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!

As a Senior Project Manager at Pearson and co-founder of a diversity and inclusion initiative Diversity & You, Ferhana is excited to lead change by championing D&I issues, training and implementing practices that are in line with Pearson’s global D&I strategy. A particular focus of the initiative is to  create tools and workshops that equip individuals and teams with knowledge and power ensure diverse representation within our content. She Leads Change beautifully connects with the intersectionality, allyship, empowerment and magic she is trying to achieve within a global community.