How Edwina Dunn Founded The Female Lead to Make Female Role Models More Visible
At Pantee, everything we do is in the name of comfort, not just in terms of the physical comfort our products provide, but to make the world a more comfortable place for us all to live in.
We’re constantly inspired by the amazing work that so many people do every day to tackle the things that bring them the most discomfort. Whether it’s fighting against unachievable body standards, stigmas surrounding health and mental health, or standing up for this planet we call home, we’ve started the [dis]comfort chronicles to share these inspirational stories of change.
This week, we’re sharing some insights from the ever-inspiring Edwina Dunn, founder of The Female Lead.
What [dis]comfort drove you to launch The Female Lead?
“I did work in a male dominated world - the world of Grocery & Retail. The boardrooms around the world were male. I think they still are pretty skewed. These were and are the decision-makers for millions of consumers (80% women). I had a great career and learned much from these leaders but when I sold my business and looked to the future, I wanted to help raise the profile of women. Hence, The Female Lead.
The women who were held up as role models/talked about in schoolrooms around the world were famous but long-dead. Women like Ada Lovelace, Marie Curie and Florence Nightingale.
I wanted to breathe life into the stories of living women who are shaping the world around them. There are so many.
Truth is often more incredible than fiction. These women’s stories are amazing and inspiring and not just about money and power but about creativity, performance and humanitarian endeavour.
I know that (to a large extent) “You can’t be what you can’t see”. The Female Lead, my educational foundation and charity gifts 18,000 of these stories (books and films) together with teaching materials to schools and universities in UK & USA. We now have a following of over 4 million on social media.
Who, what or where makes your feel most comfortable?
My home is truly my anchor and joy. I don’t crave travel beyond a holiday as I did a lot throughout my career. Comfortable is being with friends and family around a table or in the garden.
What's the most uncomfortable career moment you've ever had?
Oh, I’ve had many. I believe that a company is always either stagnant or growing. Although for me ‘growing’ is the best kind of change, it’s still really demanding. If you make mistakes and hire the wrong people, you feel bad; it's personal. At one stage, my business was growing at 100% a year and that stretches every fibre of your physical and mental strength. You don’t always notice that you’re doing well because it's just exhausting. Success can be exhausting. You have to learn to stop and celebrate every now and again. And when you make a mistake, you have to forgive yourself for being human.
What does defining your comfort zone look like to you, at this stage in your career?
This is a great question. Defining my sense of fulfilment (which for me is my comfort zone) is to focus on what I believe in, not what others value me for. It’s so easy for others to tempt you to get involved in work that is important to them, even work that is high profile and brings with it kudos. However, fulfilment for me now means focusing on work that will make a difference in other people’s lives and careers. I want to help inspire as many girls and women as we are able to reach through The Female Lead. I want to help them find content and tools that allow them to take the lead in their own lives.
What's a piece of career advice you've learned to be untrue?
I don’t believe that men or women should focus on strengthening their weaknesses – development it’s called. I think you should strengthen your strengths and work with someone (I call it The Power of Two) who is your polar opposite. In that way, 2 people become as powerful as 3. You do what you love, what you’re good at and they do all the things you don’t like doing and aren’t very good at. Magic! That’s the relationship I had with my long-time business partner (and husband) Clive Humby.
How have you learned to become more comfortable with yourself?
For sure. It’s the best thing about getting older. You learn that you are ‘you’, warts and all. You can only try your best but you’re not perfect.
Complete the sentence: True comfort is...
Self-awareness and the confidence that you are ‘good enough’ for everything that you want to do if you keep investing, keep learning, keep striving. Being authentic means that you’re not stressed. You’re maximising who you are and what you believe in.
A huge thanks to Edwina for sharing her journey with us! If you don’t already, we highly recommend following the Female Lead on Instagram or subscribing to their mailing list to bring some much-needed inspiration into your week – the stories they share are incredible and deserve to be heard!