Redefining Success: Why Women Should Embrace Their Career Paths

Can women have it all? This was the question posed to Simone Payne – Powell, director, people and global head of DE&I, during Bloom UK’s International Women’s Day event. The event explored important topics that underpin empowerment and inspire inclusion, challenging societal expectations. 

With over 20 years of experience working at various global tech companies, Simone has always focused on ensuring that all employees can be their authentic selves and truly feel like they belong at work. Her passion for DE&I has empowered companies to build diverse and inclusive workplaces.  

I sat down with her to hear more about how women can embrace their own unique path and how we can redefine success. 

Maria Ballester: Does having it all mean success, and can women have it all? 

Simone Payne-Powell: What does “all” mean to everyone? It will not be the same for me or you. If you define “all” as everything possible, it feels like a massive and impossible ask. Is it your happiness, health, career? To me, there is no one definition of “all”.  

So often success or the “all” is defined by society’s standards, which can be limiting and discouraging for women, often making us feel judged.  

MB: How do you embrace unconventional paths?

SPP: Throughout history, women have been confined by societal expectations, often pursuing careers that align with traditional gender roles rather than those that truly ignite our passions and leverage our unique talents.  

Gladly, we are seeing more women challenge societal norms and explore career options that align with their passions and strengths. Countless inspirational women followed their passion and achieved remarkable success.  

Some of the women who have inspired me the most are Wangari Maathai, a Kenyan environmental and political activist who founded the Green Belt Movement, Serena Williams, one of the greatest tennis legends of all time and known for her dominance and advocacy for gender quality in sports, and Ada Lovelace, a mathematician, and writer often regarded as the world’s first computer programmer.  

These women have broken the glass ceilings put in place to try and limit them. They’ve demonstrated it’s about finding a path that brings you joy, fulfilment, and a sense of purpose. They focused on their “all” not what others expected of them. 

Their stories should serve as a powerful reminder that success is not limited to a single idea. Success takes many forms, whether you are a stay-at-home mum, trailblazing entrepreneur, or visionary activist. All these women have an impact on the world. 

We need to be confident and look beyond society’s standards and expectations to explore our own curiosity and bring joy to our lives. This can be done by connecting with like-minded individuals who share our passion for unconventional career paths and surrounding ourselves with individuals who inspire us to push boundaries and reach new heights. 

Remember, success is not defined by a single path, but rather by personal fulfilment and the positive impact we make in your world. Embrace your individuality, challenge societal norms, and embark on a journey that is uniquely yours.  

MB: How can you take control of your financial destiny?

SPP: There are several studies that show how, as women, we are financially impacted by our gender.  

The 2024 Pension Gap report confirms that women today retire on average with pension savings of £69,000 compared to £205,000 for men. To close this gap, girls would need to start pension saving at just three years old to retire with the same amount of money as working men.  

Similarly, a recent report by PWC confirms the gender pay gap in the UK (the difference in median earnings between women and men) is 14.5%. 

Several factors cause these discrepancies. Some women will step away from full- time jobs, or work lesser-paid careers, to take on caretaker roles, whether this be with children, elderly relatives, or partners. This impacts our earning potential and our pensions and savings.  

As women, negotiating salaries and benefits—as well as owning our skill set and being empowered to be paid properly for them can be a challenge. But, it is an important step towards financial freedom. Research the market rate for your position and be prepared to speak up to get your worth.  

Seeking financial advice from professionals can be beneficial, especially if you are feeling overwhelmed or unsure about how to manage your finances. A financial advisor can help you create a personalized plan, helping you to make smart investment decisions, and stay on track with your goals. They can also provide valuable insights and strategies to help you achieve financial freedom. 

MB: Can you find harmony and that sense that you have all you want?

SPP: In the pursuit of success, many women find themselves navigating the challenging terrain of balancing their careers with their personal well-being. It is essential for women to recognise that true success extends beyond professional accomplishments and encompasses a harmonious integration of personal fulfilment, health, and happiness. 

Everything we do and every decision we make is often taken with fear of judgment or losing the respect of others around us. We are bombarded with articles and social media posts that tell us we can have it all and if we don’t, we fail as women, partners,  caregivers, siblings, daughters—and in some cases—mothers.  

It is okay to not have it all. We need to believe we are enough regardless of what we have, what we do, and who we are. Remove anything that tells you differently.  

Achieving this balance is a conscious journey that requires self-care, setting boundaries, and seeking support. I hope that one day the concept of “having it all” will have disappeared and we can all live more fulfilling and happier lives. 

Learn more about our affinity groups and what it’s like to work at Index. 

Maria Ballester

Maria Ballester

Senior manager, field marketing UK

As senior manager, field marketing at Index Exchange, Maria leads the marketing strategy in UK. With 10 years of digital advertising experience, she has worked at some of the leading ad tech companies, including AOL, Oath, PubMatic and MediaMath. She has overseen activations at major industry conferences as events production lead, such as the MAKERS conference, Cannes Lions, and MWC. Maria lives in London and is a passionate advocate for women at work, actively contributing to various groups, including Wildflowers of London and Be Bold for Change, where she serves as a consultant and event lead.

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