In September 2018, I was pleased to offer a workshop at the Contemporary Women Writers Annual conference. The theme of the conference was ‘Writing Wrongs’ and I offered a session riffing on this theme entitled ‘Righting Wrongs for Women in Academia’. The workshop was a space to share strategies, experiences and thoughts on how to shift academic organisational culture, where 1 in 4 professors are women and where BME women are particularly underrepresented.
At the Institute of Fundraising conference, 2018, I delivered a ‘Coaching Taster’ workshop, based on a ‘skills share’ approach.
I introduced participants to some basic coaching principles and models and then asked them to pair up to be coach and coachees with one another to test out their new skills!
The participants were fantastic and the room was ‘buzzy’ as they supported one another through some work-related issues. One participant stated she may even have found new career through the process!
It was a pleasure working with charity fundraisers who devote so much of their time to working for their charities and to allow them to spend little time on themselves.
Chance Encounter 1
Earlier this year, I contacted NEBIC (North East Business and Innovation Centre) to find out about their EU-funded Boost your Business course. The BIC support people to start and to grow their businesses.
While I was meeting with one of their advisors, having spotted my line of work their HR officer came to have a chat with me about the possibility of running a workshop for their staff. The BIC are currently running a series of events on wellbeing and so I created a workshop for them, ‘Being an LGBT Ally’, which looked at supporting LGBT+ people to be themselves in the workplace. Given the BIC’s client-facing work, the workshop also focused on how the environment might ‘speak to’ LGBT+ customers.
Simple things like having visible role models, some images on the website or wearing rainbow lanyards can have a big impact on whether a person feels included. They are ‘quiet’ ways of letting a person know that they are welcome, either as a member of staff or as a client. In turn, these enhance wellbeing and sense of belonging. And of course, hosting a workshop was an excellent step on that journey to becoming an inclusive organisation.
This chance encounter resulted in a mutually beneficial arrangement – some awareness raising for staff and some business for me (the BIC clearly take the ‘Boost your Business’ ethos to heart!!)
Chance Encounter 2
A second chance encounter that emerged from my dealings with the NEBIC was when I attended the Boost your Business course itself. This is three-day residential course which gives people the opportunity to focus on their business ideas as well as providing an opportunity to network with others in similar situations.
Having arrived at the hotel for the course, my first encounter of the morning was with a fellow participant who, when I introduced myself and my work, asked me what ‘LGBT’ was. I confess I was a bit taken aback at the time and it made me reflect that I do make assumptions that people know what those letters mean. I had further pause for thought as a second person later in the day asked me the same question.
While I’m not about to alter my business cards (have had too many printed, for a start), it has made me think more about how I introduce myself and also introduce the workshops I deliver, which always entail elements of terminology but I now make that aspect more ‘up-front’.
Learning for me always involves challenging established ways of thinking. Having my own thinking challenged has helped raise my awareness and made me take less for granted.
In October 2017, I was thrilled to bring together two of my passions – gender and coaching – in one place. I created and delivered a bespoke session for coaches and HR professionals attending the Coaching Exchange, Newcastle.
The Coaching Exchange is a welcome and relatively new initiative organised by Kate Shahid of Kate Shahid Coaching and Consulting. Kate is the North East regional co-ordinator for the Association for Coaching and the Exchange offers continuing professional development for coaches and Human Resources professionals. It is a place for learning and reflection on various aspects of practice.
In the session on Gender and Coaching, I encouraged participants to consider various ways in which the social construction of gender may impact upon coaching practice. We discussed how we might allow and account for gender in our coaching strategies and techniques. Among the things we touched on were differences between equality and equity, on imposter syndrome and unconscious bias, the impact of language and media in influencing our perceptions and on gender in organisational cultures.
The event was attended by over 30 coaches and HR professionals from the North East region and I was energised by their contributions. I look forward to the next Coaching Exchange!