We had the honour of interviewing the incredible and incredibly inspiring Fiona Tatton, founder and editor of Womanthology, a digital magazine and community for working women to get involved and inspired. We check in to see how Womanthology has been doing (and growing) since we first featured them in our So you wanna be startin’ something Issue on 27 March 2014. How time flies!
Wow it’s now been a year and a half (almost to the day!) since you launched Womanthology. Tell us what Womanthology has been up to in that time?
Lovely to be speaking to you again. Thank you for having me back. Well, it’s been a bit of a whirlwind since then. Starting Womanthology has been a totally life changing experience that has literally introduced me to a whole new world of experiences and friendships. I began producing the magazine alongside working full-time. I’d grab time during the evenings and at weekends and it worked really well, but then as momentum gathered I found myself inundated with individuals and organisations who want to get involved and support to the point where it’s now the main focus of my time.
When I started I’d never put a magazine together before, never conducted an interview, never even used Twitter. All of a sudden I had to learn so many new skills and jump right out of my comfort zone, but there’s nothing that makes me more proud than to look back at what I’ve achieved since then. Womanthology has been a way for me to learn new work and life skills that no-one else would ever have given me the chance to try. What better way to supercharge your career than by becoming your own boss and creating your own vision and brand from the ground up? Yes, it made me uncomfortable at times, but how else do you learn? It’s like the Einstein quote:
“Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.”
Womanthology has taken me to all manner of exciting places – I was invited over to Dubai last November to meet the women behind Ro’Ya – a scheme meaning ‘vision’ in Arabic that supports early stage female entrepreneurs in the United Arab Emirates. I also interviewed a range of amazing expats and Emirati businesswomen. I’ve never travelled overseas on my own before and I was secretly terrified, but it was totally exhilarating to visit a new country a stranger and come away with a whole new set of lovely friends. I can’t wait to go back one day.
In March it was Womanthology’s first birthday and our first major event, which was very special for me. Lots of the interaction with contributors is over phone and email so it made me incredibly proud to be able to meet so many of our amazing contributors and supporters in person for the first time.
When we first interviewed you, Womanthology was all about being the best version of yourself. Reading all the amazing interviews this really comes through in the tone and the contributors. How have you managed to find interviewees and contributors who represent and live the Womanthology brand?
One of the foundations of everything I’ve been doing is the belief that there is categorically no shortage of incredible women – they are all around us every day. I’m constantly looking for new ideas of people to speak to, but fortunately I’ve never struggled to find incredible kick-ass female contributors, regardless of what sector they work in. Because so many of these women are so modest and unassuming, they can be surprised at the approach though as they’ve often never appeared in the press before. I work closely with all contributors to ensure they are comfortable with the interview process and they know what to expect.
One of the things I love most is when I read about someone doing something particularly new or exciting, often across the other side of the world and I’m able to contact them, usually via a quick e-mail, explain what I’m doing and why, and they agree to take part to challenge traditional perceptions and break down outdated stereotypes. So by creating my own magazine that has its own unique brand and personality, I’m able to share in the individuality of all my contributors to inspire other women to live their own potential by following their dreams.
Part of the brand is also about working alongside supportive men to spread the word. I’ve been so fortunate to speak to so many male contributors who want to make things better for their partners, or daughters, or just women in general. It’s not about women versus men in the workplace or about women having to act more like men in order to progress in their careers, it’s about working together on a fair basis in order to get things done in the best way possible by utilising the broadest pool of talent.
You’ve now featured so many amazing men and women. Who has been the most memorable or inspiring contributor so far?
I can honestly say that I’ve learnt so much from so many contributors that I couldn’t set any one person apart. I used to have a rather narrow and stereotyped view of ‘wisdom’ – that it came from people older than me who had more life experience. In actual fact I’ve learnt that you can find wisdom is all kinds of unexpected places. I feel very privileged that so many contributors are prepared to take the time to open up, share their stories and ideas in order to help create somewhere for women to read about them and hopefully discover their own professional passion.
You start each issue with an editorial about lessons you’ve learnt. I love the editorials as they are always so insightful. What’s been the standout lesson from your Womanthology journey? And the standout moment?
That’s a very kind thing to say. I’m never sure if anyone is reading them, even though they’re there! There have been so many things I’ve learnt that I feel like I’ve evolved into a whole new person. Most importantly I’ve learnt that if you can find something that you love to do, that sets your soul on fire with a passion to make the world better, then that is your calling and you should do everything you can to spend as much time as possible working on that. Too many people either haven’t found their professional passion or they are trapped in roles that don’t make their heart sing. Obviously we all have to make a living as best we can, so it’s a case of trying your hardest to follow your dream once you have found it. Part of living your dream is having the confidence to do it by being yourself.
My standout moment was when I went in to 10 Downing Street. I’d been invited to discuss the work I’d done to set up Womanthology and it was at that moment that it hit me that we all have it in us to do something incredible. It doesn’t matter who you are are, or what your background – if you have a dream you should go all in to follow it as you never know how far it will take you. I set up Womanthology from my kitchen table and it has taken me all kinds of wonderful places. If I can create something so special from nothing, so can anyone else.
One of the issues that Womanthology seeks to tackle is gender diversity and the female pipeline. Having interviewed so many incredible and influential women, have you got any insights or tips on how to tackle these issues?
I don’t claim to have all the answers (although I wish I did!) but I think one of the keys is to enable a culture where staff (women and men) can have full and frank conversations about their hopes, aspirations and also, crucially, their fears. How many of us feel like we can be truly open and transparent with our employers? If organisations want to retain the brightest and the best talent then it’s a case of listening more than they talk. The most forward thinking organisations are tapped into what their employees are thinking and feeling, they are trusting and empowering them to act like grown ups and ensuring they have the right resources to get the job done, often in non-traditional ways that are outcomes driven.
Womanthology now has over 5,000 followers on Twitter and a real community behind it. What would be your advice for others looking to start something / try something new and build a community and following?
I’d say that it’s vital to know what your brand is all about and don’t let anyone else try to steer you away from this. Be true to what you believe in and ensure you communicate this in everything that you do. If your community understands what you stand for and it resonates with them, they will stick with you. I’d also say that you should keep coming up with new ideas as imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but if you keep innovating you’re always one step ahead of the competition. Your best resource is you and your imagination. Keep moving forward.
I’d also say to surround yourself with the very best people who share your values and ideals. There is nothing you can’t achieve if you build the right team who you can rely on and who will never let you down.
Give us a sneaky peak into your plans for Womanthology and for yourself over the next year.
I can’t say too much, but the magazine is growing so fast now it’s a case of trying to grow whilst staying true to our original values and constantly improve the content so people want to keep reading and sharing. It’s going to be a busy one. I’m working on a number of exciting projects to grow the brand and our reach by partnering with others to increase opportunities for women in the workplace. Watch this space and we’ll do our best to keep bringing you more of the best new ideas in our own unique style.