Inspirational Woman: Caroline Strachan | Co-Founder, Women At Work

Caroline StrachanCaroline is the co-founder of Women at Work, an exclusive support group for women balancing family and work life. 

With over 2,500 members, Women At Work aims to help women reach their highest potential by being part of a supportive network from a community of supportive women, wherever they work.

With over 30 years working in travel related industries and in leadership roles for companies such as American Express, Cisco, Yahoo & AstraZeneca.  She has also held several not for profit roles such as Chairman of industry associations, the Institute of Travel Management and the Global Business Travel Association.  Caroline has received a number of awards in recognition of her services to industry.  Most recently these include IBM iX Everywoman Entrepreneur of the Year 2018 for multiplying the company’s revenue by more than seven times and expanding its operations from the UK and France to Scandinavia, Germany, the US and Australia, as well as Business Travel News Top 25 most influential people 2018.

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

I’ve worked in the Travel Industry for 30 years, generally moving every 3-5yrs, I don’t do keep-it-ticking-along type jobs.  I stepped away from corporate life 4yrs ago, I just couldn’t find a way to make my career and family work. Together with an amazing business partner we launched a consulting firm that allowed us complete calendar control with the ability to still use our curious and driven minds.  Looking into 2020 we now operate in 7 countries and have grown the business x10.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

No. I didn’t realise I needed a plan or even had the potential until my mid-30s.  The day an amazing leader asked me, only 6mths into my then current job, so what next?  She helped me see you should always have an answer to that question.

Have you faced any challenges along the way?

Many. In my 20s I was too optimistic, in my 30’s I lacked resilience and now in my 40’s I’m constantly aware of how my high standards affect those around me, you could say I’m a constant work in progress.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

I like to record an achievement a year, I’ve received a number of awards which are all appreciated but for this year it was delivering my first TED talk; “Why gender equality is not just about women” The prep was huge, but so worthwhile, I’d encourage anyone considering it to just do it.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?

Taking ownership of my confidence and capability.

How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?

Mentoring has been a critical part of my career, both as a giver and receiver. I started to wonder how I could make mentoring a broader, every day part of my life.  Two friends and I started Women at Work which now has 3,000+ women supporting each other in a hive mind setting. Every day mentoring realised.

If you could change one thing to accelerate the pace of change for Gender Equality, what would it be?

All companies to offer equal maternity/paternity leave. I truly believe if it could be a man or a woman leaving the workplace to be with their family, the “I can’t promote her as she’ll just leave to have babies” will reduce significantly.

If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self what would it be?

You are better than you think and you WILL make it happen

What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?

My next challenge is to not take on a next challenge!  Quite seriously, there has always been the next big thing, the volunteer effort, the next market launch.  In 2020 I need to focus on me and sort my house renovations.  (Please don’t come back and ask me what happened as I will most likely have dreamt up another challenge!)

How do you balance work and family life?

I am maniacally focused on creating time. I outsource everything admin, cleaning, gardening and we have an amazing nanny who has been with us for 5+ years. I aim to be 100% present in whatever I’m doing.  If I’m at work I’m 100% at work, if I’m with my children I’m 100% with my children etc

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