Frankie Cotton- Just know that you’re not alone.
A typical day in your career:
No day is typical! Everything is changing all the time. I might be running workshops with a client one day, then recording a podcast the next. There’s a lot of variety.
What made you choose this career/industry?
I’ve always been creative and I love solving problems in logical ways. Throw in commercial acumen and you find yourself in business strategy!
How did you get to where you are now and did you face any challenges along the way?
Many challenges, but that is to be expected. There is no such thing as an easy ride, especially if you want to follow an unconventional path. Just know that you’re not alone and that the women you look up to have overcome many challenges too.
If any, can you tell us more about how you overcame those setbacks?
I think the hardest challenge I had to overcome was other people’s expectations. Whether it’s your family or a boss, you can easily end up living to fulfil their idea of who you are. If that goes on for too long, one day you wake up and realise that you’re not living a life that is true to you.
So you have to undo that conditioning, get back to basics and understand what it is that makes you come alive. That’s soul work.
What is an important initiative that you feel passionate about in your role?
I believe that diversity in leadership is the solution to many of the world’s challenges. So long as leaders think in the same way, the echo chamber remains and no significant change or progress is made. Women’s contribution is a big part of the change we need to see.
Through my podcast Women On Top, I elevate women’s voices in the media, explore what contributes to the gender gap and share inspiring yet real stories of women’s careers and businesses. I love working on it.
What do you think gave you the drive and determination to succeed?
I lost a couple of close family members when I was young and I think that makes you impatient – you realise that life is very short and can be taken away from you at any moment.
What’s great about being a female in your role?
I stand out.
What is your biggest achievement in life?
From the day I started my first company Let’s Be Frank in 2017, I have paid myself a regular salary and I’ve always made it work financially, even in the hardest times. I’ve bootstrapped, self-funded and worked hard to build a portfolio of businesses and brands that I’m proud of.
What is the biggest lesson that you’ve learnt along the way?
That resilience is everything when you build a business from scratch. You will be tested repeatedly and you will want to give up because it feels impossible, but if you just keep putting one foot in front of the other, it will work out eventually.
Have you ever felt that your gender has brought unnecessary challenges to your career?
Absolutely it has. I know that I’ve been judged for being a woman and held back from opportunities. I was bullied at work by a male director whose ego couldn’t handle a strong woman who disagreed with him.
But those experiences make you sharp, focused and determined. So I wouldn’t change anything. It has all contributed to where I am now.
Outside your work, what are your favourite hobbies and pastimes?
I am really into design – interiors and fashion mostly. I also love the performing arts, dance, yoga and running.
Be the change you want to see in the world.
What three tips would you give to young females starting their careers?
Find your “no”
Find your male allies
Find your female mentors
What is the best bit of advice that you have ever been given?
Double your price. I gave my first client (and former boss) a day rate for consulting and he told me to double it, so I did. And I haven’t looked back.
Can you talk about one woman who has impacted your life?
My mum – she’s been a computer programmer, primary school teacher and helicopter pilot. She’s shown me that it’s never too late to learn, to pivot and do something really cool!
What are your key motivators?
I’m really motivated by solving problems and creating a better future – the gap between what I can visualise versus the reality of a current situation drives me bananas. But it’s what lights a fire inside me and gets me moving.
Do you think enough is being done by businesses to address gender imbalance?
No. My experience is that most businesses believe that having women in the workforce, that’s enough. But it’s not. It doesn’t mean that women feel like they belong. Typically you’ll see a decent (ish) gender balance amongst non-managers, but when you look at management, directors and c-suite, the percentages change drastically.
Leaders need to make sure they are putting practical steps in place to address gender imbalance. For example, if you are hiring a new department head and all the others are male, then it’s your responsibility to hire a woman. If you don’t, your whole management team is male, biased and alienates a huge chunk of your staff.
What are some strategies that can help women achieve a more prominent role in their organisations?
Mentoring and coaching are both really important for women. Many of us will have experienced imposter feelings or a lack of confidence – these aren’t female traits, they are created from experiences of working in patriarchal environments. Mentoring and coaching help to overcome these negative thought patterns which can otherwise hold many women back from fulfilling their potential.
What advice do you have for women aiming for leadership positions?
Develop a sense of humour – you’ll need it to keep you sane! I take the issue of gender seriously, but not myself. That allows me to have open and light conversations in the workplace to influence change. Humour can really help to break down barriers and form positive relationships.
And remember, that most people can’t identify their own unconscious bias, so be kind and generous when you point it out. Make more friends and allies than enemies.
What’s one key leadership lesson you’ve learned along the way?
Don’t worry about what other people are up to. Get quiet and listen to what’s in your heart. It will tell you everything you need to know, especially when you’re facing difficult decisions and trying circumstances.
What's the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
That the whole world can change in an instant, so be present and don’t overthink the future.
What would you say to your 16-year-old self?
Chill out and be patient. When you are impatient, you end up running on a treadmill going absolutely nowhere. You exhaust yourself.
A massive thanks to Frankie for this blog, we’ve loved reading her advice and stories! There’s some really good advice in here that we hope you find inspiring! If you need to read about some more inspirational women, then you can here!