SISTR: A New Community For Women in Business

Emma Sayle, Sistr

We set up SISTR as a virtual (and eventually live) support and community platform, to help women in business offering webinars, live discussions, free mentoring and podcast. As a female CEO I know how hard it can be. We believe that the potential of the female community in the workplace, now more than ever, needs to be boosted. Women are being hit hardest by the economic fallout from Covid.

McKinsey estimates that female job losses due to Covid19 are about 1.8 times higher than male job loss rates globally. Women are suffering a larger fall in earnings and losing their jobs in greater numbers than men during the pandemic. Unfair pressure has been put on them through taking the lion’s share of unpaid childcare responsibility during lockdown and a larger proportion of them are doing front-line work (77% females working across healthcare, education and food production).

How did you come up with the idea for the company?

Fifteen years ago I started Killing Kittens and created a female sexual revolution. The awakening of women’s sexuality has come hand in hand with the new digital landscape. Having an online global platform has had a huge impact in giving a voice to many people who felt marginalised from #metoo to LGBT rights. However I feel that whilst technology has played its part in empowering women in the bedroom, it is now time that the same digital opportunity should be helping women to get ahead in the boardroom.


How has the need for SISTR evolved during the pandemic?

Women have suffered economically disproportionately as a result of Covid. This must not become permanent. Not on my watch! SISTR is aimed at women who see the current crisis as an opportunity for a gender re-set in the workplace, in their career or as a time to set up a new business. SISTR is a place to find mentors from the female business community, to share ideas, contacts, connections and support and ultimately it is a place for women to grow their career or business in these difficult times.

Despite the Equal Pay Act of 1970 there was still a 17.3% pay gap between men and women yet women contribute between 35-45% of GDP in Europe and the US. That was BEFORE COVID. Now gender pay gap reporting has been suspended by the UK govt as a response to the Covid crisis, SISTR Is calling on the government to ensure that this suspension will be reversed as quickly as possible.


Has your work at KK affected your work at SISTR in any way?

Through the work we have done over the past few years at KK Group, developing the technology for our new adult social network, it was important to us to utilise the same tech and skills that we had acquired across the KK events and translate these to helping and supporting women in the boardroom. We wanted to keep the same KK ethos of women supporting women, but now within a professional networking space. It’s shocking that less than 17% of small businesses and start ups are led by women. We want to change that and make the modern workplace fit for women.

What support can women find at SISTR?

SISTR has been set up to reach out to our sisters for whom lockdown has either forced their hand or changed their mind to try a different way of working. As three-quarters of the part-time labour force, women have been hit hardest when part-time jobs fell 70% in the first 11 weeks of the pandemic. For many women it’s about finding a new job in the same sector as soon as possible. For some it will be about turning a side hustle into a lasting career change. For most of us it is about economic survival. SISTR has been set up to help women, as the only way we can re-build our economy post Covid is by investing in women.

We have teamed up with organisations such as ACAS (The Advisory, Consiliation and Arbitraion Service) and Seedrs crowdfuning platform and have been running free online discussions and webinars offering advice across all areas of the workplace during this time of crisis on subjects from ‘turning career uncertainty into career opportunity’, ’employment law’, ‘turning business anxiety into business excitement’ and ‘making your side hustle into a career’. Experts who have been talking to us and our members recently include Stephanie Boyce from the Law Society, executive mentor Avril Millar, TV psychologist Emma Kenny and public speaking expert Resham Kotecha.

We cannot allow a two-tier workplace to appear with the pay gap widening. We cannot allow women to be unfairly penalised by the economic fall out of Covid. There has always been a sense of bias towards men over women advancing in the workplace and this must be addressed now more than ever. Women have achieved so much in the past 50 years but there is so much more to do and I believe women can help each other to attain this. Only by creating new businesses with women at their core can we hope to climb out of the economic abyss left by the pandemic. Women must not and cannot be left behind.

In the current crisis, it’s never been more important for women to support women. British women are given more places at university, get better grades, graduate at higher rates and go on to postgraduate work more often than men. SISTR will provide mentoring and engagement schemes provided by women for women utilising the theory that an hour’s advice can change your life forever. If a woman wants advice on how to boost her skills to become an industry superstar or tips on how to shift her career or start-up on her own, or to find a group of like-minded women for a friendly chat, we will be there for them.

What can we hope to see from SISTR in the future?

SISTR believes that following the crisis, business must re-evaluate how it treats women. We call on business, especially those run by women, to help other women to re-train where necessary and to help support women in start-ups and to put pressure on the FTSE100 to create more boardroom seats for women. Post Covid we will be running live networking events and panel discussions all over the UK. SISTR will also be putting pressure on both Government and business as a whole to offer a more flexible and home-friendly working environment for both men and women.

Most importantly, we want to call on all our sisters in business to be the difference and to help another woman to thrive rather than survive. Together we can change the way the world works so that women don’t have to choose between work and home. Together we can make sure that every woman has the confidence to create and grasp opportunity in the workplace.


Interview with Emma Sayle, Founder at SISTR