National Achievers Congress at the Excel Centre in London. It was my first sales/entrepreneur conference and unlike any experience I have had before. I walked in when world-famous life and business coach Tony Robbins had already been speaking for an hour to the 10,000-strong audience, who had their arms in the air, waving to music, as though it were a rock concert. Surreal.
His session, which lasted four hours non-stop contained nothing more than common sense motivation and management advice (“Nothing achieves success greater than the pattern of success,” and other such gems of wisdom). And yet – there was a magic in the way he held the crowd and triggered so much flow of energy. I was in awe. A lesson for all of us; how to be influential, how to lead, how to be followed.
I nearly didn’t go the conference. Several months ago, I bought a ticket, late one night, after a friend persuaded me. It was only afterwards that I looked at the website and scrolled down in horror. Every single speaker in the line-up was a man.
What was this; a three-day national conference calling itself inspirational and motivational with a total of zero female role models? What kind of message is this sending out? That women need not to aspire to reach the top because they’re not wanted?
Men dominate the business world and are twice as likely to start a business as women. The barriers stopping women are external (other people’s expectations, preference for the status quo), practical (women still overwhelmingly taking on the child and home care role) and internal (external factors feed back and affect women’s confidence and risk taking levels) – all reinforcing the 'negativity' that halts success and that Tony Robbins is so keen for us all to dispel.
Role models can therefore help a great deal in instigating change. Nothing achieves success greater than the pattern of success.
I spent the day, in between sessions, talking to members of the organising team and asking them why there were no female speakers. Some interesting reactions. All very friendly and helpful (not always the reaction I get to pleas for equality); several scratched their heads and thought for a moment. “Oh yes, you’re right. It hadn’t occurred to me, but now you say it, yes, err...it’s something we should really change.”
I didn’t find the main organiser – the man who apparently has all the power in selecting speakers – but I shall be writing to him and sending him a link to this blog. I might find him today, the last day of the conference. I need to know that next year they will make an effort to draw in some high-profile women. I will report back; watch this space.