When you’re casting around for a role model for female bankers, Joanna Lumley is not the obvious choice. Firstly, she’s never worked in a bank. Secondly, she’s conceptually inseparable from the louche character of Patsy in Absolutely Fabulous. And thirdly, she has the kind of eclectic non-linear thought patterns that don’t sit comfortably in the corporate world.
However, it was Lumley who was the first interviewee at Deutsche Bank’s Women in Business Conference yesterday. And it was Lumley who charmed the assembled female bankers with her exorbitant eccentricity and tales of hair that was back-combed to look like Marge Simpson. In her wake, the financial services interviewees fell a bit flat.
Despite the obvious mismatch between erratic acting careers and life at the corporate coal face, Lumley had some proper advice for the 2,000 female bankers who assembled in London’s Barbican to immerse themselves in women in finance. Her wisdom could even be re-purposed for men.
1. Reclaim your life by ignoring things
“Throw away your phone!,” intoned Lumley – or at least don’t look at in the evenings. Ignore people who critcize you – unless you think their criticism might have a tiny grain of truth. You’re only affected by what you choose to be affected by. Operate a filtering system.
2. Hard work is selfish. Make time for other people
Lumley had a period of her life when she was “selfishly working all the time”. She loved acting, but her other relationships suffered. Are you really working hard for other people? Or are you doing it for yourself? (Ultimately, Lumley’s passion for stage acting dwindled anyway.)
3. Connections matter
Lumley knows all sorts of people and drops their names like Prada handkerchiefs. Thanks to her extended network of the rich and celebrated, she’s been able to raise money for an exciting ‘garden bridge’ to cross the River Thames in London.
4. Help people
Lumley most famously campaigned for the Gurkhas to be able to resettle in the UK, but she’s involved in all sorts of charitable causes. “You can always do something,” she said – even if it’s only writing letters or sending money.
5. Don’t fear shallowness
“I was born shallow as a puddle,” Lumley declared in between calling everyone, “dahling.” This is has not been a problem.
6. Don’t stop during the dark times
Lumley was once a struggling single mother who abruptly stopped work and moved back in with her parents. Even now, she has black moments. “Everyone has the nameless dread, but you have to keep going. Walk, move, write things by hand,” she said. “Keep going and then one day it will be gone.”
7. Live now
“I live every day as if it’s my last because one day it will be and then I’ll be happy,” Lumley said.
8. You can’t entirely disassociate your work persona from yourself
Joanna Lumley is Joanna Lumley. However, even when she’s Joanna Lumley she’s also very similar to Patsy Stone. Like it or not, your work-self cannot be compartmentalized.