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Female Entrepreneurs of the Future: Stop Comparing, Start Doing Your Own Thing

by Natascha Zeljko

Learn from the best. Judith Williams, investor and successful business woman, reveals her personal guidelines for newcomers. This year she also took up the position as a patroness of Amazon’s "Female Entrepreneurs Of The Future"-program

You are a busy entrepreneur, mother of two, and are involved in various foundations. In other words, it doesn’t sound as if you are bored. What was your motivation for getting involved with Female Entrepreneurs Of The Future?

We actually have four children, my husband brought two with him. I don’t want to leave the two boys out, they are very important to me. But indeed, I can’t complain about boredom. I want to get involved, fill my life with something meaningful. Women’s issues are particularly close to my heart which is why the Female Entrepreneurs program immediately appealed to me. I have always waited for a topic, an initiative that conveys a modern image of women. We in Germany have a lot of catching up to do here. This inviolable role of the mother is one of the main reasons why women stop working and don’t become self-employed. Because there is still this either/or – either job or motherhood. What annoys me is this incredible double standard. We banish women to private life and tell them, “Now you’re a good mama,” and then they’re stuck in old-age poverty. Part-time is a disaster – the women become poor and can’t maintain their standard of living. We lock up half the intelligence of our population simply by playing the moral apostle. On the other hand, childlessness is women’s response to the incompatibility of career and occupation.

What needs to change?

We must invest in good childcare and make fathers responsible. The compatibility of child and job is unfortunately still very often a purely women’s issue. And this has an impact on the overall corporate climate: only eight percent of all startups are founded by women. The figure for mixed teams is 30%. And that’s a shame, because mixed teams are more successful. Especially for digital change we urgently need the emotional intelligence of women. And these women need courage, they need role models and other women who support them morally, those who tell and exemplify that it is allowed to work and to have children. And it’s okay to be in the front row, to make demands, to step on the gas.

“For digital change we urgently need the emotional intelligence of women.”

You have an unusual career behind you: you were an opera singer, today you are an entrepreneur and investor.  What do these two lives have in common? What did you take from your first career to the second?

I think it’s above all the ability to deal with challenges. And that’s something we basically need in this time. No matter which industry you come from, we will experience multi-faceted change. It will depend on the inner attitude with which you approach change. Since there was no constant in my life, I had to accept change as a constant and make change my best friend. That is something for which I am infinitely grateful. This experience was mindopening.

As an artist and entrepreneur, you go through highs and lows. What are your crisis management strategies?

It’s easy to say to pick yourself up when you fall down, but what really matters in life is staying in motion and to finally stop constantly comparing yourself with others. The comparison always makes you unhappy and stops the positive emotion of creating. Picasso did not compare himself either, he simply painted. And if you don’t know where to start at all, it helps to start with very banal things. For example, going to the gym. The main thing is to start, to get into motion. The main thing is to do something. By the way, I don’t think sitting at home unemployed is an option. I’d rather take a job that may not be 100 percent suitable, but at least gets you back into action.

“What really matters in life is staying in motion and to finally stop constantly comparing yourself with others.”

Did you have role models?

My parents and grandparents. And my family altogether. My great-great-great-great grandparents immigrated from England to America with the Mayflower. This pioneering spirit runs through our whole family history like a red thread. Everything we have, we have created ourselves. And personal responsibility has always been important, that is part of the mentality of our family. My father always said that as Americans we are guests here in Germany, we must be an enrichment for the country. I grew up with this mindset. And I added the rest in a positive way, so to speak.

We don’t have enough women entrepreneurs. How do you motivate women to found businesses?

Role models are very important. At the time when I started my own business, there were few role models. Maybe there were women who married an important man and when he passed away, inherited the company. But that wasn’t my way. We need many, many role models, big and small. That can also be a small company, but the main thing is that women become visible at work and in the company. There is still room for improvement.

“Once they start to deal with a topic and say to themselves, “I dare to do that,” women take off and it’s incredible.”

If you look at the finalists from the “Female Entrepreneurs Of The Future”-program, what impressed you the most?

The complexity of their business models and how casually they deal with digital media. My experience with women is that once they start to deal with a topic and say to themselves, “I dare to do that,” they take off and it’s incredible. Then you have an armada of high-speed female movers and shakers in front of you. It’s so great! And women are also so modest and uncomplicated, which is why I like working with them so much.

Your tip for women entrepreneurs of the future?

Courage, courage, courage! Don’t be afraid of making mistakes. Mistakes are completely normal and valuable, because only so one learns. Do not try to create everything at once, but set yourself small goals until you notice that they can be a little bigger. And pause every day for a moment, take a deep breath and say to yourself, “Well done.”

 

For the second time, “Female Entrepreneurs of the Future”, the joint initiative of The Association of German Women Entrepreneurs, Global Digital Women, BRIGITTE Academy and Amazon, is supporting the owners and managers of those companies that would like to expand their stationary businesses by launching online trading, or by expanding their existing online presence. The core of the program would be individual attention for all participants by expert coaches – all of them who are experienced company founders, e-commerce experts, Amazon retailers or bloggers.

Find more information about „Female Entrepreneurs of the Future”

An overview of all the coaches are available here

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