Being resilient and having the ambition to succeed were key topics at a business networking event in Coventry.
The Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce has held its first Women in Business networking lunch of 2019 at the Village Hotel Club.
The event heard from three successful businesswomen Gemma Knott, assistant principal – business growth at Coventry College; Kathryn Clarke, founder and director of Signature Sales Support and Representation; and Sue Tonks, founder of HydroVeg Kit and winner of New Business of the Year award at the Coventry Telegraph Business Awards 2018.
Each spoke about the highs and lows of their career journeys and some of the professional barriers they have had to overcome.
Gemma told delegates about her progression from a personal assistant to assistant principal in just 10 years, and how at the age of 30 she has had to fend off ageists and work harder to prove her value.
After graduating from the University of Warwick and being rejected from a number of graduate schemes, she made her first step into education by securing a temporary position as the personal assistant to the vice principal of strategy at Warwickshire College Group.
She then went on to become policy and communications officer at 157 Group, in London, before returning to Warwickshire College Group as executive assistant to the CEO.
Her first big career jump came when she secured the position of director of marketing, communications, admissions and sales at Stratford-upon-Avon College at the age of just 24 and then became director of business development and senior post holder by age 27 before moving to her current position.
Gemma said: “I have always tried to go above and beyond during my career and have a real passion for the sector.
“I have developed resilience, networked hard and have observed both good and bad leadership and learnt from this.
“One of the biggest challenges I have faced is fending off ageists and being just 30 I have had to shout louder to feel heard. It’s so important to give young people respect and listen to them, which is especially true in the education sector.
“My top tips in business would be to do what you love and love what you do, to know your business, stay confident and surround yourself with the best staff.
“I now have aspirations to raise the profile of the college. Coventry is booming so there is a really good opportunity to make a difference.”
Keely Hancox, Operations Manager of the Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce, said: “It was excellent to hear from such inspirational speakers for our first Women in Business event of 2019.
“All three of them gave delegates an interesting insight into how they have achieved success in their careers and businesses.
“Our women in business network continues to go from strength to strength and we look forward to more inspirational speakers at our next event in April.”