UN Women Global Champion and UK ambassador for the global movement ‘Empower Women’, Charlene Laidley’s mother told her aged 14 “stop thinking above your station”.
I have always been unbound by the limitations imposed on me by others and by the circumstances around me. I was called a ‘dreamer’ when at 14, I told my single mother who was working three jobs to support me and my younger brothers, that one day I was going to go to New York and work in the luxury fashion industry – she laughed and told me to stop thinking “above my station”. Herself being the daughter of Caribbean immigrants, and watching her own mother struggle to survive in the UK, it was outside the realm of what she thought was possible.
With the help and support of my school teacher Mrs Webb, who I now know to be my first mentor, I applied for a scholarship to study at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, and through hard work and determination I succeeded. Four years later, after instrumental roles with Burberry and Clarins, I became the first woman of colour to join the senior leadership team of LVMH Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy – the world’s largest luxury goods conglomerate.
In 2007 I became an entrepreneur, and at age 26 signed The Mayor of London, Ken Livingston as my first client. After he left office in 2008, spotting a gap in the watch and jewelry market, I launched my current business; Latiénne the world’s first exclusive watch and jewelry communications consultancy. Over the last 8 years we have represented a number of world’s leading organizations; including Unilever, P&G Braun, Porsche Design, Hatton Garden, Girard-Perregaux, Eterna and Vivienne Westwood.
My experiences made me realise that whilst we cannot determine where we start in life, we can determine where we end up.
I strongly believe mentors matter and that women role-models from diverse backgrounds matter. That’s why I have dedicated the last 10 years of my life to the economic empowerment of women in the UK. By making time to go out into the community; working with schools and young people, by providing mentoring, sponsorship and training – I share with them my experiences and the lessons I have learned with the aim of helping them believe that they have what it takes to become a leader in whatever field they choose. I am living proof that it is possible to overcome hardship and the challenges of society to excel and succeed.
In November 2015, I became an appointed UN Women Global Champion and UK ambassador for the global movement Empower Women. The mission of Empower Women is to empower women to achieve their full economic potential by inspiring both women and men to become advocates, change makers and leaders in their community. Together I believe we can bring hope and inspiration to empower girls and young women from all parts of society, to become the World’s future leaders.