In recognition of the women behind Member Services, thriving businesses, and beyond.
In a digital world where opinions, thoughts and suggestions can travel across the world in seconds, the last decades have seen an emergence of discussion and unique types of change like never before. Recognizing that many of us feel there is still much to be done in the journey towards equality, it is important to acknowledge that a mere 100 years ago was when women began making true strides in achieving gender equality. 1918 – 1923 saw truly groundbreaking developments in women’s rights that were hard to miss. Today’s challenges are more nuanced, sometimes hidden from plain view, and, depending on your upbringing, country, its culture, and chosen profession, some will experience them more than others.
While some women feel more empowered than ever to have their voices heard and campaign for more forward movement in levelling the landscape, others grow tired of the narrative and perceive it as widening of the gender gap. Radical thinking emerges and online platforms see movements splinter as rhetoric gains power and controversy. At times in the battle for equality the scales begin to tip and while some voices prevail, others begin to quieten, making it more important than ever for everyone in the conversation to step back and remember what International Women’s Day is truly about: celebrating each other’s achievements and denouncing the stereotypes, discrimination and sexism that still prevails and holds us back, while also recognizing that it is still there at times. Equally important is our ability to acknowledge the strides made and the levelling of the playing field that has been achieved to date.
As a woman who works in an industry that continues to often be led by men, I have spent the majority of my still young career in meeting rooms where I am the only woman. While it’s encouraging and refreshing to see the emphasis Monument places on inclusivity and empowerment of women in the workplace, continuously growing the number of women we have around the table and offering equal opportunities for all, the wider technology sector still has a lot of work ahead to attract and welcome female talent. Propelled by the independence and fearlessness instilled in me by my Mother who forged her path in the legal field in the 1990s, I feel it is my responsibility to recognize and continue to celebrate the women who may not be in the meeting room with me, but they are in other meeting rooms, offices, and today even in their homes, making it possible for me to build and create. The greatest privilege of being in one of the driving seats for a user-facing technology product is my ability to contribute to its direction and who gets a seat at our partnerships table. From my first day at Monument it has been a priority to ensure that we find and incorporate businesses and initiatives driven by women, give recognition and opportunity where it’s due, and play our part in ensuring that such business practices are not the exception, but rather the norm.
Monument Member Services has a number of women-led businesses in our partnerships, delivering exciting, convenient and inspiring services that elevate and enhance how everyone can live their lives. I’ve taken some time to quiz the ladies who built and run these businesses about their thoughts and experiences. I reached out to Iglika Ghouse, the CEO and Founder of USPAAH; Julie Gonzalez, the CEO and Founder of La Petite Conciergerie; and Camilla Dell, the Founder and Managing Partner of Black Brick. Although these women have their professional achievements in common, it’s fascinating to see the different associations held around International Women’s Day. Some see it in its traditional sense: an opportunity to celebrate and spread the message, some don’t celebrate it at all, and others have more personal associations linking back to motherhood and how that enhances their personal values held for the day. That’s the beauty of exchange – we begin to realize that although events like International Women’s Day have a common purpose, the participants are diverse.
Iglika’s link to Mother’s Day particularly caught my attention. I am often guilty of associating women’s efforts predominantly with professional and career development. Perhaps a core focal point in the past, it is important to recognize that while some women seek more autonomy in their work life, others are seeking more autonomy to choose to be Mothers or even focus on keeping homes. Our motivations for direction in life are highly varied. Iglika founded USPAAH when she felt there must be an easier way to fit health and wellness into her busy schedule, while Camilla founded Black Brick due to her personal drive to run her own business, which she acknowledges has always been there. Solving problems that we feel no one else will solve or responding to an inner calling from a young age are just some of the driving forces behind women stepping out to do their own thing.
Independent leadership and business autonomy is not without its hurdles. While Julie acknowledges that so far establishing and running La Petite Conciergerie has been fairly smooth and she hasn’t felt any obstacles directly associated with sexism or gender inequality, she notes that this hasn’t always been the case. Having worked in the supercar industry in the past – a typically male-led field – she encountered situations where she felt her contributions were underappreciated and undervalued, leading her to leave those workplaces due to lack of inclusivity. Separately, Iglika highlights a prevailing anxiety and unconscious bias I myself often consider: how do we run our businesses and careers but also have children? As we remain laser focused on personal and professional growth, time poverty sneaks up on us leaving little room for growing our families. The age-old question of “can we have it all?” looms and, as Iglika rightfully points out, we begin to face the choice of either having really thick skin and facing the constant pressure of making it all work, or we make professional sacrifices. Arguably this is an issue and concern largely unique to women as we are likely to need extra time to rest during and after the pregnancy, and some demands of a newborn can only be met by the Mother. On the other hand, Camilla poses the progressive argument that in 2023 these shouldn’t be the sole responsibility of the Mother: child rearing and parenting can be taken on by both partners and it is up to us to eradicate that stereotype by divvying up the tasks that can be taken on by our co-parents, and therefore taking back some of that time to be reinvested into our other passions. For those of us not yet starting our families, this dilemma can manifest in other ways: how do we continue to invest in our friendships, hobbies, and how do we juggle our ambitions and our, for example, desire to have a well-rounded, trained, and lavished-with-attention pet dog. Regardless of what we need more time for, the key message is that we don’t want to be seen as inconvenienced or perceived as less willing and able due to outdated stereotypes when we do choose to also expand our lives beyond the office.
The realities of taking a career-focused path and starting your own business are not unique to women. It is easy to identify certain elements of the journey that may be unique to us, but ultimately the weight of responsibility and demanding nature of the undertaking are felt by anyone, regardless of gender. We assign a sense of glamour and prestige to working hard and devoting large portions of our lives to professions. Although there is a sense of satisfaction that comes with being your own boss and making your own decisions, Iglika advises that much of those exciting factors can often be overshadowed by the late nights, weekends and constant pressures that come with the job. One could argue that that’s the true sign of equality: everyone will suffer the same to achieve those aspirational highs, man or woman. The prerequisite of high investment to succeed does not discriminate, and although along the way we may face situations where stereotypes try to infiltrate our day, both Camilla and Julie urge that we mustn’t conform or undervalue ourselves to fit that mold. Accepting the status quo and adjusting ourselves to fit the unequal expectation simply furthers the stereotype, giving it new life.
And maybe that’s the key – stepping into our power and not only acknowledging where we have equal abilities, but also acknowledging where we have advantages, thus bulldozing any inaccuracies plaguing the workplace. It may seem counterintuitive to ‘ignore it to make it go away’, but I too have seen this work in practice: a sort of culling of self-fulfilling prophecies. I can only assume that often our undervaluing of self is rooted in old rhetoric and perceptions which are hindering us from recognizing the advantage of being different in the room. One could argue that this is where the scale tips the other way in gender equality, but if we don’t seize our opportunities, who will? If we believe men can harness their biological advantages, so can women, and together surely we form stronger teams.
Our paths will be unique regardless of shared principles and stances we adopt along the way, but the one thing we must continue to persevere with is creating a welcoming environment for women to thrive in business. We are beginning to see an emergence of conversation around adapting work environments to women’s health concerns, such as menstrual pain and menopause, alongside the already prevailing push for equal salary opportunities, both areas Julie highlights as key for ensuring future female entrepreneurs can truly excel. Iglika feels that more women should take on leadership positions in investment firms, to help change and evolve the funding opportunities at early stages through an in-depth understanding of the challenges women entrepreneurs are likely to face. Firms of all scale should also invest in childcare opportunities to support women in their family growth stages without having to make the aforementioned sacrifices. And ultimately, as Camilla correctly states, companies should simply hire more women and give them the right training and opportunities to lead. If we consider all these suggestions as one, we begin to see a bigger picture evolve where we continue to invest in women and recognize their needs on a higher level, in order to lead by example for the future.
There is so much to talk about when we delve into the achievements and ongoing possibilities for improvements for women in business and beyond. It is a conversation we must continue having amongst ourselves, with our male counterparts, and across all nations and cultures. While we vow to not stop the conversation as and when things improve, or even when they reach a satisfactory level for our own personal thresholds, International Women’s Day prevails as a great opportunity to also realize how far we have come, and to recognize that the increasing number of women feeling heard, recognized, and even advantageous in the workplace is a collective achievement. I hope increasingly more women feel that sense of satisfaction in the coming years, and we continue to be proud of the successful, hard-working women we are surrounded by, at Monument and beyond.
Founded by Iglika Ghouse, USPAAH is Your Spa At Home, catering to people with busy lives and refined lifestyles to bring qualified health and beauty professionals to your door anywhere in London. USPAAH services include beauty (hair colour and styling, manicures, pedicures, waxing, and more), home spa (massages, facials), and private yoga and Pilates training.
Julie Gonzalez is the driving force behind La Petite Conciergerie, a boutique private client agency for the affluent and busy traveller, living an international lifestyle. Discreet and effortless organisation of travel, restaurants, and events, tailored for you with exceptional attention to detail.
Camilla Dell’s desire for independent entrepreneurship led to the creation of Black Brick: a leading, independent buying agency, providing expert advice to buyers in London, the Home Counties and the South East. The exclusive and award-winning agency service finds and secures properties for private individuals, family offices, trusts and property investors.
Monument has partnered with USPAAH to offer mobile spa services, with La Petite Conciergerie to deliver the Restaurant of the Week collection, and with Black Brick to offer Prime Property Search & Advice services. Find these services and more in the Member Services app.