Ten years as a female MD

Tessa Marchington, Managing Director

Ten years ago, I was a music graduate with a vision that was simple enough: I wanted music to be a bigger part of our everyday lives. Struck by the contrast between my creative environment at the Royal Academy of Music and the corporate environment my brother was in, as a trainee lawyer in a top city firm, I thought music could help people feel happier and more fulfilled at work.  I started out with one client, Norton Rose Fulbright – who I’m delighted to say are still our client – and the business grew steadily from there.

Ten years, a whole decade, sounds like forever but in many ways it’s a very short time. We’ve achieved a lot; over 10,000 choir rehearsals and 58,000 music lessons in 50 companies with countless events in over 30 iconic venues across the Capital. But I feel there is so much more we can do. Our challenge for the future is to get organisations to embrace music and for music to be an integral part of employee engagement in the same way that gym membership is.

Ten years in the highly competitive employee benefits, learning & development and wellbeing sector is something for us to be proud of. It means we’ve managed to establish ourselves. We’ve carved out our niche here, a niche that companies are finding particularly effective, and cost-efficient.

This has all taken a lot of work and sacrifice but has also been  so rewarding and a lot of fun along the way.

As it’s International Woman’s Day today, I thought it apt to reflect on the role of women through my experiences in the arts and business world. As a mother and running my own business I know all too well the tensions that women have in the pursuit of achieving a work/life balance but also the joy that it can bring.

Women, still, can often be judged for focusing too much on their careers. If we wait to have children, we’ve left it too late or are asked why we don’t want kids. Or if we choose to have them we’re criticised for going back to work and leaving them in nursery, or as I had to do, bringing a newborn with me to meetings and concerts! No one bats an eyelid when fathers go back to work! And on top of all of that, recent research from the World Economic Forum (WEF) concluded that women work longer hours and get paid less than men for equivalent roles.

Kids or no kids, women in business are all trying to find the right balance. Thankfully, and highlighted recently by the appointment of Cressida Dick as the Met Police Commisioner, we’re seeing more women in prominent senior positions. However it’s still harder for women to progress at work, we earn less and according to the WEF’s research it’s likely to take 170 years to redress the balance!

I’m proud to say that Music in Offices fully supports females in the workplace – in fact over 80% of our management team are female as well as 48% of all our teachers and conductors.

If we’re successful in our careers’, it can sometimes feel like we’re women in a man’s world – we’re an anomaly, the exception to the rule.  I’ve always admired Baroness Karen Brady who is self-made and, among many of her accolades, has successfully managed two football clubs. If that’s not revolutionary, I don’t know what is! I hope others follow in her path and make the business side of sport more accessible to woman as well and now that the BBC has secured the rights to broadcast the 2019 Women’s football World Cup, this may become a reality.

It’s not just about gender, equality is of course extremely important but so is diversity. At Music in Offices we work with a lot of businesses to use music as a means of addressing issues such as diversity and inclusion and it has a powerful effect.  Businesses that embrace equality and inclusion have been proven to be more effective.

I’m about to have my second child, our second little girl, and like all expectant mothers I’m full of hope and aspiration for her future and what she’ll achieve. I hope there’s no stigma attached to being a working mother or parent for that matter. I hope she has genuinely as equal chance as her male counterparts of succeeding in the career she chooses. I’d love for her to grow up in a world where a senior female appointment isn’t headline news just because she’s a woman and that women like Karen Brady are the norm.

So, in honour of International Women’s Day, let’s all heed their words #BeBoldForChange and do our bit to ensure that the future for girls is bright, equal, safe and rewarding.