Jam Jars, Human Knots and Ethereal Singing

Thank you to Ferhana Jameel of Pearson who joined our Community Session on Conversational Leadership with an open heart and mind, here she shares her experience of the evening.

It may seem these things have nothing in common and even harder to imagine how a cocktail of these concepts and actions would lead to self-empowerment but guess what? Not only do you leave the She Leads Change Community Session convinced you’re coming back for the program, but also that you’ve just spent one of the best Monday evenings of your life with some incredible women!

Prompted by the recent Pearson newsletter, reading some amazing testimonials by previous participants Melanie Williams-Browne and Hannah Cheek, I thought I had an idea of what I was in for at this taster. What I could not have banked on was the overwhelming understanding, sisterhood and space of support She Leads Change had created in a few hours with women who were complete strangers at the start.  

Here are some of my absolute fave exercises and points of learning that came out of the evening, leaving me with the limitless possibilities the September programme itself could hold:  

What does Change mean to you? What does Lead mean? What about ‘She’? I think one of the most illuminating answers to come out of the last question we fed back mini groups was ‘She’ is not restricted to gender but actually celebrates the aspects of female intelligence each person has within them. Also that ‘She’ can be anyone and so it is immediately inclusive of race, academic and socio-economic backgrounds.

Human knots and containers: during a mammoth exercise of Twister with a twist where we all start entangled and then have to find a way to get untangled (exactly as messy as it sounds!) really helped us to understand how vital it is to work together to solve any problem (pulling in your own does not work literally and figuratively!), the idea of the ‘container’ was discussed i.e. the space in which we conduct meetings, 1-2-1s etc. Checking to see if these dialogue interactions are taking place in the right space (container) to address the message/agenda was an essential lesson in self-awareness which ultimately serving self-care and mindfulness in the workplace.

‘Jam Jars’ are the jars holding our authentic selves (including our diversity/social class/gender/lived experience) but sometimes are not comfortable opening in certain situations be it work spaces, socially or with our families. She Leads Change helps to empower individuals to be comfortable and confident that all those other aspects of them are valid, interesting and something we all want to hear about. I liked this concept a lot and it got me thinking about all the work Pearson ERGs have done on championing all aspects of the self to make sure many of us can leave the jar open in our work space to ensure we have an inclusive, healthy, safe space.

Leadership equals active listening: as someone who has no problem speaking up, through various volunteering program with schools and mentoring at Pearson I have learned it is listening to another individual that will equip anyone with the right tools to lead effectively. It seems simple but in practice can be very difficult to comply! The empowering exercise we completed consisted of each pair listening to each other’s chosen issue non-stop for 5 minutes and could only speak at the end with what they felt was the ‘nugget’ i.e. the theme, motif or idea that sprung out in their partner’s brain dump. This interaction was incredibly rewarding. Not only to the person who felt heard uninterrupted, but also the person who had to practice active listening and learn what they would have missed because they suppressed the urge to butt in! Also, just listening to the way the core team for She Leads Change spoke to each other was a lesson in itself: the language, the gestures, the collaboration and the constant positive affirmations they gave each other in their interaction with each other and us was a truly enlightening experience and one I encourage everyone to practice in the workplace because kindness really does not cost anything! Another beautiful way to practice self awareness and pay close attention to your words.

Among many personal diverse testimonials presented, hearing of Pearson alum Mirna Bilala experience with She Leads Change really blew me away and it was plain to see the personal and professional growth she had experienced as a direct result of the program and it’s amazing one-on-one coaching. Speaking with Preety Carter who echoed Mirna’s experience, it was pointed out that although initially the commitment to the 3-month program, especially as a working mum can be daunting, but the rewards she has gained – again, both spiritually and professionally – have been invaluable.

The invitation by one of the coaches to finish the session with a circle, a thank you to us all and an inclusive chant that very quickly escalated into a pitch perfect choir not only provided  a refuge for us all mentally after a long, hectic Monday but also our harmonies exposed how much we needed this! A perfect ending to a session that unlocked many inhibitions as well as unlearning some of the social norms that lodged their way in – sisterhood singing felt like the rebellious but also healing way to dismantle this.

If you’re now wondering how do I get the full experience of self-enlightenment She Leads Change has to offer, there’s still plenty of time to apply to the program but to make sure you don’t miss the deadline for the Autumn programme starting 30th September – sign up here, because this is an experience of self-empowerment you do not want to miss out on!

Trailblazer?

Our SLC community fairly bursts at the seams with leaders, dreamers, visionaries and pioneers, developing, transforming and leading individuals, teams, businesses and society – all with the heart to creating a positive legacy for our future generations.

One of our current participants has shared a request from Arise – they are looking for ‘ordinary, extraordinary’ speakers – everyday people who are trailblazing change, often quietly and without fanfare and who would not necessarily describe themselves as trailblazers to share at their upcoming conference in London…

Apply here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/AspireTBL2019

Their focus is “on the empowerment of women as leaders and we totally welcome and are inclusive of men as speakers and attendees at this event.”

If you would never normally do this, maybe today is your day! Arise encourage you to step up and join as a speaker – it’s a massive confidence boost and a great experience. We’d love to see some of our SLC community stepping up and into the speaking arena – you lead change every day and your experience will empower others to do the same!

Revolutionising Lead(her)ship

We’re at the end of 2019 Spring Programme and one of our participants, the wonderfully resilient and brilliant Lamese, shares her recent experience on the programme. Registrations are now open for our Autumn Programme starting on 17th September.

Women know the stats and realities of how hard it is to break the glass ceiling – even harder if you are a woman of colour. We’ve been told to step up and speak out, yet not to be too emotional. We have played down our feminine qualities to adopt the widely accepted more masculine style.

At the same time, we’ve heard the importance of soft skills in the impending AI era, the importance of being authentic and that we need to have the type of purpose that can drive change in the world. We’ve been told that vulnerability can give birth to greatness … but how?

While there’ll always be predictors for leadership success and traits we can aspire to, She Leads Change has made me realise nothing sticks without the personal journey. It is only possible to produce our best work when we work with who we are in our entirety.

I was attracted to the course because it spoke about leading change in myself, about giving me the tools, skills and courage, I need to create change in the world. Change, which at times can be completely overwhelming and paralysing.

For three months this Spring, a group of diverse women came together in London to learn, share and grow.

I pitched up for the first session, standing so far back in the waiting area that I could almost morph into the wall while fake typing a message on WhatsApp, but I left standing tall, speaking up and seeing myself as a leader. The course provided me with sisterhood and a space for vulnerability … for growth.

I knew I had to get out of my own way. I knew I had blocks. I knew there was so much noise around me. Now I know:

  • Leadership is not for the selected golden circle of senior management and above. Leadership training is at its most powerful when we all step up to lead change.
  • Being a changemaker is about courage and a self-belief deeply rooted in vulnerability, knowing that the only way you can go is up.
  • My presence and gravitas is underpinned by awareness of the self, others, the systems I work and operate in on a daily basis and the resilience I allow myself to develop.
  • My ability to be accountable for the who I bring to meetings, projects and relationships is paramount.
  • Peer-to-peer learning and storytelling in a safe space provides a powerful level of learning and understanding for women.
  • Who I am, what I’m capable of, what my authentic leadership style is and that I am indeed leading change in this world.

Surrounded by extraordinary women, in an extraordinary course and gifted extraordinary coaches for 1-to-1 sessions, leaders ready to innovate the future are being born. She leads change, we lead change.


Lamese has been working in the digital space for about 15 years, with the feeling of often hitting limits. Partly because opportunities for progression didn’t seem abundant but also because she didn’t know how to speak up to claim credit for what she brought to the table and not seeing herself as leader. Now she does.

If you are interested in our next programme starting in September apply now or get in touch with Laura if you have any questions.

She Leads Change at Pearson Business School

I was invited by Rhys Marc Photis, leader of the strategy module, to introduce Pearson MBM students to She Leads Change, and to work with them on a topic relating to the self: I chose resilience.

She Leads Change was created on the premise: to lead positive change we need to first find and be our most powerful, authentic selves. Self and resilience are two concepts at the heart of our programmes. We work alongside our Open Programme participants on self – helping them open up the narratives, misperceptions or limitations we carry, alongside the strengths and capabilities we hold back. Our session on resilience, co-created by participants and facilitators, encourages participants to have the courage to live fully through being able to handle failure and related emotions of shame, vulnerability, hope, compassion and grief.

” Having looked at “Graves Value system” as part of the current module and how personality types can affect the way a team and company operates, it was good to reflect on how resilient I am as a leader. Shalini helped me to realise that having the power and confidence to know when to stop and say no is vital in effective leadership and enables me to be resilient in my everyday work.” — Matthew Evans, Senior Standards Manager at Pearson

With the students from the MA in Business & Management, I ran a session on resilience working on personal stories through an exercise of deep listening in pairs. Having got students to think deeply about their own resilience – the situation, their actions, what they learnt about themselves – we moved on to consider how knowledge of resilience qualities can help better us understand drivers and motivations and build deeper awareness of organisational styles.

She Leads Change was given as an example of a group orientated leadership and organisational style where individuals are motivated by collaboration, sharing responsibility and putting the team first.  Quite different from some of the other leadership styles in evidence all around us.

“It was a very insightful session to have Shalini in the programme. It showed me and others how important it is to be true to ourselves. The more authentic we are, the more resilient will be in this slightly mad world.” — Rhys Marc Photis, Head of Contemporary Strategy, MBM at Pearson

It was a wonderful opportunity to share some of the She Leads Change approach with business students and to co-create the session with Rhys as part of the Strategy module he leads on.


Shalini Sequeira is a facilitator on the She Leads Change Open Programme, and also a coach for She Leads Change. Outside She Leads Change she is an executive coach, working with talented BAME professionals to support them into leadership.

Our next Open Programme starts on 17th September, more information and sign-up here.

Held By Others, We Lead Change

The fifth session of our Spring Programme took place on Monday with a focus on resilience. Sophie Lawrence, one of the current participants, sent us this following the session. We couldn’t have asked for more beautiful feedback. Credit to the current cohort of wonderful women changemakers for coming with us on this journey and creating the magic.


An overwhelming sense of lightness. 
Those dark knotted alleyways lurking within –
Eased out with grace,
And a knowing, supportive smile.
A female chain of understanding,
Growing stronger by the week.

Power that once faltered
Suddenly lit with intense clarity.
Seeing others around you in a new technicolour of understanding.

The secret of your own personal growth –
For the moment at least can be kept within.
Let us enjoy floating around.
For a while.

And then it can be let out to fly high,
Soaring and swerving.
With new trust and resilience and knowing –
That however much it crushes back down again,
We can pick up the pieces.
And, again if we need.
Painting colourful images that are true to ourself. 
A unique space, unlike no other that we’ve entered before,
Held by others – 
We lead change.

More information on our Autumn Programme and apply here.

She Leads Change Playlist

One of our wonderful programme participants – Elaine McGinty – has created a She Leads Change playlist to get you dancing, laughing, dreaming…! Listen on Spotify.

The selection of songs – that people might like (or hate!) – are of different genres, tempos for different moods from classical to punk, but with a common theme of hope, truth and human essence.

Elaine is the CEO/Founder at Phoenix Cultural Centre CIC running the Fiery Bird Live Music Venue, is a presenter of the Fiery Bird Radio Show, a vocalist and lyricist with Phoenix Chroi and a freelance writer.

Please listen, share and get in touch with your own song suggestions!

The Best : Tina Turner
I’m in a Different World: Four Tops
She’s A Star : James
One Small Voice: Carole King
I Saved the World Today : Eurythmics
Power to the Meek: Eurythmics
I Am Woman: Helen Reddy
Woman : Neneh Cherry
People Have the Power : Patti Smith
Till Victory : Patti Smith
Rip Her To Shreads : Blondie
My Love is Your Love : Whitney Houston
I Wish I Knew How it Would it Feel to be Free : Nina Simone
Ain’t Got No – I Got Life : Nina Simone
Just Like a Woman : Nina Simone
(What A) Wonderful World : Sam Cooke
Isn’t She Lovely : Stevie Wonder
Try a Little Tenderness : Etta James
Good Advice : Koko Taylor
Oh Happy Day : Aretha Franklin
O Mio Babbino Caro : Maria Callas
The Flower Duet : Katherine Jenkins, Kiri Te Kanawa
Keeper of Dreams : Philip Chapman
Don’t Dictate : Penetration
The Boat That I Row : Lulu
Oh Bondage! Up Yours! : X-Ray Spex
A Change is Gonna Come : Sam Cooke
(Something Inside) So Strong : Labi Siffre, Kevin W. Smith

Join us on International Women’s Day

Friday 8th March marks International Women’s Day.

We’re making the most of the incredible range of events at the Southbank Centre with a She Leads Change trip to the Women of the World festival.

Why not join us, for any or all of it?

12.30pm: lunch at Le Pain Quotidien on the Southbank

2-5.30pm: WOW: What now? (please book your own ticket via the Southbank Centre)

5.30-8pm: Music & drinks in the Queen Elizabeth Hall foyer – we’ll be to the left of the stage area

8pm onwards: Informal continuation of the evening with dinner and drinks

Please drop Laura an email if you would like to join us. We look forward to seeing you on International Women’s Day.

#IWD2019 Debate – 7th March

With International Women’s Day just around the corner, we’re excited to share with you an event taking place in London on Thursday 7th March asking the question: “Does Flexible Working Reinforce Gender Stereotypes?”

Come along in support of #internationalwomensday, and hear a stimulating, thought-provoking debate on one of the hot topics of the 21st Century workplace. The prestigious panel debating the question includes:

• Dr Carole Easton OBE – Chief Executive of the Young Women’s Trust (Chair)

• Asif Sadiq MBE – Head of Diversity, Inclusion & Belonging at The Telegraph

• Harini Iyengar – Discrimination and Equality Lawyer and Spokesperson for the Women’s Equality Trust

• Tara Leathers – Deputy CEO at The Prince’s Trust

• Will McDonald – Group Sustainability & Policy Director at Aviva plc (job-share) and Chair of the Fatherhood Institute (part of the most senior all-male job share in the UK).

All proceeds from the event will be going to Young Women’s Trust – supporting and disadvantaged women age 16-30 struggling to live on little or no pay. To book tickets via Eventbrite, please click here.

International Women’s Day Debate – Gender Stereotypes in the Workplace Thursday 7 March – 6.30-8.30pm – City of London School for Girls, EC2Y 8BB
#womensday #genderstereotypes #change #sheleadschange

12 Months of She Leads Change

1 – WE ARE ONE

Just over a year ago we had a series of requests for coaching, from these came the idea for a curated programme of peer-led support.. that has led to a growing community of connected, confident changemakers.

2 – KINDNESS

Radical generosity is a core value of She Leads Change.

“I’d like to thank you all for your kindness – at every touchpoint of the programme there is a brilliant, caring, intelligent, passionate woman who genuinely cares about your journey; who wants to help you plant those seeds because she knows that once you start doing so you’re going to grow something amazing…because she believes in you.” – SLC participant

3 – IMPACT

In our first year, we’ve had more than 50 brilliant, brave, beautiful women on She Leads Change, supported by 45 coaches from all over the world, 3 great facilitators and a dedicated core team. We’ve witnessed transformation and growth – both personal and professional. We’ve seen people step up into positions of increased responsibility, change their work culture, take on new challenges and be braver, more confident and more purposeful.

“I’m much clearer about my purpose and far more confident about living it.” – SLC participant

4 – GRATEFUL

This is not one story, it is OUR story and we give a very special thanks to Antonia, Steph and Jo who were there at the beginning and have given so much of their unique gifts to co-create She Leads Change. We are also grateful to our incredible group of facilitators, coaches and advisors – you give us confidence to do the work and make the change possible.

5 – SUPPORT

She Leads Change provides a supportive and safe space in which to undertake self-exploration with help from others.

“…spending time with women you would otherwise never cross the paths of, who bring entirely new perspectives and experiences to your life while sharing a powerful journey together is something truly valuable and rewarding.” – SLC participant.

6 – CO-CREATION

This idea underpins all of our work together. People don’t only join – they create together. We are excited at the way our SLC community has grown: gathering on a regular basis to support, encourage and empower one another. If you’re passionate about leading change and want to invest with us into the future of She Leads Change, let us know what you can offer – what you’d like to co-create – we’d love to hear from you.

“I’d like to lead change for millions, and I think I can – but not alone” – SLC participant

7 – CONFIDENCE

We have heard how participants have greater appetite to step into opportunities, rather than waiting on the sidelines until ‘ready’; how they are less afraid to get out there and be their best selves.

“I’m now more confident to step up, to hold a room. I’m more aware (and sure) of my strengths, and where I want to spend my (emotional) energy. I feel more content with myself and what I have to offer to the world.”

8 – PASS IT ON

Who do you know, who could do with a dose of brave?

Could you introduce us to your corporate, friend, colleague, family member you feel would benefit from our transformative leadership programme?

Do you have someone in mind, you could sponsor? We have started a sponsorship programme to ensure we have the type of diverse group to create transformation at scale.

9 – INFLUENCE

The companies that some of the participants are from have contacted us to send more people. They have seen big changes and have joined our journey.

“I am more aware of my strengths, of my relationships and of my own journey. How I have been shaped and of how I want to shape my own future. I feel more influential and more central to my own story, and know more about my values.” – SLC participant

10 – COMMUNITY

We are launching a community of women co-creating and enabling change in the world. Curious? Get in touch if you’d like to join the movement.

“It really has helped me show up differently. There hasn’t been a a big a-ha moment, but a wonderful journey where I’ve discovered so much more about myself, how I’m being, and how I want to be.” – current SLC participant.

11 – SELF DISCOVERY

It’s a space for self discovery and to take some time out for yourself.

“…and to realise that everyone is going through a certain amount of the same issues and challenges as you, makes you feel less alone.” – SLC participant

12 – LEAD CHANGE

If you are a woman working to create positive impact, the world needs you to be your most powerful self, to operate from a place of confidence and abundance.

“You encouraged a room full of women from a variety of backgrounds and at different places in their lives to dig deep, stare at our wounds, own our fears, and grow…we have been opened and exposed and now with the knowledge that we are enough, we go forward because we lead change.” – SLC participant

Find out more and apply here. Or say hello@sheleadschange.org if you would like to speak to us about a programme for your company or have any great ideas for how we could work together!

It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World – maybe?

We love these thoughts from Dene Stuart, founder of the Thinking Revolution:

It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World, Maybe!

The song It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World, co-written by Betty Jean Newsome, was released by James Brown in 1966. Written to emphasize both the differences that existed for the two sexes back then, but also the fundamental need and value of both sexes not just for life but for society. (if you’re not familiar with the song you can hear it HERE.)

And the question is: What has really changed?

As I am a man writing this you might think that I am not the best placed to answer that question but I’m going to argue that, in fact I am. I undoubtedly benefitted from being a man in the career I chose. Selling advertising for the Daily Mirror, at a time when the newspaper world was the epitome of misogyny, was not for the faint hearted, either male or female.

There were some women who succeeded in that environment because in any environment there will always be some who have the determination and single mindedness to do so but they were rare, and they didn’t make it into the boardroom. Not an unusual picture back then or now.

But here’s the thing. To succeed in that environment as a man you still had to play by the rules of the game.

If you were a man and you bought into the game, were good at it and played by the rules you could succeed. But if you tried to break that pattern then success was not going to be forthcoming. The guardians of the game made sure of that.

The irony was that my understanding of this principle, was given to me by a woman who had succeeded in this man’s world. Christine Walker established Walker Media in the 1990’s and it rapidly became the largest media buying agency in the UK. For some reason Christine took a shine to me, as the executive responsible for maintaining the business relationship between Mirror Group and them, and her words to me in one of our meetings still ring in my ears.

“Dene what you have to remember is that it’s a game for consenting adults!”

The game stopped for me when I could no longer accept and play by the rules of the game. It didn’t matter that I was a man. I couldn’t play the game any more and the opportunities dried up. The issue is not that it’s a man’s world but that it is a world of unwritten rules. The question that everyone faces at some point is:

Do you want to play the game of your life by someone else’s rules? And that applies whether you are a man or a woman. Then there’s the question that comes next. How do you create the life you want, living by the rules you want?

This is where I believe the tide is turning and what I see, is women stepping up and forward and creating the change they want to see. I run my own, and go to a lot of, personal development seminars and there is a clear pattern in my experience.

When it comes to personal development, the audiences are predominantly women and I think the reason is that the vast majority of men still view the need for personal development as a sign of weakness.

They are very happy to enrol in classes they can define as professional development but put the word personal in and they run a mile. It will take time but if this pattern continues there will be a shift in the power base and by the time men notice it will be too late. Because what I know to be true and so apparently do most women, is that personal skills trump professional skills in every way, when it comes to getting the results in life that you really want.

Not least because you can automate professional skills, but personal skills will always remain just that.

Maybe the big hit of 2066 will be It’s Woman’s World.

Dene Stuart – Founder of Thinking Revolution an The Exceptional Leader University

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC6LTYpX2ZjZ3kj6jB-quwLw?view_as=public

How do you create the life you want, living by the rules you want? Applications now open for our March programme of She Leads Change: apply here