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Enterprising Women Case Study - Sandra Wiggins

Founder and CEO of Authentically Balanced

Case Study

What do you think is the main importance of networks, like Enterprising Women, for women in business?

I'm not a burn-your-bra feminist, but do you know that female-led businesses bring more than £116bn in GVA to the UK economy? Yet women are still underrepresented in senior roles and board positions, and the pay gap is criminal.

These networks are essential to creating a safe space, giving support, sharing experiences, to build confidence to address those gaps. I will add, not to the detriment of our male counterparts.

I hope that one day, we've moved on from categorising people by labels and have a more inclusive society accepting us all as unique individuals who feel valued for what we offer the world. Is that my idealistic visionary state, sadly, I don't think it will be realised in my lifetime!

In these spaces you migrate to your role models, find like-minded people, those that have challenged the status quo by breaking through that supposed glass ceiling, and, in turn, make a systemic change that opens up space for others to follow.

And could you imagine the uplift in the economy if we encouraged more female-led businesses along with women into the top jobs, and board positions pushing that equality gap closer or even reframing it?

Tell us about your career to date and your current role?

Until recently, I would have never used the word career. A career has always meant to me, something you trained for and stayed in – for example, a doctor, dentist, solicitor, teacher, or professional sportsperson.

Since leaving college early, choosing to earn over learning, I’ve worked in various sectors – engineering, logistics, hospitality, print, sign and display, and manufacturing. My first step into going it alone was running a pub.

I have made a career out of working in sectors with a heavy male influence or if you look at the stats, that in every industry.

The one thing in common with all those roles, I had the people responsibilities, and the pressure to deliver financial results.

I’ve had several entrepreneurial businesses, including DPI (current role) and my “side hustle” coaching/mentoring business Authentically Balanced Leadership.

I’ve concentrated mainly on the strategic direction and “running” DPI for the past nine years. The official title is managing and finance director. Commonly known as responsible for finance, HR & H&S, operations, shipping, legals, and everything else that falls under the remit of ensuring we function.

As co-founder, it’s been my remit to structure and build an independent, cohesive team that gets on with the job safely and productively whether the directors are in the building or not.

And on being close to successfully delivering that, I will shortly be stepping away from day-to-day operations to pursue my ambitions for Authentically Balanced and another project currently under wraps.

What challenges have you faced in your career and how did you overcome them?

Where to start?

I’ve suffered character assignations for my strong personality and visionary and strategic brain. Faced more misogynist attitudes than I’ve had hot dinners.

I’ve been intimidated, made to feel insignificant, thick, personally threatened, and compromised, mainly when delivering hard decisions or misreading my boundaries – by both genders.

I’ve had to do a lot of inner work to break out of the cycle of limiting beliefs imposed on me by history, heritage, others, and myself. Learning to balance feminine and masculine energy with strong morals to make decisive, intuitive decisions that could have consequences for others has been my saviour, and grounding to not lose myself in the process – still a work in progress.

I’ve taken each criticism, observation, or knock as a new lesson and positively taken on board the message – okay, not always!

I understand that I am a marmite and am at peace with that. I believe inner strength comes from vulnerability, and as long as I work within my own value set, treating others as I expect to be treated, then I can’t go far wrong.

I have worked with incredible coaches and have an impressive professional circle of friends who support me in my quest for knowledge and help me be a better person each and every day.

When were you introduced to Enterprising Women and how has the network supported your career and business?

We don’t get the best results by doing things in isolation. And as one of life’s natural collaborators and self-starter, I contacted the Business Gateway for business support.

In 2017, I met a fantastic business adviser called Jo Maltby. We worked together for over a year, where I shared my aspirations, challenges, and frustrations, and Jo became a fantastic support, mentor, and influence for my confidence and self-belief.

2018 Jo said, “get your arse out from behind that desk, woman,” and instigated a fabulous ongoing relationship with Enterprising Women. She encouraged me to go to my first female event held at the Leicester Tigers ground, and I won’t lie, as a Tigers rugby widow, the thought of getting one over on the old man encouraged me to attend.

Let’s say it was a game changer for me and kickstarted my journey to be seen and respected (in my eyes) as a professional in my industry.

I’ve given talks and been shortlisted for numerous Enterprising Women Awards since, with that win still a little elusive – I’m competitive.

I have a support network that champions me to succeed in my chosen field and accepts me for who I am, my values, my personality, and my drive to change the perception of manufacturing and what I want to see in the world.

Networking with many females and a close shave with mental ill health some years ago ignited the ambition to start Authentically Balanced (AB). The initial “why” was, to support those females suffering from low esteem and self-confidence to help them see what I see in them, and to stay true to themselves avoiding burnout when being pushed to morph into other people’s expectations in the world of work.

While still carrying out that work AB has since pivoted to providing consultancy work to those forward-thinking manufacturers who want to invest in their people to address cultural issues and organisational excellence. Bringing together people, purpose, and processes through quality, structure, and well-being, answering some of the challenges of productivity and engagement.


Even though the industry has come a long way, what steps could be taken to make the manufacturing industry more inclusive?


The influencers must take a realistic and informative look at manufacturing to change those outdated industry views. I include government, education, parents, and employers.

We all play a role in de-mystifying those outdated opinions that it’s a sweatshop, dirty, noisy, and dull. And a place where you will end up if you don’t get your exams and not a place for girls. I’ve heard all the phrases and it frustrates me when I look at my own team, of forward-thinking, problem-solving, resilient, invested people who collectively what to be the “best of the best” – their phrase.

There will always be an exception in the industry and for those resistant to change, here’s a call to action – “It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.” — Charles Darwin.

Value in the industry comes from government terminology and actions to support the industry. We need to work more on dispelling gender stereotyping at a younger age. Don’t they say age 12 is when a child is susceptible to social influence? I suggest it is much younger than that.

Understanding of the opportunities in the industry comes from education, employers, and parents working together to identify roles and pathways. With less disparity between vocational and academic routes to sustainable employment.

The industry is evolving quickly, and we don’t fully appreciate the skills, needs, and job opportunities this change will bring.

And the bottom line is gender shouldn’t be a barrier to doing what fulfils us.

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