Inspiring Worth and Value for International Women’s Day

Digitization and Transformation


Jacqueline Powell

Mar 5, 2024

In the words of movie star, Emma Watson, “We need to live in a culture that values, respects, looks up to, and idolizes women.” Although the quote ends with “as much as men,” I believe that the first part of the sentence is more important and applies to any minority group. For me, International Women’s Day (March 8) is not about commemorating the suffragette movement, but rather about truly celebrating women's inherent strengths, acknowledging their value to society, challenging outdated perceptions, and empowering women of all ages to reach and share their full potential. And leading this very idea Marie-Claire Frederick, is the head of the not-for-profit organisation Nurture Network,  whom I had the pleasure of interviewing. 

In our Q&A session, Marie-Claire shares her thoughts on advocating for women and nurturing each other, overcoming barriers and challenges across the divides, inspiring advice, and advising how we all can help make a difference.

Marie-Claire, can you share the journey that led you to advocate for women and the creation of Nurture Network?

Nurture Network was created in 2021 to increase representation of women in leadership and entrepreneurship. Only 17% of UK business owners are women, despite comprising 51% of the population. The network aims to address the skills gap and lack of diversity in these fields, welcoming all underrepresented individuals from different sectors and locations within the UK. The goal is to ignite a generation of female leaders and entrepreneurs, ensuring that every woman in business has a seat at the table.

What are some of the biggest challenges women face across business today?

Women's active participation in the tech sector is crucial for addressing ethical concerns, fostering responsible innovation, and ensuring that technological advancements benefit all members of society while minimizing potential risks. However, women face challenges related to work-life balance, and it's essential for companies to implement supportive workplace policies and cultural shifts to accommodate their life stages.

How have these challenges evolved over the years, and what persistent barriers do women still encounter?

Social media has helped amplify women's voices, including those of Sarah Gilbert, Teresa Lambe, and Catherine Green, who played key roles in developing the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. 

Despite the strides made, women of all ages and roles continue to encounter setbacks, often being excluded or unwelcome at decision-making tables. While companies may showcase a few inspiring diverse leaders during designated months, such as March or Black History Month, many engage in performative actions without taking substantial steps to create inclusive working environments. Barriers like inflexible working hours and the gender pay gap persist, hindering progress toward equity and inclusivity. It is time to address these challenges and create a truly inclusive and diverse workplace.

Can you share a success story, or a milestone achieved by Nurture Network that you're particularly proud of?

We started with 10 women in fintech, and now we have a community of over 3,000 women globally. In three years, we have grown across various sectors, regions, experiences, and ages. Our first-ever face-to-face event, themed ‘Lean In, Lift Up’ was a great success, with over 150 attendees and distinguished speakers like Naga Munchetty, Kenny Imafidon, and Dr. Samantha Tross. We are proud of our community and excited for more experiences and accomplishments in 2024. The journey continues!

In your view, how does the representation of women in leadership roles compare across industries?

I believe that there is still a lot of work to be done to promote gender diversity across industries. Although women often hold leadership roles in specific areas such as HR and marketing, it can be a challenge to find female CEOs in other sectors. While there are exceptions to this norm, it is notable that two exceptional female CEOs left their roles in the banking sector last year, each for different reasons. This highlights the importance of visible female leadership in inspiring future generations, as the saying goes, "you need to see it to be it."

What changes have you witnessed in the approach to diversity and inclusion over the years?

I believe we are making gradual progress – certainly more than when I was growing up. However, there's still a fair amount of performative actions happening in this space. What I would truly like to witness is a genuine embrace of diverse leadership teams and boards, steering clear of tokenism. It is evident that successful companies thrive on the diversity of thought at the top. The most impactful leadership teams are those that are not only open to change but are genuinely committed to driving change from the top down and the bottom up.

What advice would you give to young women starting their careers?

I got this nugget from Sheryl Sandbergs Lean In book – ‘Lean in instead of leaning back... Go full throttle for as long as you can, take opportunities and give everything a shot.’

Could you discuss effective strategies that companies can implement to support the career progression of women?

Our recent article (with Culture Consultancy) explores the cultural landscape and transformation for companies striving to grow female leadership and supporting women in business, upskilling these women and dismantling the barriers in their way. McKinsey's Women in the Workplace report cites 49% of women prioritize flexibility more than men (34%) when choosing to join or stay with a company. And seeing senior leaders maintain a work-life balance motivates them to advance in their own careers. The takeaway is clear: Elevating female representation requires addressing inhibiting factors that hinder their progress.

How does Nurture Network plan to adapt its strategies to address future challenges facing women?

We have some incredible success stories under our belt – making powerful connections between investors and female founders, bringing together businesses and women who might not have crossed paths otherwise. This unique collaboration sparks a cross-fertilization of ideas, fueling innovation and problem-solving. We have also played a crucial role in providing mentors for women in leadership positions, and our ongoing partnerships with various organizations aim to expand these opportunities.

Our focus is on creating networks that empower women, particularly those just starting their careers, connecting them with influential figures who can swing open doors of opportunity. Looking ahead, we are gearing up to assist women, especially those transitioning out of the workplace, in discovering their passions in new sectors and exploring innovative ideas. 

What have been your most valuable lessons learned in advocating for women in the workplace?

It is important to value, support and feel comfortable with women as they rise into leadership positions – sometimes, we can be our own harshest critics.

Any thoughts on how challenges and opportunities for women vary internationally?

I was part of the UN Women UK Delegate for the 67th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (#csw67). It was an enlightening experience where I saw the diverse spectrum of inequalities faced by women worldwide. I attended webinars hosted by international dignitaries and listened to empowering stories of women defying the odds. One of the impactful projects I worked on was connecting women worldwide to the internet. The experience taught me about the inspiring resilience of women globally. Volunteering for the UN Women's C67 taught me that our world is not as vast as it seems. While challenges varied across regions, sectors, and nations, what resonated globally was the inspiring resilience of women, collectively pushing the needle forward.

Are there any global initiatives or collaborations your organization is involved in or looks up to?

Nurture Network began as a vibrant online networking hub, with a mission to connect with women no matter where they are in the world. We have proudly welcomed women from Singapore to Australia to join our virtual events, and our community spans across continents, reaching members in places like Ghana and the USA too. Now, we are excited about broadening our horizons even further. We want to share more incredible stories, engaging podcasts, captivating videos, and insightful interviews from our diverse and global community. It is about bringing together experiences and voices from every corner of the world.

What role do you believe men should play in supporting gender equality and equity?

This is truly significant. At Nurture Network, it is not just a space for women and the underrepresented; it's open to everyone, including men. We are eager to engage in conversations and build connections with men. 

We want to extend our network to include more male allies. Our aim is to convey our perspective, share experiences, and have an open dialogue with more men. We want men to not only see the statistics in black and white but to also hear and feel our stories. Their support can help swing open those doors of opportunity, even if we are not on the golf course or at the pub or part of a specific school network. The Nurture Network is all about inclusivity, and that means having men and individuals with the power to make positive impacts on the lives, businesses, and careers of women who truly need it. Your involvement can make a remarkable difference.

In the spirit of International Women's Day, what message would you like to send to women around the world aspiring to make a mark in the financial services industry or any other field?

Treat your career like a jungle gym. There are lots of different ways to get to your destination and there is no right way to do it.

Also…Negotiate like a man – don’t be inclined to accept the first offer made if you feel like you’re worth more.  And you are worth more!


With that, my Q&A with Marie-Claire draws to an end. In closing, I am genuinely inspired and motivated by the many leaders of not-for-profits who continue to champion the elevation of women and encourage a more diverse and supportive workplace. I, along with my leadership and many colleagues at Bottomline, am proud to stand alongside these champions and support their efforts. 

Feel free to play your part in empowering women and underrepresented individuals to drive positive change in the business world. Register to attend Nurture Network’s upcoming ‘It takes a village’ conference. Happy International Women’s Day!

Related topics

international women's day

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Jacqueline Powell

Jacqueline Powell is Head of Global Communications and Content, Bottomline

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