Inspirational Woman: Deborah Williams | Founder, The Women’s Association

Deborah Williams

I’m 29 years old, a mum and a wife. I recently completed 2 masters, one is a Master’s in Business Administration and the other an MA in Gender & Women’s Studies.

I discovered a burdening passion to help advance the conversation of gender equality in 2014 during my first degree. This passion was unlike anything I’d experienced before, it was one that I couldn’t overlook.

In 2014 I was awakened by the realisation that being a woman in the corporate world comes with many challenges. This realisation came when I embarked on a journey of discovery for my dissertation which explored the stories of women in leadership positions across a variety of industries. Once I was aware, I struggled to sit back and do nothing. This led to the first of many efforts to try and create change.

In 2018 I decided to create a company that works to change systems, cultures and mindsets that make women and girls feel like we have to be anything other than their authentic selves at work and in the wider world. That company is called The Women’s Association. My hope is that we can create a transformative and supportive network that ensures that women and girls have the ability to turn their dreams into a reality without their gender being a barrier.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

At age 14 I planned a career with the limited knowledge I had at the time, but it is very different to what I am doing now. My idea of a career was very limited, I saw a career as being either a banker, engineer, lawyer, accountant or doctor. In my mind a career was not something you enjoyed doing or was passionate about, it was simply about bringing in money.

Have you faced any challenges along the way?

My greatest challenge was with myself. For a long time, I allowed myself to believe that I was not good enough and I had to “fake it till I made it”. Because of that mindset, I never really focused on developing myself and growing. I was too busy trying to be what I thought the world expected of me as a woman instead of working on being myself. I got to a place where I was completely lost in the facades I had created. So, I had to start over, learning how to be vulnerable with myself and eventually with others. I’m not fully where I would like to be yet but I’m a lot closer to the idea than I was before.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

Being a mum. It took me deeper into myself and gave me a whole new appreciation for life, love and passion.

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

Being comfortable within myself. When I started to feel comfortable being myself, I started to make real, authentic connections that helped propel The Women’s Association but most of all made me happier.

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

I think it can be a great experience when both parties have clear expectations and are consistent and committed. I have mentored girls but haven’t had a formal mentor myself.

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

If I could change one thing to accelerate the pace of gender equality it would be bringing vulnerability to the corporate world. If people were more comfortable with being vulnerable in the corporate world I feel like they would put the needs of others above their own feelings of discomfort when it comes to embracing change.

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

Don’t focus so much on things you cannot control but be intentional with the decisions you make and paths you take.

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

Making 4000 women visible through the ‘For The Woman’ campaign and impacting 400 girls through The Executive Challenge. I am interested in creating an association that supports and empowers women whilst creating systemic and sustainable progression towards Gender Equality.

WeAreTheCity has a back catalogue of thousands of Inspirational Woman interviews, including Cherie Blair, Paula Radcliffe MBE, Caprice Bourret, Anna Williamson and many more. You can read about all our amazing women here

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