In Interviews with Top 100 Women in Social Enterprise, NEWS

Juliet has been a senior consultant in social enterprise at the British Council for past 7 years. She entered the world of social enterprises 25 years ago and was immediately drawn to it. She was always more interested in people and communities rather than a fat pay check from a corporate job; described as the “perfect balance” between business and doing good.

Her journey began creating supported employment opportunities for people with a Learning Disability . When she then moved to Ireland, she started looking at the opportunity to do good again and not lose her “lightbulb” and that’s when the Social Enterprise NI was born.

A group of social entrepreneurs and likeminded people came together with a vision of a network of likeminded people who ‘walked the walk’ and talked the talk’ to provide a central meeting place to grow and lobby for the sector. Thanks to Juliet’s expertise, passion and knowledge, the enterprise is now thriving, being the voice for social enterprises and entrepreneurs in Northern Ireland, celebrating 10 years this October.

Her work internationally has supported social entrepreneurs through working with policy makers to lobby for a strong eco-system and more inclusive economies.

Challenges on the way…

Obviously reaching her goals was not always easy and Juliet has faced many challenges, not only from the practical point of view, but indeed from an introspective one too.

“I think sometimes my biggest obstacles are myself. you have to dig deep sometimes and believe you can achieve your vision. And I think it’s something lots of people feel women feel in particular, but they kind of get clever about disguising it.”

Juliet was very transparent about how, to this day, she still has moments in which she wrestles to managing everything that she has on her plate. She mentions in particular, that from a pragmatic aspect, she has to keep up to speed with new innovations and developments, it looks different in every country. Working in Northern Ireland, she quickly had to get to grips with the complexities and nuances of lobbying and policy work. Coming to a new business environment in a different country was not easy either. Admitting that it was scary and overwhelming at first, surrounded herself with experts and a network of supporters, showing that once she puts her mind to something, there is no failure, only a learning opportunity.

Juliet is also a mother and has an amazing and supportive family who has been by her side throughout her social entrepreneurship journey. As many women can often feel, she has a self-doubt sense of guilt for not being there for her family enough and for not spending more time with her children and helping out her partner. Something many women can relate to.

“…women are more cautious. So, they are brilliant entrepreneurs, but they are more restrained. And maybe that’s because they’re still juggling that double edged sword of home and work and trying to do justice to both.”

Tricks and de-stressing techniques

We could not let go of Juliet without asking her how she deals with her challenges, Her answer – Books.

Juliet says that a good book allows her to drift off into another world, where self-doubt and gender bias are not contemplated, switching off her mind and letting it go. Immersing herself in someone else’s plot for a while and escaping her reality;going from biographies to fiction, depending on the need.

Leaving positive impact behind

Lastly, we asked Juliet what kind of impact she aspired to leave behind with her work; her answer

“I want to be useful; I want to feel that I’m making a difference.”

Juliet wants to make a difference in the world for future generations, she is interested in the current education systems and how we can change it so that it portrays the world of social enterprises and more inclusive businesses as a real career choice. Young people need an education that challenges current economic models where personal wealth is the default. The curriculum needs an overhaul. She wants to play a part, through her work, creating the next generations of changemakers, those who are dissatisfied with what has been done to their world and who want and will change it.

As we know society has taken big steps forward when it comes to gender equality, but ultimately, they are not enough for Juliet. To her mind there is more to do to achieve equity as well as equality.
The glass ceiling in the job market, double standards and prejudice remain a challenge for women in leadership positions.

Juliet is making and will continue to make a decisive impact with her work whilst inspiring young women and the next generation to not be scared and to be heard.

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