Jane Booth – Going it alone and being a chaser of dreams.

My name is Jane Booth and I believe that great people make amazing things happen.  For the past five years I have been bringing this to life under the banner of Opus 29. I made the difficult decision to ‘go it alone’ after reaching a point in my previous role where I felt I really needed a change. I didn’t deliberately set out to work for myself, but when I looked around at other roles open at the time, I couldn’t find anything that really motivated me and sparked my passion. 

There is no such thing as a normal day in my life, which is why I love it. I know that I need variety and challenge in order to continue to be creative. I thrive on the different opportunities that each day brings. I might be developing or facilitating a workshop one day, supporting people through mentoring the next, and then creating a leadership programme the day after that.  I relish uncertainty and heading into the unknown and love being a ‘chaser of dreams’.

The simple reason I chose this industry is that I love sport! I knew from an early age that I wanted to work somewhere in sport, and I have been fortunate enough to forge a great career in a sector about which I am passionate. Over the years I also realised that I have a genuine passion for developing and supporting other people; hence now working in a people development capacity on my own terms.

‘I thrive on the different challenges’

I got the position I am in now largely by often being in the ‘right place at the right time’ and connecting with great people. But also, through a great deal of determination, hard-work, resilience, courage and a belief that ‘dreams are always taller than you, which is why you have to reach high to make them true’.

I maintain a work/life balance through a great deal of effort and focus! This is not something that I find easy and is something that I have learned is really important. Although I see it as a work/life blend rather than balance. I now try (not always successfully) to create time and space for all these things so that I can maintain my sense of self-belief and passion in all that I do.

Some of my hopes for the future are that I keep doing the job I do and supporting many more great people to chase their dreams and make amazing things happen. Most of all I want to be able to continue to work for myself and bring my own dreams and goals to life through hard work, tenacity, belief and a great deal of patience!

I feel like I have had many moments in my career where events out of my control had significant influence; for example, not being selected for interview for a job I thought I wanted, or getting to the final two of an interview process, only to miss out at the last moment. However, I always seem to have found a way to ‘bounce back’ from knock backs, or struggle over the hurdle. There have been times when this has taken an enormous amount of effort and determination, and sometimes it has felt impossible, but somehow, I am still here and believing in the dreams I choose to chase.

Some of my proudest achievements (I am hoping that there are many more to come still) but if I had to identify my proudest achievements to date, they would probably be finishing my PhD last year, completing the London Marathon as part of The Samaritans team in 2016 setting up my own consultancy in the same year, and still doing what I love three years later. I am also proud of my ability to keep moving forward and chasing my dreams, even when times have been particularly challenging.

‘I am proud of my ability to keep moving forward and chasing my dreams’

I fundamentally believe that ‘great people make amazing things happen’. I am also guided by eight core principles which are–creativity, curiosity, connectedness, courage, making a difference, leadership, integrity and quality. These principles keep me motivated and help me to keep chasing my own dreams as I support others to chase theirs.

I ensure that I am an inspiring leader by ‘walking my own talk’ and acting with integrity in all that I do. I bring my beliefs to life through my everyday behaviors and always strive to ‘be the best version of myself’ across all aspects of my life. And I constantly keep learning.

One of my guiding principles is about ‘making a difference’ and I think I would rather see myself in these terms as opposed to a role model necessarily. I believe that every interaction I have with someone has the potential to make an impact–be that positive or negative–and I strive to always make that impact a positive one. If this means that I can be seen as a role model and have the potential to positively impact on the life of another person, then I see that as a privilege.

I don’t really think in terms of my ‘gender’ in my role, it’s more that I think in terms of being able to be true to my own values and beliefs, which is something I can absolutely do in my role. As I work for myself, I am able to determine what is important and therefore the opportunities I chase and the ones that I leave behind. So maybe it’s more that it is great to be in a role where I am able to be myself and live the values that matter to me on a daily basis. Of course, part of that is being female, but it’s not the one thing that defines me.

I feel that diversity really helps organisations, but only if it is combined with the creation and maintenance of a truly inclusive environment. Organisations that simply focus on diversity can often end up just ‘ticking boxes’. This true sense of diversity can absolutely make a positive difference to organisations in terms of greater creativity, innovation, engagement, retention, performance, productivity and many other areas, although only when this is embedded within a nurturing environment that acknowledges existing systemic bias, challenges the often hidden societal inequities and accepts each individual for who they are. 

I believe that in order for real change to happen in terms of gender balance, then there does needs to be a collective voice for women in the workplace and beyond. The ‘Yes She Can’ campaign provides both a collective voice and visible profile across sectors, and also provides support to organisations wishing to genuinely be part of a more gender balanced society going forward. Campaigns like this give women, particularly younger women, a sense of what is possible.  We also urgently need conversations that discuss challenging topics like male privilege, systemic power bias, gender pay inequity and the realities of being a ‘woman in a man’s world’.  Only when we have this open dialogue in sport that acknowledges the pervasiveness of male power across the sector, will campaigns such as ‘Yes She Can’ truly achieve their impact.

‘Equality means we all win’

What I would say to my male colleagues about equality is that as 50% (roughly) of the population, men have an equal role to play in creating inclusive environments where we can all thrive together. That it is time to shift the narrative from ‘women win, therefore men lose’, to ‘equality means we all win’.  I love the quote ‘when a flower doesn’t bloom you fix the environment in which it grows, not the flower’ (Alexander Den Heijer) and I believe that this applies to gender equity in sport.  We need actions and interventions that ‘fix the environment’ in which we all work rather than simply seeing a need to ‘fix the women’.  Men – accept and acknowledge the privileges that your male status affords you…and then choose to use that power for positive change rather than unconsciously reinforcing the status quo.

I think government quotas regarding diversity have a part to play in opening up the conversation and raising awareness that gender balance matters…but they are in no way the end point. We cannot ever simply measure progress towards inclusive environments by numbers as this is only one small part of the complex jigsaw of solutions. If we only look at quotas, then we miss the point of needing to make changes in our environments in order for us all to thrive.

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