Vanessa Vallely spent two decades climbing the corporate ladder but her career path changed entirely when she took up a “hobby”.
Frustrated by the lack of places to find networking and skilling events, she teamed up with husband Stewart at home to create website WeAreTheCity, a free resource to publish news and events aimed towards women.
After six years of running the site alongside her day job, Vallely decided to quit the corporate dream and run her business full-time.
“WeAreTheCity was very much born out of frustration. Back in 2008, gender was no one’s agenda,” she told BusinessCloud.
“I never actually believed I would ever be brave enough to leave my corporate job to become an entrepreneur.
“As WeAreTheCity grew, so did my love for all things gender and I started to fall out of love with my day job, it was at that point I knew I had to try and make a go of what I had created.
“In hindsight, setting up my own business was a huge risk, but I felt the fear and did it anyway.
“I never wanted to look back and wonder what might have been. The past five years have been a steep learning curve.
“I honestly thought after 25 years of working for senior individuals and holding senior roles myself that the transition would be easy – it wasn’t.”
Vallely had held tech roles up to COO level at the likes of Aviva and BlackRock, while she is an advisory board member for the Government Digital Service.
At the time of her resignation, the website had a community of 24,000 women and two corporate clients. The community has now grown to 120,000 members and 120 corporate clients.
The business, which Vallely called a ‘one-stop shop of information and resources for professional women’, also now runs over 15 learning events a year, hosts two awards programmes and has developed its own careers board dedicated to jobs looking to attract female clients.
She said how previously ‘no one was pulling together all the different opportunities that women could capitalise on in order to progress their careers’, but achieving equality isn’t in the near future.
“Until we achieve true gender parity, I believe organisations like mine and thousands of others still have a job to do,” she said.
“I would like to get to a point where we are no longer talking about pay gaps, lack of women on boards, the various in equalities in society; however we are certainly not there yet.
“In an ideal world I would like to think that organisations like mine won’t need to exist in years to come – however, if you look at the statistics, achieving parity is 80 years away.”
At the end of 2018, Vallely was awarded an OBE for services to Women and the Economy.
The company, which achieved profit for the first time in 2018, currently employs seven people and has five associate partners.