Backwards and in high heels - a woman in a businessman’s world.
Chantell Ilbury - best-selling business author, renowned scenario strategist and speaker - guides the strategic conversations of executive teams (still almost exclusively male) around the world, and it has given her surprising - some would say controversial - opinions on women in business.
In this talk Chantell speaks candidly about steering the strategic decisions of executive teams - still almost exclusively male; dealing with physical threat, controversy and reputational risk; and the dangers of a woman travelling the world alone; and she also provides refreshing perspectives on entrepreneurism, balancing the demands of family and business, and on women in the corporate working environment.
In her latest book A Fox’s Tale: Insights from one of Africa’s most creative strategic thinkers, Chantell says, ‘I don’t think women should “be empowered”. The term suggests a helping hand, as if women should be “allowed” to do what they want to do, or that they be given an opportunity while others stand aside. That’s not an opportunity, that’s getting a hand up. An opportunity isn’t presented on a plate. An opportunity is something seen that others miss – or created where others see obstruction – and then seized upon while those others stand back in wonder. Foxes look around for opportunities; hedgehogs follow a path to its end point.’
A Fox’s Tale is also a story of heartache and loss, hard lessons learned and bequeathed to her children.
In the talk Chantell will also touch on:
- How she approaches the fact that she is a woman entrusted to steer the strategic thinking of still almost-exclusively male executive teams
- Some of the challenges of being a woman travelling the world alone on business.
- If woman shouldn’t ‘be empowered’, how can they make their mark in the world of business?
- How women in business should develop their leadership potential.
- The importance of partnerships.
- Some the more bizarre things that have happened to her.
- Balancing family and business life.
- Dealing with tragedy and loss.
It is a talk loaded with strategic insight, but also rich with humour and entertaining anecdotes; such as when she had to walk a stretch of the Gautrain track during a heatwave, wearing high heels: ‘I finally staggered into the French ambassador’s residence just before the session I was to facilitate was due to start, looking utterly bedraggled: hair matted and plastered to my brow, silk blouse stuck to my skin, and feet bleeding and blistered. I took a moment to catch a breath, pulled myself together, tucked my damp hair behind my ears, put my shoes back on, and started facilitating.’ And when her career as a speaker almost crashed before it took off: ‘As I moved towards the lectern I stumbled, missed the edge of the stage, and before I knew it, I was over the side… After embarrassed apologies, and assurances that I was alright, I got up, adjusted myself, stepped back up to the lectern and presented my talk. I don’t remember if it was any good, although I was assured it was. Whenever I think back to that occasion it evokes that famous Elizabeth Taylor memo to womanly stoicism: ‘Pour yourself a drink, put on some lipstick and pull yourself together’.