Happy 4th Birthday

It takes a brave person to leap from the security of a monthly pay check to going solo.  But that’s what Liz Dimmock did four years ago, when she founded social impact organisations, Women Ahead and Moving Ahead.

Liz isn’t one to shy away from a challenge.  In 2012, a week ahead of the Tour de France, she became the first woman to complete the entire 3,749 kilometre route, matching the event’s male-only riders, stage for stage.  Her ambition was two-fold:

The first was for personal growth. To apply a growth mindset to a physical challenge that completely pushed her out of her comfort zone.  “Could a woman do it?  Could I do it?  I had no idea.  I got a coach and I worked hard.  Throughout my training I had many detractors telling me there was no way I’d be able to do it – their voices seemed particularly loud with setbacks along the way, such as injuries. But in the end, I chose to adopt the mindset that I’d just do my best each day.”

The second, was the shock that there was no women’s Tour for what is, the largest spectator event in the world.  “All those people watching and no access to female role models.  I wanted to show the possibilities for equality,” says Liz.  And that’s exactly what she did. 

Things are changing.   Women now have the ‘Lc Course’ - an event which is a one-stage, one-day race, on the Tour’s course.  “It’s progress but it isn’t where we want it to be yet.  This is an endurance event.  Women are built for endurance – my completion of the entire course six years ago, proves it can be done even by a passionate amateur cyclist! Liz is thrilled to see more women continuing to ride the entire route to shine a light on this possibility, yet inequality.  She believes the wheels are firmly in motion and that it’s only a matter of time before the playing field levels.

Having successfully completed the Tour, Liz started looking at the governance of cycling and sport.  Back in her corporate role at this time, she quickly came to realise that sport was not so different to the corporate world - both lacked diversity in decision-making roles.  This was the trigger that changed the course of Liz’s life.    

“I decided to take my career in a new direction.  I wanted to use my 16 years in corporate life of mentoring, coaching and leadership development to bring about positive change in sport and business. Liz left her corporate role to set up Women Ahead and Moving Ahead – the focus, to find practical ways and tangible actions that lead to greater diversity.   

“There was already a lot of debate about equality,” explains Liz.  “It was really important to me that I was creating something that helped organisations walk the walk, not talk the talk.”  She has.  In the last four years, the social impact business has become the ‘go to’ place for organisations seeking expertise with mentoring, diversity and inclusion. 

“I set out solo but the journey over the last four years has been anything but solo.  It has been an honour and a privilege to have worked with such amazing people.  I like to think we’re a growth mindset organisation and thanks to our clients and colleagues, we’re learning and growing all the time.  It’s a true collaboration between us and those who support us and those striving for change.  We all have the same goal, for a more inclusive and diverse world. 

Women Ahead and Moving Ahead now have a fantastic office in the picturesque Henley-on-Thames, a partnership with Ricoh, and employs a team of 15 core colleagues and more than 30 world-class speakers and consultants.  The team has already worked with nearly 10,000 mentors and mentees, from more than 160 organisations.  Those organisations span all sectors and include many FTSE-100 companies, the Armed forces and Government.  

“There’s still so much to do,” says Liz.  “It’s easy to lose sight of what we’ve accomplished.  I liken it to the Tour de France - it’s a long, hard haul and you must pace yourself.  It doesn’t happen overnight but bit by bit, you make progress and the landscape changes.  You set out thinking it is a lone event but it’s a team effort. You learn as you go and adapt.  Along the way, acknowledging progress and celebrating each milestone.  For me, inclusivity is about evolution not revolution because evolution still results in change.”

And so that’s why, this week, colleagues and supporters of Women Ahead and Moving Ahead came together to recognise and celebrate four years of the small but mighty social impact organisation.  Congratulations Liz and Happy 4th Birthday Women Ahead, Moving Ahead – here’s to the next 40.   

 

Leading women needed to balance boards

…and the support you need to get there

Despite women making progress as non-executive business leaders, a report by Cranfield School of Management this week, highlights the lack of progress for women in executive roles on the boards of the UK’s leading companies. That’s why we’ve developed LEAD.

“We know the power of cross company programmes and have a faculty of subject matter experts,” says Liz Dimmock.  “I wanted to bring these into our first of its kind leadership, excellence and development programme. It’s specifically designed for senior women looking for a secure space, expert insights and the long-term support they need to truly become who they want to be as a leader.”  

Designed by Women Ahead’s, Charlotte Monico (Google’s former EMEA Head of People Development), this unique LEAD programme gives female talent, bespoke tools and support.  Only 18 places, for 18 senior women, from 18 different companies, are available in the programme’s inaugural intake, which commences in September.  

Kicking off with a three-day residential at the beautiful Soho Farmhouse in Oxfordshire, it’s followed by nine months of triad-mentoring with peers from other industries and unprecedented personal access to world-class experts.  

“The cross-company aspect is a critical,” explains Liz.  “It means participants have a completely safe space to talk openly about the experiences and challenges they’re facing.  We know it works. Industries are different but issues are remarkably consistent.” The approach means there aren’t concerns about commercial confidence or internal politics.  It simply offers participants the opportunity to gain a fresh perspective from those with different skills, experience and expertise to themselves.

“What we’re offering here is very different,” says Charlotte.  “Every participant will identify their own development goal. We’ll give them the provocation, stimulus and support to work on it.  Everyone’s journey will look completely different. And, the thing I’m most proud of is the world-class faculty we’ve built to support participants with their individual journeys.”

That faculty includes Patsy Rodenberg OBE, world-recognised expert on presence, impact and voice, Kirk Vallis, Head of Creative and Capability Development at Google, Dr Kate Goodger, Olympic performance psychologist, Simon Arrowsmith, expert in story crafting and storytelling and Julia Hobsbawn OBE, author and Professor of Workplace Social Health. And, they will work with participants for the duration of the programme.   Its design is unapologetic in this way - built to create the space, time and stimulus senior leaders need.

“The quick fixes aren’t working.  Effective change only occurs over time,” says Charlotte.  She concludes, “I’m proud we’ve created an environment where women can dig deep, understand what they want to change and then develop themselves.  Because, if this week’s Cranfield report about the continued gender imbalance on boards tells us anything, it’s that we need meaningful change - not another check in the box.”  

Grab this opportunity to be, or develop, the female leadership talent in your organisation.  Take a look at our short film here, download our information pack here or contact isabella@moving-ahead.org to secure your place before the LEAD application window closes for this cohort early next month.  The Cranfield School of Management’s report can be found here

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SMALL company, BIG difference

One young woman shares her leap from big to small business

Six months ago Elize Clark was one of 85,000 Partners within the John Lewis Partnership, working as an IT Project Manager for Waitrose.  Today she’s part of a small social impact organisation called ‘Moving Ahead and Women Ahead’.  It was a complete change, not just leaping from big to small business but also leaving IT behind to become a Client and Programme Manager. 

But what gives someone the courage to make such a bold career change and just how big is the adjustment?  Elize shares her early reflections…

“I’ve always been curious about people.  It started when I was at uni and I studied for a while at an international school in Spain.  I was just fascinated by how people of all different nationalities, languages and cultures could come together like that to work effectively. 

It wasn’t until I’d been at Waitrose for a while that I realised responsible businesses are embracing the entire diversity and inclusion agenda.  I got involved with it at Waitrose - but it was always in addition to my main Project Management role.  When I heard about the opportunity with Moving Ahead and Women Ahead, which is dedicated to increasing all aspects of diversity through a series of mentoring programmes, I just knew it would be the right place for me.  I wasn’t wrong. 

When I got the job I wasn’t really daunted by the scale of the change but the transition has certainly been interesting.  It has been completely liberating, in terms of the freedom you have to shape your work and impact change. 

I understand that for big businesses to operate effectively, they need to have layers of processes in place.  But the downside to that is it can take so long to do anything.  Here, you have an idea, you chat it through, you get the nod and you are off.  It’s much more fast-paced, much more agile.

And being part of a small organisation also gives you an opportunity to be involved in many different aspects of business.  Since I’ve arrived here I’ve given presentations, organised events, overseen filming – it’s as varied as it is interesting.  

But the thing I love most about my new role is that it’s all about people.  On a day-to-day basis I’m working with those in HR, diversity and talent development, across a variety of big businesses and industries.   I help them establish their company’s mentoring scheme(s) and can see first-hand how impactful my efforts are. 

My work helps people develop and grow but, at the same time, I’m learning loads by doing it.  I get to meet the mentors and mentees on our programmes.  I get to hear their personal stories, about the difference mentoring has made to their lives.  It’s a privilege to work here because I get to make a difference every day and meet so many inspiring people whilst doing it.”     

‘Moving Ahead and Women Ahead,’ is actively recruiting for another Client and Programme Manager.  They’re looking for someone with; a social entrepreneurial spirit; a passion for diversity and inclusion; and dedication to programme management, to join their growing team.  Elize Clark joined the organisation in February 2018.  She’s keen to encourage others not to be constrained by their current job title but to think about the skills, strengths and suitability they might have to offer this incredible mission-led business. Check out the role here http://bit.ly/MovingAheadClientPartner 

 

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From waiting in the wings to taking centre stage

How to shine as a female leader

Can you imagine how it felt to be actor Steph Parry last month? For those who missed it, Steph was an understudy for the West End musical, 42nd Street.  She was back stage when she heard that Mamma Mia’s female lead had fallen on stage and was unable to continue.  What’s worse, her understudy was ill.  Mamma Mia was going to be cancelled mid show.  That was until Steph raced through the few streets separating their theatres and offered to step in.   You see, a year earlier Steph had played that Mamma Mia part on a cruise ship, it wasn’t exactly the same but she was confident she could step up to save the day.  And she did.  Indeed, she shone so brightly that this week she takes the lead from Lulu in 42nd Street. 

Steph’s story is particularly inspiring to many women in business, because they can relate to it.  They all too often also possess the capability and talent to take centre stage and lead yet are being kept waiting in the wings.  Steph saw an opportunity and she seized it.  She must have known her performance wouldn’t be perfect but she bravely stepped out to put herself in the spotlight. 

Commanding the spotlight and taking the lead isn’t easy, particularly for women who have already reached a certain level of seniority within their career.  At ‘Women Ahead and Moving Ahead’ we recognise that women can find it difficult to step forward and give themselves permission to progress to the highest levels of business.  That’s why we’ve established #LEAD – the first of its kind leadership excellence and development programme.  It’s specifically designed for senior women looking for a secure space, expert insights and the long-term support they need to truly become who they want to be as a leader. 

Designed by Women Ahead with Google’s former EMEA Head of People Development, Charlotte Monico, this unique programme provides both the inspiration and support, for female talent to grow.  It kicks off with a three-day residential, followed by nine months of triad-mentoring with peers from other industries, and unprecedented personal access to world-class experts. 

Only 18 places, for 18 senior women, from 18 different companies, are available in the programme’s inaugural intake.  The cross-company aspect is a key component to provide participants with a completely safe space to talk openly about the experiences and challenges they face. 

If Steph Parry’s story teaches us anything, it is that when women give themselves the permission and create the space to focus their attention on seizing opportunities - the results can be extraordinary.  So don’t miss this brilliant opportunity to be (or develop) the female leadership talent in your organisation.  Take a look at our short film here, download our brochure here or contact kate@women-ahead.org  to secure your place before the #LEAD application window closes early next month.

Careering ahead

One man’s reflections on working with an all-female team

It may sound like he stumbled onto the Ocean’s 8 set but Francis has spent the last 18-months working as the only man in an all-female team.  There was nothing accidental about his decision to join social impact organisation ‘Moving Ahead and Women Ahead’ though. 

“I think the reference to ‘women’ in the organisation’s name puts men off applying to work here,” says Francis.  “That’s a real shame because what we do is much bigger than women’s workplace equality – it’s about trying to increase all spheres of diversity in corporates.”  

The organisation does that predominately through a series of mentoring programmes, supporting those from marginalised groups to get ahead in their organisations.

Mentoring is all about encouraging the best out of people.  There’s something in it for mentor and mentee, it’s completely inclusive and helps both partners gain new perspectives. Step-by-step, participants build the confidence they need to capitalise on their strengths and progress.  That, in turn, helps the organisations they work for become more diverse and inclusive. 

Whilst the ‘Moving Ahead and Woman Ahead,’ team is small, its pragmatic and incremental approach is having a big impact.  Just last week it brought together 600 mentors and mentees to share their mentoring successes. 

“Meeting participants and hearing them tell their personal stories, really crystallises for me that what we do here is making a positive difference,” explains Francis. 

But whilst these programmes draw male mentors, mentees and inspirational speakers, attracting men to join the core ‘Moving Ahead and Women Ahead,’ team is proving more challenging.  That’s a genuine frustration, given this team knows better than most the benefits diversity affords. 

“If other men could just see past the organisation’s name, they’d discover this is such a rewarding place to work,” says Francis.  “We’re a small enterprise so you get involved in so much.  You work with some of the world’s most inspirational speakers and leaders.  Plus, the work we do is making a positive difference in reducing workplace inequality.  How many employers can offer all that?”

‘Moving Ahead and Women Ahead,’ is actively recruiting.  They’re looking for high energy men (and women) with a social entrepreneurial spirit, to join their growing team in Henley.  Francis is keen to encourage other men to look beyond the organisation’s name and discover the rewards that joining this mission-led business can offer. His 18 months with the business has seen him progress on his own incredible journey and, as a result, Francis will leave Moving Ahead and Women Ahead to start his dream role as a teacher in the Autumn.