We know that good things come in threes: three medals at the Olympics, the three musketeers and the three wise men.
It also applies to women for whom many find their greatest power in their third career. Just look at Hillary Clinton: First Lady, US Secretary of State and now officially the Democratic candidate for President of the United States.
The same of course can apply to men but, in my experience, it particularly applies to women in business.
Your first career is simple. It’s just you: no ties, little responsibility outside work, the ability to push forward as fast as you can and, hopefully, begin to figure out where your true strength lies.
Then, for many women, come children who present complex challenges. No longer juggling five phones, 20 reporters, 10 counties, as in my case as a news editor in British television, but working out how to get enough sleep to get through the next day. New skills of delegation, trust and determination come to the fore as we figure out how to keep a career and a family life together.
As the children need us less, so begins what I’ve come to believe is the greatest moment for women in business, as all that experience begins to make a difference.
Research has shown that companies with the highest representation of women on their senior management teams had a 35% higher return on equity and a 34% higher total return to shareholders than did companies with the lowest representation.
So why is that? In my experience, if you’re a female entrepreneur and you’ve managed to keep family and career intact, you must be pretty determined to succeed. You must also be good at the 20/80 rule: knowing which 20% of what you do delivers 80% of the value to the business.
In my first business, that wasn’t possible; I did 50% of 100% as there were only two of us in it. In my second business, I was still a generalist, doing a little of a lot: a bit of finance, a bit of sales & marketing, a bit of client management.
Now in my third business – there’s the power of three again – I know the business grows if I focus on strategy & business development. I have more than 30 years’ experience to draw on and if there’s a challenge in the business the chances are I’ve solved similar challenges before.
So whatever stage of career you’re in, remember that experience counts and particularly your failures count. You learn so much more from your mistakes than from your successes. Don’t worry if there is a break in transmission and your career goes on hold for a few years. The path from A to B is rarely a straight line – the most important thing is to keep going. You may be amazing now but the best is yet to come.
By Julie Walters, founder of Raremark and winner of Best Investment in a High-Growth Woman Founder at the UK Business Angels Association.