Today marks a focal point in the movement for women’s rights, happy International Women’s day! As a globe we celebrate all independent women and their social, cultural and political achievements to this day. Yet, do not forget to acknowledge the women most important to you! We are giving special recognition to Louise Gallant from our sister organisation, Gallant Recruitment, by hearing her empowering story.

As a female entrepreneur what inspired you to start up Gallant Recruitment?

I used to work for Jamie Oliver, I set up the recruitment strategy within his group of companies. We were recruiting brilliantly, but what was stopping us from using that pipeline and reaching out to other restaurant groups? Jamie was a big inspiration for me to start something bigger, both him and his entrepreneurship. I went out there, took the risk and did exactly that on my own. I haven’t looked back since!

Can you tell me about a female role model who inspired you and what advice you received early on in your career?

I was fortunate to have met a lady called Rosaleen Blair CBE, the CEO for Alexander Mann Solutions, one of the world’s biggest RPO companies. On first meeting, she looked at my CV, tossed it aside, and asked me “What do you love? What are you really passionate about?” Well, I love people, and I am passionate about the food industry/hospitality. “So why don’t you combine all of that and just go and do it, that’s all I did!” – if you’ve got that passion, that love and that bit of determination behind it, that’s all you need to spur you on.

What challenges have you faced as a woman in business?

The hospitality industry has traditionally been quite male dominated. To be taken seriously you find you do have to work a little harder. Personally, senior teams without women can lack the softer touch needed in hospitality – It can be very cut throat. Though at a more senior level I find now I can surround myself in a network of inspiring women.  It all comes down to being credible and true to yourself in terms of how you overcome that. You almost have to be blind to the fact that there is a prejudice to women in more senior roles. Thankfully, I’ve seen a real shift in recent years, and I think the balance has started to tip.

What is the key to success in business in your opinion?

Believing in your self! I have always had the mindset that failure isn’t an option. Its so easy to hit a brick wall and believe you’ve failed; you need a mind-set of learning from what has happened and to navigate around the wall.  This all comes with drive and determination.

Relationships and building trust in people are also so important! People don’t invest in what you have as a product; they invest in you. That’s been a real eye opener for me. Even when I don’t feel I am giving 100% capability to a task, that doesn’t matter. If you’ve got the relationship and trust, even if things go wrong these times are often an opportunity to strengthen that trust.

How do you balance your time as both a mother and an entrepreneur?

I think being a mother gives you that extra depth of being human.  I am a single mother and had no resources around me.  It has been hard. Both my parents live miles away and I haven’t had any real support, but you can find ways of making things work. The key for me is that my daughter is just as much a part of my journey. I don’t separate them. Recently we did a pantomime as part of the hospitality charity industry and with 4 evening rehearsals a week, I hardly saw her. Yet I brought her to a few rehearsals, and she became known as the “panto daughter” – she loved it! As part of my lifestyle, she understands why mummy cannot make this, or make that.  Equally, having your own business sometimes gives you that little bit of flexibility. I can make time for the things that really matter, such as watching her star in the nativity play at school.

Do you think International Women’s day is still relevant?

Recently I saw the document of the suffragettes. What they went through to fight against the grain and to fight for their rights is eye-opening. In the grand scheme of things, it wasn’t that long ago and with that in mind, you see how far women have come.  Society is absolutely paving the way. International women’s day exists to remind us that we are equally part of leadership and inspiration just as much as men are.

If anything, there will be a point where we need to empathise with guys. There is that tipping point, we cannot be blind to the fact that men are men, and women are women. It is a reason to be proud, but perhaps we need to look at an International Men’s Day!!!