Joanna Payne: Marguerite And Real Female Empowerment

The Notebook | 28th February 2018

The director of the first member's club for women in the arts on overcoming inequality and the importance of male advocacy 

Joanna Payne is the founder and director of Marguerite–a unique members’ club devoted to providing support for women working in the sometimes tempestuous arena of the arts. Consisting of 30 events per year, spanning the disciplines of art, design, photography, architecture and fashion, it seeks to empower, connect and celebrate women in real-time. It is inarguably testament to Joanna’s verve and passion that in the three years since its inception in her living room, Marguerite has been hosted by some of the biggest movers and shakers in the London art world today–with iconic figures such as Zandra Rhodes and Nick Knight, counted among their number. This single-minded entrepreneur and member of Mortimer House first cut her teeth at Frieze Art Fair, where she was Senior VIP Relations for four-and-a half-years, as the fair grew from one fair to three, and later went on to be the Head of VIP Relations for Photo London before following her passion. Marguerite officially launched at 180 The Strand in November 2016, and has since carved out a leading role as a project committed to the principles of social equality and female solidarity. Here, Joanna talks to The Notebook about the importance of confidence, and explains why male advocacy has a vital role to play in the female empowerment movement.

On contemporary female empowerment...
There has been a real transformation in the West in the past few years in how women are viewed and view themselves. I believe that the word ‘feminist’ is beginning to lose its previously negative connotations due to greater understanding of its meaning, and women are now far more likely to speak up about injustices they witness and are victims of–the #MeToo campaign and #NotSurprised campaigns are key examples of this. The buck doesn’t stop at women, though. Male advocacy is key to female empowerment–each and every man plays a vital role in ensuring that progress is made for the better.

On the inspiration behind Marguerite...
In the past few years, women have risen to some of the most prominent positions in the art world today, but there is still a long way to go. Marguerite aims to provide women with a ready-made support network and environments in which they can feel empowered–which I hope goes on to give them the confidence to get what they want out of their careers and their lives. We host 30 events per year, as I think it’s so important that our members have the opportunity to develop genuine relationships in real-time.

On FEMpowerment...
In February, we hosted our second ‘FEMpowerment’ event with Lifestyle Editor of HuffPost UK, Brogan Driscoll. FEMpowerment is a bi-annual opportunity where we encourage our guests to step back from their busy lives and careers and put the focus on themselves–that means talking pointedly about issues such as confidence, self-care and self-love.

On the #MeToo movement
I think the #MeToo movement has done a great thing for women–and men–everywhere. It’s so much more than just a rallying cry against sexual assault and harassment–it has, at last, forced everyone to look up and take notice of what it’s actually like to be a woman. It started conversations everywhere. As well as providing a sense of empowerment and solidarity for women, it also sparked conversations amongst the men I know–it’s provided a much-needed education. Most men are not abusive, but the culture of male entitlement prevails–and that’s where we need to start to create real social change.

On inspirational women
I of course have to mention Peggy Guggenheim here! Named after one of the most significant art patrons of the 20th Century, Marguerite ‘Peggy’ Guggenheim, Marguerite strives to uphold Peggy’s famous confidence, ambition and vigour–her fearlessness and her recognition of the importance of surrounding yourself by intelligent, generous and inspiring people to increase your own confidence and network. I would also highly recommend Otegha Uwagba’s Little Black Book which gives no-nonsense practical advice for working women.

Interview: John-Paul Pryor