Friday, 27 May 2016

How Do We Cure Women's Lack of Self-Confidence?

Last week I attended Women in Energy, the 10th annual conference organised by the London Chapter of SPE (Society for Petroleum Engineers) dedicated to discussing the business case for a balanced workforce in the workplace.

It was the first time for me attending and furthermore having the opportunity to run a workshop on mentoring and more specifically the importance of embracing a mentoring culture at work.

The conference saw a mix of panel discussions, key note speakers and interactive workshops. Some impressive women (and men) spoke about the case for attracting, retaining and developing more women in the heavily male dominated energy sector. Ultimately many of the discussions held over the day returned to an old but ever lasting theme: the importance of self-confidence in a professional environment and the lack of self confidence often hindering women's progress.

The interesting thing is that never mind the sector or seniority of the woman in question, self-confidence is something most women seem to always need a bit more of:

  • When they have reached senior position, women may suffer from 'impostor syndrome', feeling that they are 'a fraud', that they should not be where they are and that soon somebody will found them out.
  • When they are in junior position, lack of confidence may show through their choice of vocabulary, they way women shy away  from possible spotlight.
  • When they are in middle management position, women often remain within their comfort zone, they may not push boundaries, nor put themselves forward for greater, challenging roles.  
Why is this a persistent, recurrent issues with women?

To me, the reasons behind it are almost ancestral and very hard to uproot. In most cases, they go back to our upbringing, our education, society's expectations and culture to mention but a few. They are the product of hundreds of years of women's role in society being shaped by others on the outside rather than by women for themselves.    

Perhaps more helpful is to ask ourselves how do we actually cure this 'malaise' that inhibits women's ability to achieve their full potential. For this I have a couple of suggestions:

#1 Developing knowledge

Knowledge is still power and power still boosts self-confidence. When we can say that we are expert in any one area, we can go ' 6 questions deeper' (to say it with Sylvia Hewlett of 'Baby Hunger's' fame) on any particular subject matter, then we can rightly feel in charge and confident. Mastering a topic however requires time and dedication, as we need to keep up with the subject by reading around it, attending conferences, doing research. When we do, we become the go to person, the one that gets asked to coach others on that topics, the one who is being put forward for interviews, articles and the likes.  Let's therefore ride the knowledge wave and enjoy the opportunities that come with being the expert! It will ignite a cycle of positive thinking and positive image that can only spell more confidence and success.

#2  Finding a mentor and/or sponsor

Of course I would say that. The fact is, you may hear it from me and from others many times, but how many of us can say to have a mentor they see regularly, taking full advantage of the opportunities that come with such relationship?  For a mentoring relationship to work to its full potential, it has to be nurtured, worked on, thought through. Even when we have the chance of a mentoring relationship, we often do not spend enough time thinking about what we want and need from it, what the mentor could offer us. A mentor is not always an outright sponsor, but there is no doubt that the mentor responds to our input. To get a lot out of it, we need to put a lot in. Is this - hands on heart - what you do?

#3  Proactively opening doors for other women

If you are a woman or a man in a senior position, are you actively leading the way and opening doors for other women? Opening doors could mean a number of things: actively spotting female talent and ensuring it is retained, for example. Redirecting opportunities towards other up-and-coming women, is another example (e.g. I was asked to speak at this conference but I am too busy, would you like to do it instead?). Or indeed making easier to reconcile work and other aspects of life by introducing a culture of outputs focussed performance management and greater flexibility.

Although none of these suggestions is too new or revolutionary per se, nor can in isolation work as a panacea, I am convinced that if we tried a little harder to apply them women's  self-confidence and self-esteem would grow as a result. Women have a huge role to play in all of this, first and foremost by not letting those little nagging voices in their heads kidnap available opportunities.

What have you found that works to raise your self confidence? Any experience you can share?

Alessandra is an experienced mentor, business coach, consultant and strategist. She supports individuals - especially women - and organisations in achieving their potential through customised, outcome driven interventions . You can find out more about Alessandra here and contact her by email here.

Friday, 13 May 2016

3 Reasons Why I Will Never Tire of Mentoring

A week today I will be running a mentoring workshop at the 10th annual Women in Energy Conference, organised by the London Chapter of SPE, the Society of Petroleum Engineers.

I am very excited about it, because it is the first time I have the opportunity to address the energy sector, one in which  women have undoubtedly many challenges to face. 

Equally challenging, however, is for the industry to attract AND retain women in the sector once they are a respected female figure from the industry was explaining to me recently,  the energy sector is male dominated, very technical, often requiring time abroad in distant locations, including the middle of the sea on an oil rig.  Yes, I can see the challenges!!

Yet, I also understand that the sector needs all the talent it can get, whether female or male, to face current and forthcoming issues and to secure its prosperity and longevity. Talent is once again at the heart of the matter. But so is mentoring, if you ask me, and here I come to the core of this blog.

Why will I never tire of mentoring?

#1 Mentoring is crucial to attract, develop and retain talent

People are my passion. Helping people and organisations perform at their best, find their pathway, bring their whole of themselves to work is my job. Mentoring is and has long been one of the most effective ( if not THE most effective) tool to make this happen. By mentoring staff, providing mentoring opportunity to staff and indeed teaching staff how to embrace and practice a mentoring culture organisations create a positive, dynamic and utterly forward looking chain of engagement, knowledge transfer and networking that enables new recruits as well as current employees to see a career path, to feel empowered to take the journey knowing they are supported all the way.

#2 Mentoring is crucial to attract, develop and retain female talent especially  

Not only are people my passion, I believe that supporting women grow and develop personally and professionally is truly my mission! I know from mentoring tens of women directly and indirectly, commercially and on a volunteer basis, individually and in groups, that women respond extremely well to mentoring. This is because mentoring often implies developing an in-depth relationship with your mentor (depth in relationships is something most women relish); because women can take mentoring at their own pace and because one of the key impacts of mentoring is growing one's self confidence, something most women cite as their number one hurdle to a more fulfilling life and career.

#3 Mentoring can be widely practiced and benefits all

Honestly, I can see and have found no downside to mentoring yet in all these years. On the contrary, mentoring is an activity that can benefit everyone, in any sector, at all stages of their life. Not only des everyone needs a mentor, but everyone can have more than one mentor, everyone can gain from acting as mentor as well being a mentee and everyone can learn mentoring skills. This is probably the only caveat I have. Whereas many thing that mentoring is intuitive, mentoring skills are life skills and should be appreciated, learnt, practiced and refreshed at times. Mentors and mentees who are not trained in mentoring skills can potentially damage a mentoring relationship (as mentors) or not maximise the opportunity (as mentees). However if training is undertaken and kept alive through on-going practice and refresher activity the risk is practically non-existent.

So that is why I will never tire of mentoring and why I guess SPE thought it would be good to talk about it.

If you are attending the conference on 20th May do come and say hello. But if you do not, yet want to know amore about mentoring, just get in touch!

Alessandra is an experienced mentor, business coach, consultant and strategist. She supports individuals - especially women - and organisations in achieving their potential through customised, outcome driven interventions . You can find out more about Alessandra here and contact her by email here.


Friday, 6 May 2016

Masterclass: The Effective Manager - London, 9 June 2016

Managers who perform effectively are essential in today’s fast-paced working environment but their role has greatly changed.

Not only are managers expected to plan and execute tasks, look after budget and be commercially minded; they are also expected to lead and inspire people, motivate staff and create a culture of engagement, because staff ultimately quits managers, not organisations.

Join us for this one day masterclass to discover and learn the style, skills and behaviours that will turn you into a highly effective manager whatever your sector or context.

The Effective Manager course includes:
  • What is effectiveness and what impacts your effectiveness
  • The traits and skills of effective managers
  • The manager as coach
  • Relationship building skills
  • How to develop people through insightful questioning
  • Constructive feedback and how to provide it
  • Being assertive NOT aggressive
  • Planning and setting objectives for yourself and the team

BOOK NOW (Eventbrite)

Why Join

  • Are staff quitting?
  • Do you find yourself wasting time on non-important, non-urgent stuff?
  • Is your attention being diverted to non-essential activity?

Join me for a one day masterclass to discover the secrets of becoming a highly effective manager!
In this masterclass, managers and supervisors will have the opportunity to learn and try out a range of tips and techniques that will provide a ready to implement toolkit for the highly effective manager!

When & Where
9 June 2016 - 9.00 am to 4.00 pm
Drake and Morgan at King’s Cross,
6 Pancras Square,
King’s Cross, London N1C 4AG
From £103.16 for the day - all refreshments and lunch included!

Monday, 2 May 2016

5 Things Women Leaders Have Taught Me

This week I have come back from running my first Women in Travel meetup at Arabian Travel Market in the Middle East (Dubai, to be precise).I have also attended the first birthday celebration of WomenEd, the community for Women in Education.

At both event, I heard women debating what it takes to be a successful female leaders, what matters
and what helps, versus what you need to be aware of and possibly compromise on. There are 5 things that really resonated with me and I wish to share here:

#1 Believe in yourself and stop that 'internal chatter'

I experienced that internal chatter first hand at Women in Travel when I discovered that my session was going to take place in an open theatre. Suddenly I thought nobody would turn up or if they did, nobody would engage because the openness of the theatre would expose them too much. How wrong I was! I had to extend the session by over 30 minutes as women kept on raising their hands to ask questions, energy and passion being both palpable in the room.  I knew in my heart of hearts that women would welcome the event because by now I have enough experience and knowledge to know that women professionals in the field need this type of event, a community  and a place to engage. But I still let the 'internal little voices' take over for a little time and put my personal brand and presence at risk for a short moment. So believe in your self and stop doubting what you have passionately worked for and believe in. You are the expert and you have the knowledge in your area, take ownership!

#2 Articulate your needs in a positive and clear manner

We think of women who say what they think as ' bossy' (horrible word, if you ask me) but in the case of men we talk about leadership. Why?!? Throughout history, women have been told to be modest, please others, put everyone else's need above their own. But times are changing and women have come to realise that - especially in the workplace - that is a sure way never to achieve their ambitions.
However, it is often noticed how women can be their worst enemy at times. Women can worry too much about what others think, how others are going to receive their words if they open up and what is the impact of their wishes. women leaders look at this in a completely different way. Articulating your needs in a positive way mean making sure that other people know where they stand with you.  This 'beyond doubt' way of speaking enables others to appreciate your feelings, your desires and your thoughts with such clarity that it avoids any possible misunderstanding and any subsequent friction or conflict. It is particularly important, female leaders add, to ensure that those in higher positions encourage women to speak out in this positive and affirmative manner so that their career ambitions can be made known and taken on board. Assertiveness has nothing to do with aggressiveness, it encourages clarity not offense, it enhances dialogue rather than closing it. So be assertive as everyone will benefit from it!

#3 Make choices and take ownership

Women leaders know that only when we make positive choices and take ownership of our own wishes we can be truly in control. It is critical that we have clarity about what we want, we appreciate the consequences of these choices and then live with them without guilt. This is especially important when it comes to making decisions about work that can impact our family: let's not seek out perfection as it will only frustrate us! In order to feel that we can make choices it is critical to set up a network around us of supporting and helpful individuals who can come to our rescue when we need it. family members, friends and most likely other women in similar circumstances, we need people who look out for each other and for us at the appropriate time.  Let's make sure that we return the favour when the opportunity comes!

#4 Mentoring, mentoring and more mentoring

Needless to say, this is music to my ears. all women I encounter who are in leadership position, aspiring to one or acting as one stress to me how important it is to have a mentor, to look for a mentor and indeed to act as mentors to others. It is no mystery that mentoring helps women (and men off course) explore their own self awareness, develop personally and professionally and carve out a space where they can focus on themselves. This is no longer a luxury but absolutely a necessity! Some women say they have or have had more than one mentor, depending on their needs and the role mentors would have. But for the majority one mentor is enough as they prefer to shape a close, in depth relationship with their mentor. But how and where do you find one? Look around you at work, in your community, professional industry bodies or alumni university group. Ask friends and contact if they have somebody they know would love to act like one. Finding a mentor is easier than one thinks and is definitely worth the effort of searching for one!

#5 Plan ahead - Leave nothing to chance

This is one advice I wish somebody had given to me earlier on in my professional life. It is said that as women we spend more time planning the family holiday than our career. But as women leaders know all too well, nothing happens unless it has been planned for. So make sure you begin to ask yourself early on in life what  questions such as : What matters to me? What do I wish to achieve? How do I wish to spend my life ? What do I wish to be known for? By taking time answering these questions you will begin to raise your own self awareness, understand what kind of life you wish to build for yourself and what steps you need to take to get there.  Be aware however that nothing happens exactly as we planned for all the time. So women leaders stress that it is critical to build flexibility in your plan and enable for different scenarios. In the same time, build resilience, know that you may have to fall a couple of times at least before you can achieve your outcomes. Learning how to bounce back is hard, but very important if you wish to control stress rather than being controlled by it.

Alessandra is an experienced mentor, business coach, consultant and strategist. She supports individuals - especially women - and organisations in achieving their potential through customised, outcome driven interventions . You can find out more about Alessandra here and contact her by email here.


Friday, 22 April 2016

#WomeninTravel Meetup: See You at Arabian Travel Market !

Are you attending Arabian Travel Market in Dubai, next week?

If so, do not miss the first ever #WomeninTravel meetup for debates, networking and inspiration!

Women in Travel was launched two years ago at World Travel Market in London as a platform for women to discuss industry relevant topics, learn and network with each other.

Now at Arabian Travel Market for the first time, The ATM Women in Travel Meet Up 2016 on will provide an exceptional opportunity to hear from some of the most passionate and knowledgeable women in travel.

The event will be broken down into two parts. From 4.30 – 5.00 the Women in Travel panel debate will take place, where discussion will focus on the increasing role played by women both as travel consumers and as travel professionals, the opportunities existing for women in tourism employment, or as travel entrepreneurs, and the opportunities for business in tapping into this pool of talent.

In addition the panel will also make reference to women as travelers, and how regional destinations may attract the increasing numbers of women to the area on business and leisure.

The second part of the event, the Women in Travel networking reception, will take place from 5.00 - 6.00. This gathering will provide an opportunity to stay on for refreshments and informally continue the discussion with both speakers and other attendees.

“Women and gender related issues are an increasingly discussed topic in the Middle East and North Africa region,” explains seminar moderator Alessandra Alonso. “Women in the area are clearly ready for employment, business opportunities and personal professional development – and tourism is an ideal channel as it is economically vital for the region.

“The Women in Travel meet-up at ATM 2016 will provide the ideal platform for this discussion and help women professionals, entrepreneurs and business identify opportunities as well as possible challenges in this area.”

Friday, 15 April 2016

Is There Such A Thing As 'Shelf-Life'' For Women in Work?

You may read this and think this is a total provocation, but I tell you this: the more I hear women in their 50's talking about how difficult it is to change jobs or return to work, the more I believe this is not provocation, it is reality!

You only need look at the number of LinkedIn conversations that are going on about the subject. I quote: Are women over 50 irrelevant? Women over 50, is there still time to be successful? Women over 50 - finding your passion? And the list could go on.

There is, it appears, an incredible amount of experienced and talented women in their 50's who are apparently experiencing unsurmountable blocks when it comes to finding a job, starting over or changing careers.  Why is this the case?

As I have argued in earlier blogs,  women in their 50's are probably at their best, both personally and professionally. Professional services firm PwC's report that I have quoted in a previous piece run an extensive piece of research that actually proved the attributes required to manage a transformation change are not the same competencies as those exhibited by leaders who cope well with day-to-day issues, or even by those who excel in a crisis.’  Most importantly, the research found that those possessing these qualities were mostly WOMEN OVER 50 years of age !

But while it dos not take long to understand why they might be the case (in case you think it is, then please read the blog I wrote at that time as it will provide you with plenty of reasons!) it seems the concept really is not quite sinking in with employers.

Could you imagine a blog entitled : Are MEN over 50 irrelevant?
Could you imagine a man over 50 saying that they encounter issues to do with being more experienced than the interviewer expected?

Yet this is the case with the lady above who says in her blog  "I am a highly experienced marketing professional and have not been able to get interviews, despite resume revisions, LinkedIn coaching, personal coaching and shortening my work experience on paper. When I do get interviews, I am obviously older than the person expected. I've been told that 'my resume is too long', that 'they only want someone with <5 years experience', etc.[...]"

What really strikes me is not just what she says but the amount of comments and supportive responses she achieved.

So I am now beginning to think that if a man is over 50, he is considered highly experienced and full of wisdom; but in the case of a woman, she is simply too old!
But too old for what? To work hard? To understand the industry?  To stay ahead of the game? To grace the workplace with their feminine presence? And why should all that be any different according to your gender?

So you see, I really do not have an answer for this, except to say that there undoubtedly is an underlining bias which in my humble opinion is made worse by some kind of stereotype about what a woman should like and when a woman is at most welcome in the workplace.

But I would love to hear your opinion and find out about your experience. Please feedback your comments and opinions, they are greatly appreciated!

 Alessandra is an experienced mentor, business coach, consultant and strategist. She supports individuals - especially women - and organisations in achieving their potential through customised, outcome driven interventions . You can find out more about Alessandra here and contact her by email here.

Friday, 8 April 2016

Introducing #WomenEd

This week I am delighted to introduce a guest blog from Hannah Wilson, Co-Founder of #WomenEd, a community for women with leadership ambition in education and Professional Learning Consultant Leader at the Harris Federation.  Hannah tweets as @MissWilsey on Twitter and blogs as @Miss_Wilsey on StaffRm

#WomenEd is a community of educators connecting and collaborating to support women on
their leadership journeys.

Education remains a traditional, inflexible and patriarchal space and we work together to challenge and change the system to benefit all educators.  

We were conceived in Spring 2015 as a result of some posts about equality and the issues facing female leaders on Staffrm – a blogging community for educators. Some posts on ‘having it all’ led to discussions on Twitter and a small group us coming together to plan an event. As momentum grew through social media interest, we found ourselves being offered a partnership from the  Microsoft UK Education team and a venue for our first ‘Unconference’. 

Before we knew it 220 educators found themselves at Microsoft’s London Head Office on a
Saturday in Autumn 2015. This was a pivotal event as it took the lid off of the discussions and created a space for very honest disclosures and very personal reflections.  This space was female-friendly, safe and empathetic, which Twitter often is not, especially for women. See the article from Natash Devon recently in the TES and my post in response on Staffrm to see what I mean.

“WomenEd has allowed me to network with so many wonderful professionals who all have the same passions, fears, misgivings. I stepped out of my comfort zone last October to present as part of the 'Diverse Leadership' strand. It was daunting but also gave me further drive to continue to be the best leader I could be and reflect on what I had already achieved and how I had got there. The network is incredibly supportive and each collaboration continues to strengthen and develop us all. Those little nagging voices of self-doubt that many of us harbour can be shared and supported”. Shirley Drummond, Deputy Headteacher, Hertfordshire.

Building on the success of our inaugural event we started to recruit volunteers for our 12
regional networks to enable us to have a wider reach and to impact more educators on a regional level. 60 existing and aspiring female leaders volunteered their energy, experience and expertise. So throughout Spring 2016 we have spent time meeting each other both face-to-face and virtually to plan our shared vision for our grassroots movement.

Our mission is simple: to empower women in education to enable leadership to be a viable
choice. Our values, which we call the 8 C’s are clear: clarity, communication, connection, community, collaboration, confidence, challenge and change.
To support our community progress on their leadership journeys we held a residential event
in February, which is peak season for leadership interview seasons. 70 educators came together for a weekend in Wiltshire to work on the practicalities of letters, applications, CVs and interview techniques. Again, it was the opportunity to connect and reflect, sharing experiences with one another which resonated with us all.

“Working with WomenEd has offered me an amazing network of professionals from all
over the world who offer support, inspiration, humour, sharing of good practice and a space in which to consider my own leadership journey. Best of all, this has benefited my organisation too and the way we support, develop and prepare our future leaders and our students”. Annemarie Williams, Headteacher, East Midlands.

In early March #WomenEd celebrated International Women’s Day by holding a global
#digimeet on Staffrm where our community blogged from 8am to 8pm across the time zones, from Australia to America. This event was symbolic of the collaboration and connections that #WomenEd has created and celebrates between educators around the world.  You can catch up on the diverse posts on personal leadership experiences and professional challenges from around the world here:

Presenting on our journey at #TeachMeetLondon  I shared our delight at being mentioned in
the DfE’s White Paper and reflected on the impact that the #WomenEd movement has already had on our community in our first year of being, you can hear my presentation here:

“I have tapped some other sheroes on the shoulder and have built a really supportive
network of contacts far and wide to have conversations with. This all happened because
#womened said 'go on be 10% braver' - so I was!” Kathleen McGillycuddy, Assistant Headteacher in Bristol.

As we approach our 1st birthday in April 2016 we are preparing to launch our Regional
Networks and introduce our Regional Leaders. Each region will be hosting an informal birthday party to create new connections and start new conversations.  There will then be a series of #LeadMeets for you to join us at around the UK. Look out for us at #EduFest16 and #NorthernRocks this summer.

“WomenEd embodies everything I believe about supporting each other as professionals
and women in an open, honest and collegiate way. I love the challenges it raises and the creativity of the solutions explored. I feel that I am constantly learning from and working with amazing new colleagues. It enables me to share my own experiences and gain from those of others and it is a real privilege to be a part of!” Rosanna Raimaton, Consultant, Italy.

WomenEd is an inclusive and open community. We would love to connect and collaborate
with you. Please join us on social media or at a face-to-face event soon!

To find out more about #WomenEd:
Follow us on Twitter: @WomenEd

Visit our website:

Join us on Yammer:

Find us on Staffrm:

Book to join us on Eventbrite: