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.