Inspirational Woman: Heather Jackson | CEO of “An Inspirational Journey” & The Two Percent Club

Heather Jackson speaking at the Womens Business ForumHeather Jackson is CEO of An Inspirational Journey and is mother of two children. An Inspirational Journey works to address the imbalance of talent that exists at the top of corporate Britain. It is the only business-led solution seeking to ensure better balanced and more diverse management and executive teams. Delivered as a collaborative series of programmes and activities that aim to fix, drive and challenge the issue.

We caught up with Heather to ask her a few questions on her and her career.

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and what you do currently

I’m a single mum of two teenage children who just happens to be the Founder and CEO of “An Inspirational Journey” – an organisation that through its programmes, events and activities works to address the imbalance of talent that exists at the top of corporate Britain with particular emphasis to the leakages in middle through to executive management.

We aim to ensure the future is one where the best talent can lead, regardless of gender. Currently, the company is working with 52 global organisations and reaching out to over 5000 women in the talent pipeline, and I’m proud to add we’re delivering tangible results on this serious business imperative.

What has been your biggest challenge?

Quite simply living with guilt. To embrace and achieve success in my life, I have had to learn to live with the guilt that being a single, working mother brings with it. To some it will be a familiar pattern – if I’m working on the business I feel guilty that I’m not with the children and then when I’m with them I’m feeling guilty about neglecting the business – and if I dare to take personal time out for myself, I’m hit with a double whammy of guilt, that of neglecting the business and the kids!

To achieve the success I have in such a short period of time, I have had to try and live with the guilt and accept it is part of life and the package I have chosen to create. In order to achieve this, I have had to accept I am not Joan of Arc – I’m making choices every day and have control of my life. To think this way, for me, is the only way I can survive, and to date it seems to be holding up ok!

I’ve made some choices along the way that some may see as sacrifices, but ultimately it always has and will be a challenging task of balancing home life whilst establishing a relatively young business (my organisation is only 4 years old); a business which is now positioned as a global proposition.

I read somewhere recently that life is not about balancing work and life, its more about integration of work and life…and I think this is absolutely right and a much more realistic way of dealing with it whether you are a woman or a man.

I had a choice and control whether to be a working mum or not a working mum

What’s been your greatest achievement personally?

Raising a family and watching my children grow up. Children I not only love, but like too.

I had a choice and control whether to be a working mum or not a working mum, but to be honest the latter was never really a consideration for me. My father, an artist and successful business man, brought me up on the readings of Genghis Khan (be master of your own ship), and it never crossed my mind to not want to be personally, individually financially independent and secure, and never be self-reliant on another.

I also value my role as a mother, something I have never regretted and indeed am grateful for. I never take for granted the fact that I’m very fortunate to have been able to have children in the first place, however I never anticipated the huge strain of responsibility this brings with it – nor the strength of unconditional love and personal achievement I feel every single day.

If you weren’t doing what you do, what would you be doing?

I would most definitely be still running my own strategic marketing consultancy, which is what I was doing before we launched An Inspirational Journey. I love and always have loved strategic thinking, creating, driving forward and implementing activities to deliver results that are often thought unattainable

Basically though, I love what I am doing now, having taken the organisation from concept through to reality, developing an organisation that is really making a difference for the companies, the women and the men we are supporting, is something I am incredibly proud of.

The issue of gender balanced business is something that requires persistence, energy, motivation and clear tangible solutions. This enables us to support, guide and direct more organisations, its men and women, to deliver cultures that allow the best talent to lead regardless of gender, sector region or indeed country. It is something I believe we are close to achieving in the UK but you can’t right a wrong overnight, and patience not platitude is what is required. Of that I have plenty.

For now, I’m professionally fulfilled at being a small part of helping to make a difference to this business imperative. Yet not insignificantly, I am proud to be helping the UK become a world leader in proving that its sustainable proactive solutions are the best way forward in terms of allowing for more women to reach the board, rather than quotas.

Who has been your biggest inspiration?

My children.

They have made me realise that regardless of age and experience they have such enormous resilience and I’m very proud of them for showing me the true meaning of a word that is so often used in leadership talk these days without much thought to what it is.

They lost their 44 year old Dad last year, and over this last 12 months they have shown such maturity and determination and this has brought home an acceptance that I’ve often fought against – that we are what we are, we are where we are and sometime as the phrase goes…when life hands you lemons, accept from it that great lemonade can be made.

Through this, they have taught me to choose my battles to win the war – life is simply too short to try and win every fight that might possibly come your way.

I think through them, I’ve now got a clearer acceptance of life and as a consequence I believe I’m a better person. Not only personally but professionally too as many of these new lessons I’ve learnt, I’ve now applied to my business – and the results are already beginning to show.

The last twelve months have taught me that a future is not guaranteed for anyone personally or professionally

What does the future hold for you?

The last twelve months have taught me that a future is not guaranteed for anyone personally or professionally.

Yet, anyone who has ever known me accepts me as a person, who fills every hour of every day, runs at life at 100 miles an hours and gives 150% effort to everything I ever commit myself to. I always look to solutions rather than problems, and that’s not likely to change.

However, the future for me professionally is one where my energy will be concentrated on building this organisation into one that is not only delivering success in the UK but our events, programmes and activities are being respected and implemented on a global platform.

I’d like to see a future whereby people, of both genders, look back and wonder how or why it was any different. A future where both men and women accept they have choice and control of their lives both personally and professionally, and have the ability to deliver this at a time, and pace that suits themselves and their needs. Where gender equality is the ‘norm’ and the best person is always placed in the right job…regardless of gender.

I would be very proud if my team and I have played a small part in making this happen.

Find out more about An Inspirational Journey here

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