Womanthology is a digital magazine and professional community for women of all ages and backgrounds as they progress through their careers. It is powered by female energy and ingenuity. The platform champions positive female role models by sharing good news stories, best practice and wisdom from everyone, regardless of gender, collaborating to create a gender positive experience in the workplace.
Fiona Tatton, its founder and leader, began the work as a hobby and passion project, speaking with professional women in her spare time, from a Formula One racing driver, to an intensive care nurse-turned-Masterchef-contestant, to the Chair of BAFTA and the president of the Women’s Engineering Society. She soon realised that there was huge scope to expand and formally launched Womanthology as a business with an embedded social mission in 2015.
As well as the magazine, Womanthology runs networking events, and partners with brands to advise on and showcase gender positive working cultures. Womanthology also champions inclusion of other minority groups. Supported by a team of associates, freelancers and friends, Fiona is keen to expand the consultancy side of the business, and has recently launched a superpowered digital platform for its ever-growing online community, as well as a podcast to keep up with her audience’s appetite for new content.
Hiatus and re-starting during COVID
At the start of 2018, as Womanthology was really getting going, Fiona sadly lost her mother. Then, within a few weeks, out of the blue, she was diagnosed with breast cancer – which, in her own words, “put a dampener on everything.” Even after her initial treatment, Fiona was kept off work by complications and side effects from her medication.
After 18 months away from her business, she says, “I thought ‘Do I want to go back to it?’ The answer was yes – I’ve put in so much energy and effort, and things had been starting to go really well. Womanthology was my life’s work so I wasn’t going to allow cancer to take it away from me.”
So, the start of 2020 saw Fiona planning Womanthology’s return. Following a brand refresh, a revamp of the website and a ‘Lift Off’ event that sparked a huge response, the COVID 19 pandemic brought in a whole new set of challenges and pressures.
COVID 19 only heightened the need for the platform and community that Womanthology offers, as women were disproportionately affected by the work-related challenges it created. However, it also changed many aspects of how the business works. Where Fiona would previously have held events to galvanise interest in services and projects, she is now much more reliant on digital methods and virtual events – although these certainly have advantages in terms of reach and resourcing, they require a different skill set to run and promote.
In addition, amid all the uncertainty in the first wave of COVID, Fiona felt under pressure to get the business going again before the summer, to make the most of lower infection rates and fewer restrictions. And on top of it all, she was navigating the impact that the aftermath of her cancer treatment has had on her working patterns and capacity. “Since my cancer treatment,” she says, “I consider myself as having a disability, because I am operating at about 75% of the capacity I was before. I’ve now got more to do but the side effects of my ongoing treatment to stop the cancer returning mean I have less energy to do it, and I often suffer from fatigue. It’s so frustrating.”
Support from Business Sheffield
Fiona initially got in touch with Steve Carroll, a Business Advisor with Business Sheffield, about funding. “He was thoughtful and kind about the way he signposted me to things,’ she says. ‘He was brilliant at curating opportunities, presenting them in a way where I could see their value, and making sure I had a fighting chance of success. My disability had made me feel like I’d be pushed to the back of the queue for the majority of opportunities, and [following the cancer treatment] I have to be very structured and organised about the way I work, so I can’t respond to something that’s dropping next week.”
With Steve’s support, Womanthology was awarded a Digital Innovation Grant, which Fiona says has been ‘transformative’. It has enabled her to rebuild the website, which had become very out of date, and rework all the customer journeys, which has made it much easier for her to monetise relationships. It has created a platform for sustainable growth moving forward.
Fiona also found staff in the Finance Department at Sheffield City Council easy to work with. When project timelines shifted, they were understanding and flexible. ‘There was a real sense of working together,’ she says, ‘to deliver the project successfully and get the most out of the funding, which was so precious to me and the business.’
Steve has also supported Fiona to transition back to more of a strategic role in her business. To keep everything going during COVID, she had ended up doing a lot more on the delivery side of things, such as copywriting, trying to eke out the limited resources she had. Steve has helped her to step back and resume her role as business owner and entrepreneur, driving strategic growth.
“Steve has been so lovely, so supportive,” she says. “He’s got my back, and I can talk to him about anything. I don’t feel intimidated, just supported – he like is a critical friend, an advocate on my shoulder, saying ‘How can I make this work for you?’”
Fiona’s aim is for Womanthology to expand as a platform, championing diversity and inclusion more broadly, and branching out into consultancy on recruitment and enhancing employer brand. To achieve this, she’d like to reach a place where she is able to establish a permanent staff to take the work forward. She’s also keen to get back to running more virtual events, having seen how they can democratise the platform and increase her reach. “You can build this community of interest – build a global business from Sheffield, and put Sheffield at the centre of things,” she says. “If you surround yourself with the right people, there’s nothing you can’t achieve.”