in Downton Abbey. A fair point which made me think about my phone usage, in particular now as I write this blog post in the notes section of my iPhone.

The second part of the evening saw Mishal host a panel discussion with four very successful business people. Daniela Barone – Soares – Chief Executive Officer, Impetus – The Private Equity Foundation [more], Ann Cairns – President, International Markets for MasterCard [more], Emma Howard Boyd

– Director, Stewardship, Jupiter Asset Management[more] and Luke Johnson – Chairman of Risk Capital Partners [more].

Each panelist was interviewed briefly as they arrived on stage, each of the panelists had completely different experiences and gave the audience advice on a number of topics. Emma demonstrated that you can combine your passions outside of work with your job and similarly Daniela has done the same. Ann and Daniela stressed how skills really are transferable between industries, Daniela having moved from banking into a company which aids the success of charities, and Ann having been an engineer for British Gas, to heading up 210 countries in Mastercard. Luke Johnson, a successful entrepreneur, has had huge involvements with many high street restaurant brands you will recognise, Pizza Express, Strada and Giraffe. His purchase of the bookstore, Borders, unfortunately wasn’t a wise investment, however Luke comments on the importance of making mistakes which you can learn from. A final key takeaway from the panel was the importance of volunteering outside of your day to day job “it makes you a more interesting person”.

The final speaker was Amy Cuddy, and Associate Professor from Harvard Business School and is very well known having had over 15 million views on her TED Conference in 2012 about Power Posing! Amy discussed how your body language has been proven to affect your confidence and assertion, in particular in high stake situations such as job interviews. She showed a range of photographs which demonstrated that in sports, the winner always raises their arms in up a victory V, and in fact even blind people do the same thing, despite having never seen anyone do it – it’s a completely natural reaction to victory and power. Cuddy recommended privately power posing before situations that make you feel nervous or anxious, in order to increase the levels of testosterone which boost the confidence. The TED website has more information and a link to her fantastically successful talk. It was an interesting concept and has been proven to work not only on humans, but also on horses!

The speakers were followed by a drinks and networking reception and it seemed like everyone was feeling inspired. A great event, with such fantastic speakers – Joanna Lumley was brilliant, so quick witted and fun! Looking forward to the garden bridge and any other fantastic projects she gets involved with.

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