CEO and Founder of Lalcôvi Fashion, Charlotte Dawes, is surrounded by inspiring women. She tells us how she copes with imposter syndrome, her biggest female inspirations, and the advice she gives herself if she needs an extra push.
Happy International Women’s Day! Why is International Women’s Day important to you?
Life is busy and between all our to-do lists in both work and private life, it is hard to find time for anything else. But a day like this allows us to pause and reflect on where we are and what further action can be taken. It’s also a time for businesses, friends and family to show their appreciation; to remember the contribution and courage of women in our history.
For me, IWD is crucial. We can all agree that a lot of initiatives have been taken over the years but we aren’t there yet. Gender equality at the workplace, the elimination of domestic violence, removing unequal pay, abolishing underaged marriage and many more issues that directly impact women continue to exist and need to be addressed.
The theme this year is #BreakTheBias for a gender-equal world, free of bias, stereotypes, and discrimination. It’s a call to action that we need to create a world that is diverse, equitable, and inclusive. And for me, in the fashion industry, it is a reminder that we are far from where we need to be. With the ever-increasing demand for more, faster and cheaper fashion, the wellbeing of millions of women who make up the majority of the fashion workforce is impacted as they are still underpaid and overworked. This is a unique chance for myself and my community to refocus where we want to go next and how we can be a part of the change for the better of all women.
What have been some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced, and how did you overcome them?
I’ve often thought, “what if I just got lucky? What if everyone finds out I’m a fraud? What if I am not capable of achieving what is required?” Imposter syndrome is all too real and nearly undermined my ability to perform properly in my senior position. There were two people that were instrumental in supporting me at that time. First, my husband, who has always been my biggest fan and showed me to see my capacity to lead and to achieve high performance in my role. Second was my then (female) director and friend who believed in me and knew what I was going through and could help me demystify the syndrome. She showed me that I was not alone and in fact, in 2020, studies showed that 75 percent of women executives across industries have experienced impostor syndrome in their careers and that most men do not wait like women to tick all the boxes to apply for a new role.
With the support of both these people, I realised that while doubts will always come and go, it was my choice to believe in myself. I continued to surround myself with supportive friends and colleagues who would have my back whenever I was in doubt. And moreover, when I decided to make a career change and start Lalcovi. It takes the coalition of everyone – not just the women in our lives – to create safe spaces for us to truly flourish in our power.
Are there any women you have looked to for inspiration in your career?
Many women have inspired me but perhaps the most obvious and famous would be Coco Chanel. It may seem cliche for a woman in fashion to look towards one of the most influential women who came before her. But if you truly look at her life, she was way before her time. In a society ruled by very traditional norms, she revolutionised what was normal and standard by believing in herself and ultimately inspiring women to also embrace their freedom and expression.
Her quotes remain central to my motivation board (and yes, I encourage anyone to keep one near them to keep them going throughout their journeys):
“My life didn’t please me, so I created my life.”
“I don’t care what you think about me. I don’t think about you at all.”
“The most courageous act is still to think for yourself. Aloud.”
Besides that, I look towards my community and look for ways that women around me can help and support me to become who I am now.
What is the best advice you’ve received when it comes to your career?
Every morning you should look in the mirror and recognise who you are looking at and be proud of what this person has achieved and is becoming. If not, make a change. It’s what brought me to creating Lalcovi and that driving passion to become the person I aspire to be is what keeps me going.
What does the future of female leadership look like to you?
It will be challenging, even if society is slowly changing. Having more female leaders is crucial to increase creativity and innovation but also for a more diverse and understanding workforce. I believe in balance, men have amazing leadership qualities that we do not want to lose; we need both worlds to make it work.
Is there anything you’d like to add?
In life there is luck and there is seizing the opportunity, even if there is a risk. Surround your life with positive people, continue learning and reading (I personally love Blinkist as it helps my learning curve while saving me time) Take risks and believe in yourself. You are the only one that can create your desired reality. Happy International Women’s days and thank you to all the amazing women in the world.
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