Karen Gill MBE on the Modern Muse project

Karen Gill MBE talks about the everywoman Modern Muse project and explains why young girls need successful female role models.

In 1998, after long and successful careers, friends Karen Gill and Maxine Benson launched the website, as a place where women in business could connect, share knowledge and support each other in an easy, practical, professional and non-judgemental environment. Twelve years later, having connected with thousands upon thousands of women in business, they have launched a new project: everywoman’s Modern Muse.

By reaching out to young girls, Modern Muse aims to increase the number of women running business by 100,000 in the next ten years and help them achieve their full potential. But how does the project work? What does it involve? And why do young girls and women need successful female role models more than ever? Emily Jenkinson caught up with Karen Gill to find out more.

We launched everywoman because… like most things, we saw a gap in the way that women – specifically entrepreneurs and those looking to start and grow a business – were being serviced in the marketplace. The service provisions were very much geared towards men setting up businesses.

Over the last twelve years, women have… taken lots and lots of small steps, rather than the big leaps that we need in terms of equal pay and representation. But we certainly have a better voice. I think we’ve got better role models and I think the media are more respectful in the way they portray and interview and deal with women in business.

The biggest thing that we’ve seen that has marked change is… the way that technology has enabled women to work in a much more flexible way, which was always a massive barrier.

The Modern Muse project came about from… twelve years in this business, through which we have met thousands and thousands of amazingly successful women. On average, we meet face to face with about five thousand women a year, but we are communicating with 50,000 over the internet, so we get a very good feel for what the conversation is about.

That conversation has been based around… concerns for the younger generation and young girls in terms of their ambition levels, which are much lower than those of guys when they go into the workplace. Coupled with that, some disturbing medical research coming out to say that young girls are ever-more anxious and depressed due to pressures being put on them from celebrity culture and media.

There ws a lack of diversity in the role models... being exposed to the younger generation and, whilst there are good role models out there, there just aren’t enough. Young girls are not getting exposed to women that are having fantastic careers in the navy, or fantastic careers as teachers - they’re not getting a variety.

We wanted to mobilise the talent… and get role models out there to show young girls that there are a variety of ways to be successful. Volunteers go and talk to girls that they’ve identified either through their local community, via the education system, or someone contacting us. Our goal is to have touched a million girls’ lives over the next ten years, so it’s big. But it needs to be big in order to have the impact that we want.

One of the things that’s really important… is that the Modern Muse project is really inclusive – we will focus on academy schools, areas where it’s tougher and in the private education system, where there are still issues with girls getting stereotyped about their career choices.

We’re not taking full enough advantage of… the technology that now enables total flexibility in business. There is still a cultural issue in many industries and firms about being physically present – even though it has been proven time and time again that flexibility doesn’t mean less hours or less input - but I think we’re getting there!

My advice to someone who doesn't know what to do is… to look around and see what things you are interested in. Start a conversation. Life’s a journey full of lots of opportunity and lots of experiences. One of the things that the Modern Muse book and story does is show that there’s no one path to success. It’s about really understanding your own interests, passions and talents and pursuing those – and hard-work!

My favourite website and the one I use most is… – it’s informative and very, very easy to use.

To become a muse and help inspire the next generation, or find out more information about the project, visit

Emily Jenkinson

2 March 2011