Empowering Female Entrepreneurs – An Interview with Christine Brown-Quinn
Jul 1st, 2012 | By Sharon Hurley Hall | Category: Money & Business, Women in Business
By Sharon Hurley Hall –
“When women feel empowered to take their career forward, I just love it!” The co-founder of the Women in Business Superseries, 50-something entrepreneur Christine Brown-Quinn is passionate about helping women succeed. After a successful career at the top of the financial services industry in London, England, she’s ready to help other women meet their professional and personal goals.
Christine believes that entrepreneurship has always been in her blood, thanks to the example of her dad who started a tool and die business making molds for home appliances from his garage and ended up with around $50 million in revenue. “He was a real can-do character. There was nothing where he thought I can’t work around this. He was different, very driven and always doing something.” Despite this, though, she took a roundabout route to getting into the industry that paved the way for her entrepreneurial career.
The Travel Bug
It all started when she was bitten by the travel bug in her early teens. At 13, Christine had saved up enough for a plane fare to visit her older sister who was working as an au pair in Paris – all she had to do was talk her parents into letting her go. Initially reluctant, they at last agreed and Christine was off on the first of many trips. “I absolutely loved it. It opened up the whole world to me,” she says. She went on to study languages, which was a real oddity in her South Jersey neighborhood in the 70s, and eventually got a scholarship to study in Sweden, continuing her travels. But she still had a way to go before finding her niche. That happened when the firm she was doing translations for asked her to take over a small accounting function. She found she liked it and took some accounting courses.
A Challenging Time
The final piece of the puzzle came when she accompanied her husband to London for a two year contract and found work as a conference producer. “Back in the late 80s there was no internet, no email. Conferences in London was how people found out about trends.” As part of that she interviewed financial services industry executives and discovered that she liked the industry. “I found the people were really smart and it was always changing.” Christine got her MBA, found a job in London and she, her husband and their two young kids moved over. She describes this a a challenging time personally, as it was a big decision for a family to make. But she knew she would regret it if she let the opportunity pass by.
Working in an industry where there were few women presented additional challenges. “Along the way it wasn’t easy to progress because there weren’t many role models. there were hardly any women (especially women with children) who were able to do the types of roles that I wanted to do. I had to push the boundaries and say ‘why not me’. If I wasn’t selected for the team, I’d go back and present the business case. ” However, Christine forged ahead and eventually became managing director of her firm, which she describes as her “greatest professional achievement”. That she managed also to keep the family together was her greatest personal achievement.
With the change in the financial climate in 2009, Christine was ready for something new, and left the financial services industry. A chance request led to the next phase of her career. “Before I left the bank, they had asked me to give a speech at the launch of a women’s network. I said ‘what’s a women’s network?’ I had my head to the ground. I had no idea there was all this professional development happening for women,” she says, describing herself as “completely naive”. In fact, she was puzzled about why they had asked her. The network organizers said: “Well you’re a female MD (less than 10% in London) and you have a family – how did you do it? I said ‘I have no idea’.”
Balancing the Personal and the Professional
In thinking about it, Christine realized that part of her secret was sharing skills between work and home. “For example, I was good at working with teams and delegating. So I came home and everyone was part of the team.” She thought about motivating children, carers, cleaners and getting their buy in for decisions. “The flip side was when I learned something at home I’d apply it at work.” She adds: “With kids you have to be really clear about what you ask them to do and you actually have to do what you say. They’re watching like a hawk. They’re waiting for you to misstep. At work I thought in order for people to respect me I have to be clear and do what I say – I can’t be two-faced.” Below is a video from the GE Women in Technology/European Professional Women’s Network event: “Work/Live Balance”:
Christine Brown-Quinn Speaks About Work/Life Balance
Giving the talk to the women’s network proved to be a milestone. “I had one of these moments when giving the talk where I had chills going up and down my arms. I heard this little voice that said you should be talking to younger women and helping them accelerate their careers – giving them confidence that they can do this.” That led to a cathartic book, speaking engagements and workshops focused around balancing career and family (see the Profitable Female Consultant site).
Fast Tracking Women’s Careers
But Christine still wanted to do more – and when she met Jacqueline Frost, who had a similar background, the two had another epiphany. “We both felt that in terms of what made us successful much of the information about how we did it wasn’t out there. We decided to create a company focused on helping women fast track their careers. We would do that by sharing some practical strategies on how to deal with the day to day challenges.” This led to the Women in Business Superseries, which includes conferences, career retreats, monthly webinars and will soon include a superclub – an online club for professional women especially in law, banking, accounting, consulting and large corporate offices.
This new platform allows the two to reach more women more easily and give them strategies that work for women so they aren’t seen as jerks. Asked for an example, Christine says: “One of the strategies is using humor. When someone is being difficult it’s about how can you make them aware about what they are doing and positioning in a way so you can both have a chuckle and they get it that their behavior needs to change.” Christine says feedback on the Women in Business Superseries has been “phenomenal”. She loves both working with Jacqueline which she describes as “a real joy” and helping the women who attend the events. “The camaraderie and friendship that develops is incredible – that’s been the most rewarding experience. They have identified where they have been getting stuck and now feel unstuck.”
Giving Back to Women
When she’s not working hard, Christine runs, cycles and enjoys traveling with her family, and she’s already thinking of her next venture. “I’ve had so much joy in one life that it has far exceeded my expectations. So I feel a desire to give back.” For her this means working with her husband to support charities focused on empowering women, particularly in the developing world. “The answer particularly in the developing world to helping the economy is educating women. When you educate a woman, she takes the money she earns and it goes back into the family and the community. ”
Coming back to women in business, Christine has these words of advice for women entrepreneurs: “Be positive. When you’re positive you attract people, people want to talk to you, people want to help you and by being positive you’re open to solutions. As an entrepreneur that’s absolutely crucial.”
Sharon Hurley Hall has been writing professionally for almost 25 years, and she does it because she loves it. She is a word nerd, a Scrabble fiend, fanatical about grammar, and is fascinated by learning new things. Since 2005, Sharon has mentored other writers at “Get Paid To Write Online” to help them improve and build sustainable and successful writing careers. Sharon subscribes to the ‘fine wine’ theory of aging – getting older also means getting better! Find Sharon on her website, Twitter and Facebook.