While the First Women Summit has so far had a short history, it has never failed to bring together big names and the issues faced by females in business. This is in large part due to the insight of our First Women Awards finalists who comprise the panellists – and our keynote speakers who deliver memorable speeches. This year, that duty fell upon Gina Miller of SCM Direct and True and Fair Foundation. She did not disappoint.
“There are three things in life we truly own: our voice, action and conscience.” That’s how Gina Miller kick-started her speech – and if ever there was a champion of those words it be her.
Gina Miller is known for a great many things – as a company founder and for her philanthropic endeavours to name a few – but it is her ability to stand up against the status quo that has most positioned her in the lime light. In fact, the reason both SCM Private and the True and Fair Foundation were created was to foster change. The former a company set on boosting transparency in the investment world and the latter hoping to champion charities and instil the values of diversity and inclusivity.
Back then, according to Gina Miller, her efforts were deemed a disgrace – but a childhood love of a comic superhero and supportive family taught her that the ability to stand up to fear and criticism was key.
“When I started, I remember going to a pitch and walking into a room full of men,”she said. “And they said to me – because my previous name was Marlowe – we are waiting for Mr Marlowe. I said, ‘No you’re not; I am here to present to you today.’ ‘But you’re a woman,’ they said, to which I asked if that was a problem?”
Similarly, Miller told the tale of how one male thought her power meant she was a b*tch – and told her as much. Recent events have led to similar criticism. She is part of the legal case against the government, claiming Article 50 could not be invoked without approval from parliament.
Being a self-confessed history buff, Gina Miller stressed there was a period in time where Kings and Queens could demand any person’s head removed from their body. In the case of Henry VIII, while the executions of Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard were carried out under the orders of the court, the court was under the influence of the King. The point? Imagine what could happen if the government didn’t have parliament in its way.
The second point is that despite criticism, Gina Miller does exactly as she advocates. She stands up to fear and fights for what she believes in. More women should do the same. They should give voice to their opinions, not be afraid to take action and let your conscience lead you.
At the same, Gina Miller stressed, we should never forget that our goal is equality – one of the aims of th First Women agenda. “I’m worried sometimes that we’ve gone too far. By equality, we mean an equal chance for both genders.
“Aside from that, life happens. And when anything knocks you down, pick yourself up and carry on. It’s all about attitude.”