picture of Jenny GarrettJenny Garrett is more than happy to talk about her experiences coaching young women, signing off her email “warm wishes” and sounding bright and friendly on the phone that afternoon. She starts discussing what prompted her book, ‘Rocking Your Role’ published June 2012, and what she wanted to achieve by writing it.

“I read an article by Rebecca Meisenbach, which looked at females as the main earners in a family. So I asked female breadwinners on social media how they felt. One said that her three years as the main earner were dark days. So I did my own research, and ended up with the stories of 10 women. I had too much information for just an article, so I decided to write a book, combining my coaching experience and their stories. The aim was to guide, help and give hope to women.”

“It was really well received. Within a week of publishing I was on BBC Women’s Hour, then giving interviews in Australia and America! It’s been 3 years now and it just keeps growing. My family and I have just been filmed for a documentary about stay at home dads called ‘The Big Flip – Stories from the Modern Home Front’ by a guy in San Francisco. It’s phenomenal, when I wrote the book 1/5 of families had a female breadwinner, now it’s up to 1/3.”

Her book and the associated site rockingyourrole.com offers mentoring and resources on how to grow in confidence and overcome difficulties. I asked her why she thinks mentoring and nurturing is so important for female empowerment?

They just need to know it can be done. See someone successful then picture themselves walking in their shoes. In sport, someone breaks a record only for someone else to then beat it, because they know it’s possible. You can achieve more than you thought. In the corporate world, having both male and female mentors is so important. They can be a spring board, a friend, or just someone to tell you this is what you need to do. They provide shortcuts, and critical thinking in a safe space.”

Garret laughs as I ask “if you could be mentored by anyone, part or present, who would it be?”

“What a great question! Oprah, because she managed to go from nothing to achieve so much, but still remain a giver. She’s still a great philanthropist who shows so much personal development.

Ghandi, because I want to be a better person! He’s calm, forgiving, kind, and gives out love. I try, I’m imperfect, but I’m trying to work on that.

I recently heard Tanni Grey-Thompson speak and the sports person mind-set is amazing; work hard, always be on your A game, and keep learning. So her as well.”

On the subject of mentoring, Jenny Garret’s coaches young women through the ‘Happenista Project’ in using technology and social media. I ask why she thinks this is imperative for women to create their own success?

It’s brilliant, the things my girls are doing is fantastic. It’s all about shortcuts. Sometimes you get stuck in a job you’re good at because the company wants to keep you there, and can’t see you doing anything else. Women get disillusioned, and either go to another company or quit altogether so the organisation loses knowledge and experience. This is about going out and getting recognised. Blogging or tweeting can get you external recognition. It’s a great way to get noticed, helps to increase your profile, proves that you know stuff and you’re an expert in your field. It creates a personal brand across everything you do, so people can look at your feed and know what you’re about, where you fit within your industry. Young women can jump from unknown to successful.”

Garrett has published many articles on Linkedin Pulse, amassing 3,144 followers. Her article “Want to Live Life Without Limits – Here’s how” gives insight on what is the best way to challenge limiting beliefs.

“A limiting belief is something you think you’re not good at. I was the person at the back of the race at school, panting, coming next to last. I’ve always told myself “I don’t run” but now I’m about to run a half marathon. You have to start telling yourself “I’m a runner”. You have to dispute it, just argue with yourself! Get moving. Change your habit, and disrupt your thinking. Just changing the order or doing the opposite disrupts your thinking. It’s more than a change in perspective, but in habits.”

I enquire what limiting beliefs she has overcome in order to be successful, to which she exclaims “Oh loads!”

“I never thought I would be able to speak in front of groups of people, now I do it regularly! I thought I wasn’t a business person, I worked for organisations but I didn’t want to run my own business. I challenge myself regularly. The Happenista Project gives weekly challenges, and I’m not the kind of person to say to others “You should do this” without making sure I’m trying it too! Even if I’m grumpy in the process, I’m learning.”

The Happenista Project gives Garrett the opportunity to coach young women and make an impact on their path to success. She changes lives on a daily basis, but I ask if she was elected to the Cabinet Office, what 3 things would she immediately change? She takes her time to think before answering, while we muse that with such power comes some pressure!

“I’d give everyone a month off a year, paid. The biggest dilemma in the UK always seems to be work life balance. [For a month] you’d get no emails because nobody would be working! And no school for kids. Everyone deserves a month off, so I’d give the gift of time.

I would get rid of all paid education, including private schools and university fees. Education is so valuable, but it’s become so exam focused instead of being about learning and enjoying it.

Also I would create quotas. If we want change in this issue [of equal representation] we have to make it happen. People say they hire Black Asian and Ethnic Minority employees based on merit, but the merit has always been there, it’s just being overlooked. Quotas would make people see the value of people around them.”

When I ask her what she would implement on a company level to encourage women in the workplace, she needs no time to ponder before explaining her views.

So much can and needs to be done. To stop discrimination, I’d have all meetings and networking in the day, no breakfast or evening meetings. Some people can’t effectively network in the evening or go to the pub to carry on if they’ve got children to pick up.

I’d manage meetings differently too, so it’s not only the loudest people that get recognition. Everyone would come prepared with talking points submitted in advance so there is no pressure to get your opinions heard.

Across the board mentoring would be a requirement, and I would mix male and female mentors because they have such different ways of thinking. I mean some high up women are navigating in the dark! Mentors would help solve that.”

Perceived ideas of women surrounding maternity leave is still an issue at the forefront of the fight for female breadwinners. I mention the recent Shared Parental Leave legislation that has recently been introduced.

“Parental leave is interesting, and needs to become less about women and more about families. I used to work for an organisation who demanded being present when I talked about working from home. I’d work on the culture around that. Someone said to me, “Are people really working when they’re working from home? Surely they’re putting on the washing?” It was shocking! I believe people are productive at home, when they don’t have to spend hours commuting and know it means more time for their family. It should be outcome focused, not office focused. How or where the outcome comes from doesn’t matter.”

We end the interview simply, on the question “What advice would you give to a young individual about how to overcome bias, and be successful?” Jenny Garrett’s response is instant.

“Networking is crucial, make friends. Work is just people and relationships, so let them know when you’re grateful and strengthen those relationships. Don’t underestimate the power of friends.”