Fay Sharpe is a founding shareholder of the leading events agency Zibrant. Creating and sourcing global brands, strategic meetings and inspirational venues, the team bring together clients, business and people to push the boundaries of the event industry. As a champion of setting goals throughout your life, and at board-level in her company, Fay is a truly inspiring woman. So, for International Woman's Day, we caught up with her to find out what the day means to her, how she aims to empower women in the events industry and who her female role models are.
What does International Women's Day mean to you?
For me, it is a day to celebrate all of the fantastic achievements women have made; not only in the workplace, but in the sports, government and charity sectors too, and not to mention in their personal lives as well. It is a day that unites countries across the globe with one agenda – to recognise what women bring to the table.
You are a great champion and figurehead of women in business, especially through founding the Fast Forward 15 scheme. Can you explain to us a bit about this and how it aims to help and empower women?
I started Fast Forward 15 as I felt there was a need to help women in the hospitality sector. Despite the sector being made up of 75% female, at board-level the number vastly reduces, with men very much ruling the boardroom.
Fay and Zibrant place emphasis on flexible working
Even at the outset of my career, my personal goal was to set up and run my own company. I have succeeded in this goal; however, it has taken steel, confidence and a lot of balancing of my family life. One premise I have always had within Zibrant is to build a culture that encourages and champions the progression and advancement of women up the ranks. I strived to create a company which places an emphasis on flexible working hours and work-life balance, and, in addition, have a board made up of 50% females. Subsequently, we’ve received accolades such as The Times Top 50 companies for women to work for, so I felt it was time for me to pass on my learnings to the future leaders of our industry.
Fast Forward 15 offers women the opportunity to be mentored, encouraged and advised by industry experts, as well as becoming part of a wider community of successful women supporters. The 12-month scheme is a not-for-profit initiative, giving access to and insight from some of the leaders in the business of hospitality who are willing to share their knowledge and experience with our stars of the future. We are now taking in our third year of mentees and it’s abundantly clear that the structured program has developed confidence and skills, as well as widening networks and creating some very solid bonds between the mentees.
What do you think about the gender pay gap within the events industry?
Zibrant was one of the first organisations in the events sector to sign up to the government's 'Think, Act, Report' initiative. The report provides a framework to help companies think about gender equality in the workplace, particularly in relation to recruitment, retention, promotion and pay. I am ardent that people should be remunerated on their merits and abilities, not on their gender.
"I am ardent that people should be remunerated on their merits and abilities, not on their gender."
In your early career, you were very clear about your goals for your future career, and you managed to achieve them. What is your advice for others starting out? How can they achieve their goals?
I am a firm believer that individuals need to set goals throughout their life; it’s something that I have always practiced and really is the biggest lesson that I can pass onto anyone.
It is critical that goals shouldn’t only be work-related but should also reach into your personal life; be it to buy a house, get the guy or run a marathon.
Whether you reach, exceed or smash your goal, it is important to celebrate the milestone that you have achieved. However, never rest on your laurels! Set ‘reboot’ and commit to your next goals.
This structured way of striving for the next level of success has paid dividends for me and is something that we instill in the aforementioned mentoring programme, Fast Forward 15.
"Without a doubt, it is also the unsung heroes that I admire."
Which women do you admire and why?
My mother remains one of the biggest influences on me. At 98, she retains all of her faculties, wit and strength of character - even after losing my father over 40 years ago and bringing up 4 livewire daughters.
Without a doubt, it is also the unsung heroes that I admire. For example, only the other day I learned of a long-standing client who had gifted her kidney to her best friend. I am motivated, inspired and humbled on a daily basis by my peers.
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