Dubai: Hard work, failure, confidence, persistence and a bit of good luck: Those are the not-so-secret keys to “reaching the top”, according to three women authors who spoke about success at Thursday morning’s woman-oriented session at the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature.

Businesswoman and cook Prue Leith, novelist Jojo Moyes and well-being entrepreneur Julie Lewis were joined by journalist Rosie Goldsmith for Reaching The Top, one of four simultaneous sessions related to women on Thursday, to discuss issues facing women in the workplace and at home, and the challenges presented by marrying those two worlds.

Leith, 74, stressed the importance of accepting the occasional failure — and using it as a tool for motivation.

“Failure is excellent for you,” she said. “It isn’t the end of the world. I’ve had lots of businesses that have not worked. I’ve had to fold them up and forget them. I’ve never managed to write a TV series — I’ve tried. People just look at me and think, ‘she’s so successful’. But what I think is the trick is I don’t really look backwards.”

“I wrote three books before I got one published,” added Moyes. “I have the confidence, even if misguided to try anything. Mostly, if you try it, you’ll get away with it. As long as you put the right effort and research. I think women’s biggest problem is telling themselves they can’t do something.”

One factor that united all was the importance of a supportive partner, especially if a family is going to be part of a woman’s success.

“It’s a question I get asked all the time,” said two-time Romantic Novel of the Year Award winner Moyes, of whether her husband, journalist Charles Arthur, is threatened by her success. “It intrigues him, because no one would ask me if I am threatened by my husband’s success. I also think there are some men that will not be able to handle it. I am lucky enough that mine is secure in his own skin”.

“To climb the success mountain and be sat at the top alone is not much fun,” added Lewis, the founder of Mountain High, an expedition tour company for women. “You want to take people with you.”

The discussion was wide-ranging, touching on the divide between women who work outside the home and those who don’t, with all the panellists encouraging the audience of women (and sadly only two men) not to judge other women’s career paths.

And of course, the inevitable question of how far Miley Cyrus’ twerking is putting back feminism, as raised by a member of the audience.

“I am extremely concerned about the way feminism is going. It saddens me that women are frightened of the word ‘feminism’ and don’t want to associate themselves with the mother of a 16-year-old daughter who is occasionally told to ‘get back in the kitchen’ when she speaks up at school,” said Moyes. “One of the things that’s really refreshing in coming to Dubai is the lack of female bodies in advertising. It’s only when you walk around here and you see that washing machines are advertised as washing machines or cars are just cars that you realise how pervasive that has become in our country [the UK].”