International Women's Day - Sarah Rotheram, CEO of Miller Harris

 

Meet our CEO, Sarah Rotheram...

What three words best describe you? 

Mum, Wife, CEO.

What does it mean to be a woman today?
I think in some ways there has never been a better time than now. My mother’s generation had to fight for basic pay, went to work when women were secretaries and men were the bosses and they had to really fight to break that ceiling. Senior women when I first started working behaved like men in many ways, cut throat was considered strong and stern was the order of the day. There was a fierce competitiveness amongst women to get recognised. Whereas now, whilst there are still so many battles, I feel one is allowed to behave as a woman, to share her emotions to act and behave as herself in the workplace. My generation recognises that we can all be successful and that there is room for all of us to be great, and nothing is better than assisting others to be great too! I am of the generation that was told we could be whoever we wanted to be, if you studied or worked hard you could get there and hopefully that is the message we continue to pass onto the next generation. You can achieve anything, anything is possible.

That said, I think the younger women face pressures to look a certain way that my generation never did. In many ways, we know this is driven by the selfie culture and I think this constant evaluation of how we look is incredibly unhealthy and I am very concerned about the pressures this puts on young women. We have come so far in so many ways as women, yet time and time again our worth is measured by our looks. In some ways, I feel the younger generation need a voice that celebrates diversity. That reminds them that natural is beautiful, that teaches them that our appeal lies in the mind as much as in the physical. There are so many pressures to look like this perfect image of you. In my younger years, I don’t believe I ever considered my eyebrows!

What advice would you give your younger self?
I think, like most women who were focused on their career, I put off having children too early, yet it was the best thing I ever did. As soon as I became a mum I wondered why I had never done this sooner. I actually think being a mum makes you better at work, and you can have it all, you can have a job you love and family and be a wife all at once. The world is becoming increasingly aware of the need to accommodate women coming back to work after having children and I would encourage everyone to not let your career be a reason for delaying your family. I also believe that to really make a difference to working women lives, we need to also address the balance at work for men. The duty of care still often falls to the mother to take a day off when the child is unwell or in need, yet we need to create space for men to be able to comfortably fill this role too. This takes the pressure of working mums but also allows fathers to be involved more in their children lives.

What's your favourite thing about your job?
I get to make the most beautiful perfumes and see the creative dream become a reality. I still get a huge buzz out of seeing one of my projects come to life and sit on a shelf in a store. When the customers buy it, it means they get this buzz too!

As a CEO and mother, how do you balance your personal and private life?
I am incredibly lucky to have a very supportive husband and my son has had nannies from an early age, meaning I can focus on work where I need to. I am also extremely fortunate that where I have got to in my career, I can drive that conversation. When my son was younger I would take him to work, in the past, he has travelled with me when I have been overseas for 3 weeks. I recall breastfeeding at work. On the other side, he has had the fun of picking lavender in the fields with me, seeing some amazing countries. I invite perfumers to my home and brew them over a glass of wine at the dinner table or invite my team to my house for meetings. I try to make sure that my home time is for my family. But if I am guilty too of never switching off, I think the key is to do the things at home that are fun, stimulating, creative and inspire you.

What are you most excited about in life right now?
There is a movement building around sustainability before it was us as customers being responsible for taking out plastic and reducing our waste, the conversation is moving towards demanding more from brands, demanding more from the government. This excites me as I think we can drive change.

I am truly excited about the perfume on my wrist, not yet launched but coming very soon. I am always excited about the next thing we are about to launch.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Don’t worry about making mistakes, it is better to be brave and make a mistake and learn from it. Be the one to be brave to make the mistake. We all f**k up somewhere.

What’s the best gift you’ve ever received?
My husband bought me my two cats for my birthday, 10 years ago, there were rescue cats but still very kitten like and I confess I am a mad cat woman who loves her cats.

Three words to describe your personal style?
Black, white and denim if I am honest, a bit of an easy wardrobe and I love that we don’t all have to wear suits to work in the modern workplace.

Are you a heels or flats kind of girl?
Absolutely flats and preferably trainers.

What are three items do you always carry in your handbag?
Phone, red lipstick and a book.

What are you reading right now?
The Spy who came in from the cold by John le Care. I love a whodunnit!

What’s your favourite pub in London?
The Marksman. It’s my brother’s pub but I love it as it is still a proper boozer.

What is one thing everyone should do when in London?
Walk the embankment, starting at the Tate Modern and as far as your legs will take you. I never tire of the life that jostles along the river.

What type of scents do you tend to go for?
My taste is very varied, but woody florals most often.