Tamara Littleton, founder of social media agency eModeration, on why quotas are a bad idea and why all women should write a business plan.
1. Which businesswoman do you most admire and why?
Sheryl Sandberg [Facebook's COO]. She talks a lot about the importance of keeping women in the workforce. If you run a business, and you don’t keep women in the workforce, you’re losing half your talent. Sandberg also makes the point that women continually underestimate their own worth, and we have to believe in – and value – our own abilities if we are to succeed in business.
2. How do you juggle the work/life balance?
I think the work/life balance is giving way to the work/life merge. It’s getting harder and harder to separate business and home life, particularly in a social media world. My team are all connected on social media, and I see that as a positive thing – we know each other in and out of work. I’m very driven by my business, and I’m lucky that I do something I really love. But everyone needs some down time. Doing something that’s completely outside work helps you relax. I sing in a choir, which is a great way of taking time out.
3. Biggest career setback and what you learned from it?
I fell off a ladder and broke my right wrist and left elbow, and got made redundant as I couldn’t work. Legalities aside, it was the best thing that ever happened to me – I started work at the BBC shortly afterwards which is what led me to set up eModeration.
Very early on in my career, I got fired from a job at an IT company after three months. They said I hadn’t met my objectives, and then produced a list of objectives that I’d never seen before. That taught me that clarity is very important!
4. What makes you mad in business today?
Businesses that don’t look after their employees. A business has a responsibility to its employees. It makes business sense, too: happy employees create a much more creative, positive and dynamic company.
5. Boardroom quotas: necessary or nuts?
I wouldn’t go as far as to say boardroom quotas are nuts, but I don’t think they’re a great idea. They can cause resentment. I’d prefer to see targets in business, rather than quotas. I’d like to think that we can get more women on boards by creating a work environment that sees women staying in the workforce, and educating women to raise their voices so that men don’t overlook their talent.
6. Your one tip on negotiating a pay rise?
Ask! You’d be amazed how many women don’t. Believe in your own ability, and show why you’re worth it. I used to have a reputation for asking for a pay rise every time I did something good. Sometimes it worked.
7. Where do you see yourself in five years?
Definitely still running a company, possibly running several. I’ve just started a new business, doing social media simulations, called Polpeo and that’s got ambitious growth plans. I love work too much to give it up.
8. Your advice to young women starting their careers?
Write a business plan. Even if you don’t need it for investment, it will focus your mind on what you need to do. Ask for help – you can’t possibly do everything yourself. And finally, grab every opportunity you can. It might lead you to something amazing.
Tamara Littleton, boss of eModeration, was shortlisted in last year's First Women Awards. We're on the hunt for this year's inspirational, trailblazing women. To enter – or nominate someone else – email firstname.lastname@example.org or apply here. Entry deadline: Friday April 4, 2014.