Katherine Jenkins OBE has made her mark on the world of music in Wales and beyond. In this conversation, she delves into being a woman in business, making it in the music industry and the importance of bringing women into the fold this International Women’s Day. 

What are your thoughts on the importance of celebrating International Women’s Day? 

It’s a wonderful day to celebrate all of the amazing women that we have in our lives. I’m fortunate that I’m surrounded by incredible, inspirational women: my friends, family and work life. But, the wider picture is to celebrate women’s achievements, raise awareness for equality and have a conversation about gender disparity. The overall message of the day is really important.

Can you tell us a bit about Cygnet and how it’s geared toward the sisterhood of gin lovers? 

Cygnet is an ultra-premium gin brand named after the baby swan – our home is in Swansea so it has Welsh roots. The women in my family all love their gin, but we’ve never had a loyalty to one brand. We discovered that gin brands fall into two categories; either male-dominated or if aimed at women, they’re pink, fluffy and sugary. There wasn’t one that was speaking to me, so I wanted to create a product that I knew was the best in class and uses the best ingredients. Then there’s the sisterhood – we work hard in whatever we’re doing, so when you have that drink you deserve the best. 

International Women’s Day encourages us to challenge stereotypes. How have you overcome any stereotypes or challenges in your career? 

From the very beginning, I’ve found that there’s a disparity in how work ethic is viewed. If you’re a man with high standards and a great work ethic then you’re professional. If you’re a woman, it’s ambitious, or even a derogatory term like diva-ish. In the past, if any of those terms were thrown at me, I found it embarrassing. Twenty years later, I’m really proud that I set those boundaries because holding myself to my standards. Young women shouldn’t be afraid to set those standards. Hold yourself to account for how you want to be viewed decades in the future. 

Which women have supported or inspired you in your career? 

One of them is my mum; she’s so strong and majorly instilled work ethic in my sister and I. She would say to us at a young age, “Girls, it’s up to you. As long as you put the hard work in, you can achieve anything and you can do anything.” I remember that conversation so clearly and I’m so grateful to her, she was an amazing role model.  

My singing teacher, Beatrice Unsworth, was like a second mother to me. Moving to London when I was eighteen to study at the Royal Academy of Music was a big shock to the system and she helped so much. Aside from giving me the technique that I needed for my profession, she was a great comfort and somebody who I admired.

Also, being in a female-founded company, it’s really important to me that a large portion of our team are women and that we have women at the top. They’re all phenomenal. They inspire me to do more and I love being on this team with them.

How can women use their platforms to advocate for positive change? 

From a young age, I remember my mum involving my sister and me in charity and instilling the belief that if you are lucky enough to have success in your life, then you have a responsibility to pay that back into the world. When you’re in the public eye you have a different kind of platform that people will listen to, so it’s about choosing genuinely authentic causes. In my instance, I try to choose the things that are very close to me so I can give them my all and amplify their message to the best of my ability. 

Can you share a moment in your career that you are particularly proud of as a woman? 

There are two that come to mind. One was when Classic FM had an award that they gave to the biggest-selling classical artist of the last century. I didn’t even know that existed, so it was a big shock when they gave that to me! The fact that it went to a woman was really exciting. Secondly, I was recently invited by the Admiral of the Navy to be the sponsor of the new HMS Cardiff warship, and again what I’m proud of is the break in tradition as HMS Cardiff is the first time they’re giving the sponsorship to a civilian. I’ve been involved with the military for twenty years and it always feels like such a privilege to be associated with and spend time with them. 

What is the most important message you want to send out to young women thinking about their careers?

This year’s theme for International Women’s Day is about inspiring inclusion. One of the things I talk about with Aaliyah, my daughter, is that if you see someone on the edge of a situation looking uncomfortable or lonely, be the girl that goes over and says, “Hey, come be with us. Come talk with us.” If I’m in a lift and I see a woman, I like to say, “Oh, you look amazing today.” I like to have that positive energy. It’s amazing, you smile at one person and they go on to smile at ten other people that day.

Something that I dislike reading about in the press is how women are pitted against each other. In my experience in business, it’s been the exact opposite. I think that women in business are there to have each other’s backs and hold each other up.

Take as many opportunities as you can. Join amateur operatics, local shows or competitions. It’s all about the experiences that you can get so that when an opportunity comes your way you can be as prepared as possible. Once the ball starts rolling, know who you are and be yourself. As it was said to me at the time, if you’re not yourself and you’re looking for a career with longevity, it’s a really hard act to keep up. Have honesty at the core of everything you do.

To find out more about Cygnet Gin and the story behind it, click here.

Author WCS

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