If you want people to listen, you must do more than speak. Lessons from voice and impact coach Patsy Rodenburg

Patsy Rodenburg discovered her super strength early on in her career.  In the 1970s she was a young supply teacher where she routinely got sent into tough schools to teach ‘naughty’ kids.  After a while she asked: ‘why do you keep sending me into these difficult schools, with these difficult kids?’ The answer helped her identify what would become her super strength. 

“I was told I was the only one who could keep order,” she says.  “I hadn’t really thought about it, but I realised I had a skill.  I could just talk to these kids and they’d listen.  They’d stop when I said stop.  I could do something that could be used to help on the planet.”

Over the years Patsy honed and broadened that skill to become a world-leading presence and impact coach, helping others use their voice to be heard. Whilst today she spends a lot of time with professionals and well-known personalities, you’ll still find her with pupils in inner-city schools. 

“I’m an educationalist,” she says.  “Everything I do has stemmed from my love of teaching and a passion for social mobility.  We can’t have the wealth gap we have today without it ending in tears. We mustn’t leave anyone behind and that starts in the classroom.” 

For Patsy, that means paying attention to those being left behind.  “Our world isn’t going to get to be a better place until we have more female leaders.  Ninety percent of leadership is about communication and women have particular communications sensitivities.”  What Patsy knows for sure is those communication challenges start in the classroom and what happens there, follows you as far as the boardroom.

To make her point, most recently she asked an inner-city comprehensive to provide a list of students that ‘on paper’ could make the grades needed to go to any of the country’s top universities, like Oxford or Cambridge.  34 names made the list.  32 of them were girls.  “But do you know what?” Patsy says.  “When I asked how those girls spoke, no one could tell me. Girls need to be as impactful in person as they are on paper.  Our schooling system is educating these very intelligent girls who never speak.” 

Quiet, attentive, hardworking girls, it seems, progress – something that sticks with them through education into employment.  “Women in the workplace simply don’t speak out as much as men,” explains Patsy.  “That impacts their professional progress and, those who do make it to the top, find themselves catapulted in to a position where suddenly they must speak. The difficulty, by then, is that most women have no idea how to use their voice.”

That’s when Patsy is called in. She helps people use their voice, conditioning it to have greater strength, power and range.  “Most people have no idea they can change their voice,” says Patsy.  “They can, radically and quite quickly.  And, in today’s noisy world, if you want people to listen, you must do more than speak – you must do so with confidence and authority.  In short, you must project your presence and be impactful.”

Patsy Rodenburg is speaking at Women Ahead’s event in support of International Women’s Day this Friday 8th March.  The TED-style event taking place at the Barbican, will include a series of eight to 18-minute stories from a variety of inspirational speakers like Patsy.  The event is being professionally filmed and a free downloadable pack is being made available for schools.  To register your school’s interest in receiving this free post-event resource contact events@moving-ahead.org

Patsy Rodenburg is a world-leading voice and impact coach and an ambassador to Women Ahead - an award-winning social impact organisation committed to female development from schoolroom to boardroom. To find out more about Patsy watch her showreel here or visit www.patsyrodenburg.com  



My daily mental health practice (by the people who really know mental health)

We know that solid mental health – as with any other aspect of wellbeing – isn’t an instant fix, but rather a practice, often arising from long-term dedication to small, daily rituals that create grounding, positivity and connection.

At Moving Ahead we’re fortunate to have – within our core team as well as among our speakers, consultants and subject matter experts – extraordinary people with extraordinary mental health experiences and expertise. Together they’ve won Olympic medals, coached Olympic athletes, worked in war zones, founded companies, burned out and recovered, and turned their passion for wellbeing into meaningful work. They are athletes and yogis, meditators and nature lovers, and – so it seems – resolute morning people.

To celebrate Time to Talk Day, we asked them to talk about the daily mental health practices that keep them positive and performing at their best, and were delighted to notice some common themes. Here, in their own words, they talk about the power of exercise, the greatness of gratitude, and the daily delight of walking a dog.

Cath Bishop, Olympic medallist, diplomat and resilience expert

‘I exercise as much as I can. Sometimes that’s a long row or a run; sometimes a brisk walk instead of public transport. I listen to music I love at points during the day, and I try to be present. My kids are a great reminder of the fun and connection that comes from being in the present with people you love.’

Lizzy Nichol, Wellbeing research, design and delivery lead

‘My early morning, non-negotiable, all-weather dog walk transformed my mental wellbeing and became the cornerstone to my daily practice. As an athlete-turned-yoga teacher and health coach, I also love movement and pranayama (breathing exercises), and I don’t think you can underestimate the effect of truly nourishing food on mental health.

Kate Howlett, Head of transition, career coach and mindfulness expert

‘I look forward to my session of mindfulness meditation every day and wouldn’t miss it. It gives a more efficient mind, so doesn’t take time – it creates time. I know from all the published research that it will give me strength of mind and good all-round health.’ 

Kate Goodger, Olympic performance psychologist

‘My daily practice is about how I start my day. I used to get up early and get into emails; now I read. I find it nourishes my mind and gives me new things to consider and reflect on. I think about all the things I am grateful for and use this to give me perspective and energy. My routine also involves dog walks!

 Clare Robinson, Ambassador for leadership wellbeing, Moving Ahead and Women Ahead

‘I do a morning mindful walk, some stretching and yoga moves, breath work and then a loving kindness or similar meditation. I call it my ‘Daily five to thrive’ – things that keep me mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually healthy. It helps me cultivate higher levels of thinking and connection with others, and means I’m less reactive.’

Beth Stallwood, Head of Programmes and cultural development

‘I love to surround myself with things that make me smile – anything from a nice notepad to pictures of family and friends having a good time.’

Liz Dimmock, Founder and CEO of Moving Ahead and Women Ahead

As for my own daily mental health practice – it’s definitely a moment with my dog Pickle, getting fresh air on a dog walk. Each morning before getting out of bed I also take a moment to acknowledge and consider three things I am grateful for each day.’


Time to Talk Day 2019 is takes place on Thursday 7 February. However you do it, make a conversation about mental health https://www.time-to-change.org.uk/time-talk-day

What are you thankful for this year?

For me, the festive period is a time for reflecting not only on our successes – of which I am delighted to say there are many (more of those in a moment) – but for giving thanks for everyone who made them possible. To our colleagues and supporters, to the leaders and individuals who have truly embraced the importance of diversity and inclusion, invested in our vision, stretched us and challenged us to be better tomorrow than we are today, I wholeheartedly thank you. We couldn’t have done all this without you:

In 2018 we expanded our cross-company mentoring work, reaching more than 6,500 mentors and mentees, and more than 200 organisations, within the 30% Club cross-company mentoring programme alone. With more than 2,000 people, the launch celebration at the Barbican was our biggest event to date.

We made strides in our gender-specific mentoring programmes yet went beyond gender with programmes like Mission Include, and – indeed – beyond mentoring, launching LEAD, our flagship professional development programme. Our industry-specific work is also going from strength to strength.

We also solidified our foundations of research and storytelling. In March we published our third research report into workplace wellbeing, the findings of which have inspired fresh thinking and new projects (watch this space). And we developed the Moving Ahead Speaker Academy, adding more diversity to our pool of leading thinkers and subject-matter experts.

Looking back on this year, there is much to celebrate. However, with each step forward I cannot help but become more aware of how much further there is to go. I feel – in fact I know – that we have built a huge amount of momentum within the field of gender diversity, yet there are other, equally potent, areas of diversity in which progress still needs to be made. I very much hope you will join us there next year.

But first, rest. Eager as always to put our values into action, we will be closing over the festive period to allow all our hard-working team the opportunity to spend time with loved ones. It is this that will, I am sure, lead us into 2019 with renewed focus and energy, more resolute than ever to work towards a more inclusive society, and more steadfast in our approach.

For now, let me say a final thank you. I wish you and your families a wonderful festive break and a happy New Year, and I very much look forward to working with you in 2019.

Liz Dimmock

“The most powerful messages of inclusion come from those not part of the group they champion.” Daniel Danso

What does diversity and inclusion mean to you? That’s the question many organisations are asking themselves as they strive to accelerate workplace diversity and inclusion. And, who better to help answer that question than Global Diversity Manager at Linklaters, Daniel Danso?  That’s why we recently hosted an intimate breakfast between Mission INCLUDE’s programme partners and Daniel - who has worked globally to take Linklater’s inclusion and diversity further and faster.

“Think about diversity and inclusion as a lens which you can apply to look at your processes like recruitment, global mobility, work or project allocation, appraisals and so on, for how people experience them,” urged Daniel.  “Diversity and inclusion isn’t a function like IT or finance. It’s not a bolt on project, rather, it informs how those functions should work.”  He described it more like a ‘red thread’ that runs through everything and is central to brand.  “The challenges we’re facing to make our organisations more diverse and inclusive lie in how we think and talk about that.” 

Sharing his own inspirational story, Daniel covered the highs and lows he has personally faced in his life and what diversity means to him.  He touched on his experiences with religion, homelessness and depression following injury, his education in Women’s studies, being black and being gay in America and in Britain. 

Daniel told the audience about a particular experience he had with stereotype and bias while studying at UCLA.  “It was because I was black that someone felt comfortable asking me if I was one of those kids to get into college through affirmative action.  It didn’t matter that I had stellar grades and entry tests scores, I was a poor, black, gay man living in America. I was the minority of the minority.”

Gender and race are part of a historic hierarchy of importance.  Gender and racial politics were visible and prominent and are the strands most of us go to when we think about diversity and inclusion. “This is part of the problem,” says Daniel. “People in various ‘majority’ groups focused on the obviousness of race and gender and tended not to get involved in other areas of diversity or to do the work to recognise the issues in other areas.” 

To move forward, Daniel suggests we must embrace all diversities and look at each situation through multiple lenses. He shared how Linklaters are constantly asking the question ‘what does talent look like today and in the future?’ He said, “We’re constantly working throughout the entire organisation to help people make the connection between the culture they can create and all aspects of diversity and inclusion.  It was important that we got everyone to understand how they ‘fit’ into this area of work so that they could see how they are affected by it and, so they see the opportunities they have to champion equality for people different to them in a variety of ways.  For example, I hope that I am supported because of the things I’d encounter due to my race or sexual orientation, and as a man, I can support women in the gender space.”

While there’s no doubt Daniel has made impressive strides in supporting others to embrace diversity and inclusion, he’s the first to admit there is still a long way to go.  

The open and honest way Daniel shared his experiences put everyone at ease and role-modelled the importance (and impact) of being open in how we share our stories with others. This created an inclusive environment for others to have an honest conversation about the real-life challenges and best practice stories preventing and producing inclusive workplaces.  And that’s precisely the purpose of the inaugural Mission INCLUDE programme – taking Moving Ahead’s tried and tested principles of cross-company learning and mentoring to build a worldwide movement of workplace inclusion. 

Daniel Danso’s impressive global career, stemmed from his own diversity and passion for gender equality.  Daniel was the first man in his year to major from UCLA in Women’s Studies, before coming to London to complete the LSE’s Master’s Degree in Gender and Media.  Since then, he has helped businesses become more inclusive, first at Stonewall UK where he was the Client Group Manager for Stonewall’s Diversity Champions Programme and is now revolutionising and diversifying the legal profession through his role as Global Diversity Manager with Linklaters.  He was speaking at a Mission INCLUDE breakfast for programme partners, organised by mentoring, diversity and inclusion specialists, Moving Ahead, in November 2018.  If your organisation would like to find out more about being part of next year’s Mission INCLUDE programme, please email Pauline@moving-ahead.org

With special thanks to Daniel Danso and Linklaters for hosting this special event.  


“We all stand on the shoulders of those who came before us”: Three reasons to celebrate male mentors this International Men’s Day

Many Women Ahead programmes focus on helping organisations achieve gender equality at senior levels within organisations. Why? Because by inviting and celebrating diversity, and actively creating inclusion, businesses are more creative, innovative, attractive, successful, and – quite simply – reflective of wider society. Yet we often encounter a flaw in thinking: that to reach a seat in the coveted boardroom, women must be mentored by women. While it’s true that senior women have often encountered the same biases, navigated the same obstacles and balanced the same responsibilities as their younger female colleagues, there are incredible benefits to having – and becoming – a male mentor. On this International Men’s day, we celebrate three of them.

1.      Male mentors foster female boldness

As a mentee on the 30% Club cross-company mentoring programme once told us, ‘Men will apply for a job if they can do 50 per cent of it; women will apply if they can do 90.’ From imposter syndrome to reticence in stepping forward, speaking up and applying for that stretch role, there’s no denying that women can experience different challenges to male colleagues, and that mentoring can be the perfect remedy.  Women Ahead and Moving Ahead speaker and supporter and ‘The world’s leading male feminist’, Dr Michael Kimmel believes ‘Women need mentors who can guide them through the corporate forest. They also need champions to put them forward, promote them to their colleagues for advancement, and who urge them on.’

2.      Male mentors become female advocates

Mentoring is no one-way transaction. In fact, our research has shown that the benefits for mentors can be just as powerful as those for mentees, and turn male mentors into strong advocates for female advancement. BDO’s Mark Bomer – a mentor on the 30% Club cross-company mentoring programme 2016/17 – found the insight into female experiences of the workplace enlightening: ‘My mentee underestimated how strong she was, so didn’t push herself forward. That must be going on within BDO. I realised I don’t need to find lots of mentees like her; I need to do what I can to change BDO so there aren’t so many. We don’t need to fix women; it’s not them that are broken.’

3.      Male mentors share generational insights

In reverse mentoring relationships, junior colleagues mentor those more senior, with the goal of sharing younger perspectives on topics including – but not limited to – technology, the millennial mindset and work-life balance. We’ve found that men make fantastic reverse mentors. As Dr Kimmel says, ‘Younger male workers enter companies these days with a profile quite similar to that of female workers. They want to have great careers, and they also want to be awesome parents! Older males may have sacrificed this time with their families and may actually receive some strategic advice.’

Award-winning 30% Club mentor Michael Cole-Fontayn says that, ‘We all stand on the shoulders of those who came before us. And, fortunately for mentors, it is just as exciting to be the shoulders on which someone else stands.’ Whether junior or senior, male mentors provide a strong and vital pair of shoulders to stand on. In sharing their knowledge, experiences and skills with women – or other men – they can, in his words, ‘Bring everyone closer to smashing their glass ceiling.’

Dr Michael Kimmel is one of our amazing speakers.  You don’t have to be involved in any of our mentoring programmes to book someone from our speaker academy so if you are holding an internal event and looking for an inspirational speaker on diversity, inclusion or the power of mentoring - look no further.  See Michael’s showreel here and contact kate@women-ahead.org if you’d like to book him or any of our other inspirational speakers.