IWD 2021: London jewellery entrepreneur Connie Nam on levelling the playing field and spinning plates during lockdown
For International Women’s Day 2021, Bdaily reached out to a range of female business leaders from across our key regions to share how their experience of the pandemic has shaped their passion for gender equality.
Connie Nam is the founder and CEO of London-based jewellery brand Astrid & Miyu. Mum-of-two Connie left her investment banking career in 2012 to set up her challenger online jewellery brand, which has achieved 1000 per cent growth to £10m turnover in three years.
Bdaily spoke with Connie about juggling the responsibilities of business and motherhood, and how she has supported the advancement of women during the pandemic.
As a woman, how have you personally adapted during the pandemic, and what challenges have you faced?
“I think we have all had to adapt in some way or another during this pandemic. We’re programmed to just get on with things so I think with hindsight, when this is all over, we will sit back and realise just how life-changing this experience has been for us all. I think I have had to adapt not just as a woman, but as a mother as well.
“During the first few months of the pandemic, we didn’t have childcare so, like many other women. It was tough, with my husband and me juggling everything between us whilst I was running a business and he was working.
“Luckily, my husband is very supportive and is always on hand and we do share home responsibilities equally – but I know this isn’t the case for everyone and single parents must have a very difficult time juggling home and work life!
“Of course, with the ‘new normal’ the pandemic presented us with, my girls sometimes joined me on business calls, which was a new experience, but I am thankful that the situation has allowed me to spend more time with my family.”
How have you and your business supported women during the past year?
“As a female business owner and founder, supporting women has always been important to me, not just during the pandemic. But after hearing how badly domestic violence had rocketed during the first lockdown, Astrid & Miyu wanted to do something that could really help to make a difference to those affected.
“We donated the proceeds of one of our collections – the Rainbow Collection – to Women’s Aid, directly supporting women and children suffering from domestic abuse which we were so pleased to be able to do.
“During the first lockdown, we also launched our first Business Accelerator Programme where we mentored the founders of three small female-owned businesses, supporting them and offering business advice and coaching.
“This was so successful, we followed it by launching a black-owned business mentorship programme as a way to make a positive impact to the community during the Black Lives Matter movement and beyond.
“This time around, we mentored six female founders and provided grants to support them in the early stages of their business journeys.
“Again, we wanted to do something that would genuinely help and give something back to the black community and, when speaking to those on the programme, we knew we had gone down the right route as so many expressed that business support and opportunities just weren’t as common in their community.
“With 90 per cent of our workforce being female, we have ensured that we have done all that we can this year to support our team through a really tough time. We have revisited various people and culture initiatives to support our mainly female team, with a particular emphasis around mental health during the pandemic.”
What opportunities do you feel that the pandemic has created for women, if any?
“I think we’ve seen a really positive spotlight put on female leadership. International leaders such as Jacinda Ardern who has been praised for her handling of the pandemic in New Zealand and Finland’s Sanna Marin who, at 35, is the world’s youngest prime minister – this is such an accolade for a young female politician in a typically male-dominated environment.
“The empathy and sensitivity shown by female leaders has set a strong foundation for other women in the workplace and has inspired many other women on how they carry themselves at work.
“A recent report released by FutureLearn and YouGov found that thanks to COVID-19 more women have taken up further learning and are now ‘more ambitious’ in their careers than men, something that I think can only be praised.
“I think the pandemic has also allowed us to be more human and have more of an understanding around ‘real life’ issues, such as childcare and seeing people in their home environment whist working from home.”
In your opinion, has the pandemic highlighted any gender imbalances in business?
“I recently read that during lockdown women have been taking on more household duties and childcare responsibilities than their partners, even when both are working.
“Statistics around how women during the pandemic have been impacted are also very worrying and highlight gender inequality in business which, in 2021, really should be a thing of the past.
“Double the number of women aged 25-34 have been made redundant compared to men, one in three working mothers have lost work to cope with the extra unpaid duties at home such as household chores and home schooling and perhaps the worst of all, experts fear the number of working mothers in the UK could fall by as much as 20 per cent.
“As a female business leader and mother to two young daughters, these numbers are shocking and really concern me and highlight that women have been significantly more adversely affected by the pandemic.”
As we step into a post-pandemic business landscape, how do you think women’s roles in business may change?
“I do hope and believe that there will now be more weight given to empathetic leadership, therefore placing more value on what women bring to the table. I think that the role of women in business can be to help lead and influence a positive change to company cultures that might need revisiting in a post-pandemic world.
“Women can take on that more empathic role and help to challenge and develop behaviours around company culture to support their team.
“Irrespective of title and position, a good, forward-thinking, inclusive business will welcome the thoughts and feelings of all colleagues in collaboration to better company cultures and values.
“The last year has been tough for everyone, with people from all walks of life affected by the pandemic. People have had to fight to keep their jobs and businesses running, with so many impacted because of lockdown restrictions.
“We’ve had to deal with juggling home and work life, particularly homeschooling along with trying to keep our families fit and healthy and maintain our relationships with loved ones from afar.
“Mental health has been a big talking point and, with all of this going on, it’s only fitting that we welcome a more kind and caring approach to one another in business, that can be championed by our female business leaders, to guide us out of this.”
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