How a chance conversation led Dame Stella to be the first female spy chief in the UK

Meeting the real life “M” …. Dame Stella Rimington sharing her life story

Last week I attended a special women’s lunch hosted by Lady Val Corbett. It was a celebrated of her 13 years of hosting a professional women’s network. Val always finds extraordinary women who have made it to the top of their field and invites them along to share their insights and life story. In most cases, it is not just how clever or courageous they were in being successful or high achieving, it is about how they managed to break, or circumvent, the system. That system, the world of work created during, and before, the twentieth century was created by men for men. This event’s speaker was a superlative example of a woman who achieved the pinnacle of leadership in a highly male field .. spying!

Dame Stella Rimmington, ex head of the MI5 and the first head to hold such a secretive job and be named publicly.  Stella has gone on to be a successful author of spy novels (drawing on her own first had experience of course) following the publication of her auto biography. Life stories of high profile and successful women are irresistible and the room was pin drop silent as Stella shared how she become head of the UK’s spies  … or “M” as we came to know her when Judi Dench famously played the role in Daniel Craig’s Bond movies… even copying her hair style and jackets she noted!

I’ll share three insights that might interest you.

  1. Career Advice – make it up as you go along, just keep at it

Although there was never any career planning for Stella at least she decided she wanted one … and that presented its own difficulties in an era, the 1950s, when women were NOT supposed to have careers. After university she became an archivist and little did she know that the research she did there would later serve her in the Intelligence service. Once she was married it was difficult to countenance any kind of career but she ended up in Delhi as a Diplomat’s wife, simply expected to uphold several British social traditions of whist drives and jumble sales. Modern women looking back now from our vantage points in the twenty first century will feel appalled at the waste of intelligence and the frustration that must have been felt by women back then who were hungry for more than being just a wife.

Stella did not languish for long because, like a scene from a movie, someone whispered in her ear at a garden party about the spy service and she found herself recruited as a typist working for MI5 in 1967.  It did not seem to matter that she could not type .. in those days it was much more about WHO you were, rather than WHAT you could do! That was the beginning of her illustrious career where she would reach the very pinnacle. 

She was asked how she managed that career with marriage and motherhood. Well sadly, the marriage did not survive so she ended up a single mother and her advice for others navigating life and career was to “keep your feet on the path .. and struggle on”. Just keep at it!

  1. As a woman, just being you will probably mean you are called Uppity and Difficult

When Stella returned to the UK and and got another job with MI5 she really did enter a male dominated sphere where the men were out in the world as the spies and the women were relegated to a different grade of work providing the back-in-the-office research support. As the era of equality started in the early 1970s, women were doing their best to move upward and onward and Stella was one of the first to break through. Any woman who did stand out from all their colleagues, by simply not being a man, would often be seen as uppity.

Fast forward 40-50 years and not that much has changed. MP Kenneth Clark famously referred to Prime Minster Theresa May’s tenacious quality by calling her a “bloody difficult woman”. And the London Evening Standard newspaper this week highlights an interview in Tatler Magazine with actress Kate Beckinsale. Often referred to as a “Diva” she denied any special, attention-seeking behaviour and said, the stars who demanded special treatment or kept others waiting hours were invariably men. 

  1. It takes more energy to change the system than simply move up in a career

As one of the early female spy recruits, Stella told us that the training they were put through would often hilariously or dangerously backfire on women because everything was designed by men for men. Not only had the women be good to advance upwards but they had to push at the structure that expected them to be men and had difficulty adjusting to their gender.

One training task Stella shared was to go into a pub, sound out a target member of the public for information then have a colleague come in and out them as a spy, and then they would need to handle this revelation. Stella was sent to a back street, smokey dive of a pub full of men in raincoats drinking on their own where any conversation with a lone woman would be seen as seductive chatting up and the subsequent reveal simply ended up rescuing her from goodness knows what!  It became clear that the system would need to adapt to handle gender differences!

Most successful women who have climbed the ladder have stories where they are the only woman in the room or at the meeting where they have been expected to pour the coffee, or had to endure executive hospitality clearly designed for men, including an expectation of joining in visits to strip joints or tagging along at a boar hunt …. but times indeed have changed and these situations are decreasing. Certainly the #MeToo era has made so many distasteful experiences openly unacceptable. 

If you want to find out more about life as a female spy then Stella Rimmington’s ten spy novels utilise her career rich with fascinating stories that she would not be able to reveal in an autobiography. I got my copy of her first book “At Risk” signed by Stella. Her autobiography also reveals the path she took to her ground-breaking role as one of the top female leaders in the UK.

I led a workshop after the main speaker session about the value of Women’s Gatherings. You can read more about that here.

Lady Val will host another lunch with an interesting female speaker on Thursday February 28th, 2019 in London. These events always sell out and are an excellent networking opportunity for women.

Land of hope and glory? Yes, and I hope so!

Today has been Waistcoat Wednesday in honour of England’s World Cup quarter-final success, and football fevered national loyalty even had the BBC presenters this morning wearing Manager Gareth Southgate’s trademark clothes of blue waistcoat and striped tie. Even I, as a non-fan of football, have got carried away with the enthusiasm and the potential for a big win that would give us all a much needed boost to our national confidence. I’ve even found myself skimming the sports supplements in my weekend newspapers when I usually toss them straight into the recycling bin!  I read about how Gareth’s supportive wife is his secret weapon.

Have you noticed there is something different about this team? Who would ever have expected to hear the words football and emotional intelligence in the same sentence?! 

So calm and cool and confident is manager Southgate that there was media gossip of him been roped in to take over Brexit talks. Now there’s a thought! Southgate is definitely bringing something different to the game. He has been a poster boy for empathy and is allowing players to make individual comments directly to the press. A younger team with fewer ego heroes, they have been told them that it is up to them to make their own history. Southgate values family life and and the support it has given him so has allowed the team to bring their families with them. This has fostered a relaxed community spirit among the whole group. Surely that is a better foundation for any high pressure, stressful sports challenge.  Everybody’s been referring to the spirit of the team, the relaxed attitude, the importance of joy and the strong bonds within the team. Gareth says they feel privileged. Words to describe their opposing team of Croatia by their Manager are more about their strength and determination. Let’s see what helps win tonight’s match, will it be this younger relaxed team or the determined Croations? Good luck lads .. oh and may of them have a connection with Yorkshire. Just saying’.

See you on the other side of the Match?

The Paradox of Women’s lingering Inequality and the Power they hold in their hands for a New Future


watch Linda’s talk recorded on Facebook Live 

The Leaders Club co-hosted a special event on transformational leadership with the University of Kent Business School in Canterbury in May. The second speaker was Linda Crompton from Dallas, Texas, an alumni of the Business School’s first MBA program.  Linda was the first woman to head a bank in North America and also to lead a bank that  pioneered responsible investment principles.   Now she is a leader in gender equality as the CEO and President of Leadership Women, the largest of its kind in the USA.

The Decisions you make have Consequences that Ripple Out

Key achievements for Linda were her initiatives in banking.  She started working for Van City Credit Union in Canada, the largest credit union in the world, an extremely progressive organisation. Van City’s particular focus was to help employees to connect their decision making to the community who would be impacted. This was highly novel at the time. They key was to fully realise the impact of your decision. 

Once you Connect the Dots .. Your Eyes are Opened and there is no Going Back

The bank encouraged her to return to the UK and study her MBA in Kent. This is where she came across the notion that business and finance and sustainability were all connected. It is arrogant to think that humans are the organising force when in reality, nature is the organising force. The MBA at Kent helped her to realise that it is an illusion to separate your banking decisions from the downstream impact. You cannot pretend those downstream impacts will not happen. This became a watershed moment in her career … she connected the dots to see the bigger picture and was instrumental in directing the rest of her career. She never took up a mainstream job after that … once you know what you know and see how things are put together  .. you cannot not know again!   

Asking Different Questions leads to Better Outcomes

When she returned to Van City she started to ask different questions, like why were the approval rates for women much lower than they were for men? The answer .. the women don’t just meet the criteria. Then you find out on looking that the criteria are all based on male criteria, which include higher levels of pay for longer periods of time, which of course do not include the interruptions of maternity leave. She could also see what it was costing the organisation when they let go of trained women who left to start a family. There was no provision for that. She set up a new program, copied from Europe, called Return to Work, to provide flexible support for women.  The rate of loss was cut down from 70% down to 20%. It was life-changing for so many women.

In 1996, within two years of taking her MBA at Kent she was inspired to create the first electronic bank, and the first one with a social mandate in Canada.  There were many obstacles and much resistance but she could see the ways the future would happen.  She was on the first Board of Directors for Ethical Investing, where mutual funds were ethically screened.  She could see this was the future. They started training people about money itself. When they surveyed their customers they found that people had no idea what happened to their money once it was in the bank …. these were the early days of impact investing. Founding the bank became a vehicle to put into practice the new ideas she learned in her Kent MBA.

Strong Ethics Emerging in Banking and Investing 

Linda was headhunted to run the Investor Responsibility Research Centre in Washington, DC. This had been a leader and influential in the anti-apartheid movement, and they continued to do ground-breaking research in climate change and human trafficking.  

Linda’s next move was to the oldest and most successful leadership organisation for women in the USA.  Latest World Economic Forum report says it will take another 118 years to achieve full gender parity around the world. She is preparing more women to take on leadership roles.

Massive Push for Change now happening in the USA

The hidden blessing of President Trump is that his election has been a catalyst for so many women running for public office. Perhaps Hillary Clinton may have been less of a catalyst in getting women forward!  She Should Run, a partner organisation in Washington DC reports a 150% increase in the number of women putting themselves forward for political office. This is a real moment for women in the USA. There is a renewed push for change.

In Canada, so very different to the USA, President Justin Trudeau appointed a 50/50 gender balanced cabinet and brushed off media questions about this with .. this is the way it should be in 2016. 

Women Still Lagging Behind

With regard to wage parity, the Financial Times recently reported that in the UK there is a median wage gap of 19.4%, two thirds of of the highest paid staff are men.. the trends are the same in the USA where for every dollar earned by a man, a caucasian woman earns 78 cents, an African American woman makes  64 cents and a Latina earns just 54 cents. 

The Workforce in Leading Edge Fields is Unbalanced 

The USA Bureau of Labour Statistics latest report shows that women now make up 51.4% of management and professional roles yet only 5% of CEOs are female and hold 16.9% of Board seats across the country. In Silicon Valley 86% of the engineers and 74% of the computer professionals who work there are men. Facebook, Google and Apple workforces are 70% male with no female board members. Wall Street is similarly unbalanced. Women of colour are statistically  invisible. 

A Crisis Point: Has Progress Stalled? 

The World Economic Forum says the world is going backwards, the parity gap in wealth, politics, education and the workplace has widened for the first time since records began in 2006. At this rate of progress the gender gap will not close for another 217 years.  Aside from human rights, continuing to omit women from the top ranks is the single most important factor in determining a country’s competitiveness in the market.  Women must be integrated, as an important force into their talent pool. In the UK, it is suggested that gender parity could add £250 billion to GDP. And closing the gender gap of economic participation by 25% by 2025 would increase  global GDP by $5.3 trillion. Social change is glacially slow.

A fourth wave is coming … progress will happen over the next decade.

Countries that have previously excluded women, like Saudi Arabia are starting to make major changes.  Generation X and Millennials are visibly energised around this issue. New generations will drive faster change.

The biggest transfer of wealth in history is happening over the next decade

Change will also be driven by women acquiring significant financial muscle. 45% of USA millionaires are women, 48% of estates worth more than $5 million are controlled by women and in 2013 60% of high net worth women made their own fortunes, rather than inherited. Projections show that by 2030 as much as two thirds of all wealth in the USA will be controlled by women. How will this shift in gender wealth influence philanthropy? Significant changes could take place …women’s funds are already working to address inequality with more women seeking to drive change by working at the legislative level and public policy as well as impact investing.  

Massive growth in Impact investing 

The field of impact investing has the power to bring about a lot of change including making faster progress on gender and race equality. Investment instruments that employ ESG (environment, social and governance factors) have grown 135% in assets under management since 2012, and it has now surpassed $9 trillion in the USA. It continues to grow exponentially, with rapid growth attracting more attention. 

Meeting Social Needs Ahead of Profits

She was on the Board of the World Business Academy based in Southern California, which had as its mission to help business to assume responsibility for the whole … recognising that business  is the most important force on earth. Nothing else works like business does and the drive for profit. Willis Harman,  founder of Institute of Noetic Sciences, was convinced that business needed to return to its roots and provide a public service or to meet a public need.  Business charters used to be granted on the basis that you would improve society or individual’s lives. Subsequently profit became the organising principle and that is where things really changed. Profit is good but profit maximisation can do real harm.

New Alliances are Emerging

Hybrid organisations where you not only make profit but achieve social impact goals are on the rise and are exciting.  It is in the interest of business to take on societal change because if nothing else, they need to protect their markets.

The way that all these factors are converging .. the rise and power of women, the changing nature of investment, the interest of younger generations in addressing global issues like refugees, extreme polarisation of wealth, the proliferation of drugs … all of which contribute to societal instability, which make the business environment more difficult. 

Different values will inform a new kind of leadership 

All of these things call for new era leadership meaning more human value systems than the current GDP which are meaningless. In a system that looks more profitable as more people get ill is crazy.  There are real limitations to this measurement.

New Era Leadership: Women have an Opportunity to Drive Change 

Just simply moving more women into leadership roles to continue to perpetuate all the problematic systems we have now, will not be the answer. Unless women move in there with a better sense of what change needs to be made, it is a huge missed opportunity. 

We can’t blame the men .. it is the system we have created. There are many men who are supportive and involved in redressing the gender balance.

The financial system is flawed and nobody has been held accountable for the crash of 2008. Many people are unhappy about this.

 There is an opportunity when women move into these positions of power to bring about some change. Women have an obligation to help other women when they have the power and the means. 

Linda’s Pearl of Wisdom: remind yourself of any blindspot you have. It is not what you don’t know, it is what you absolutely know with certainty that trips you up. What are the blindspots in your worldview.

Ask a different question

Rather than asking “How much money can I make when I have an MBA?” a better question “What kind of world do I want and what role can I play in making that world happen?”

watch the recording of Linda on Facebook Live

People Want Companies to do Good – that requires Transformational Leadership


Speaking at the Leaders Club event at Kent Business School, Linda Minnis, seen here (right) with Gina Lazenby, talked about how business is shifting with more organisations taking on responsibility for social change and using their global reach for good. Drawing on the long legacy of the chocolate barons’ foundations, todays’ younger generations are pushing their employers to take on and do more to close the global wealth gap.

Linda’s talk was captured on Facebook Live. Click here to watch

The Leaders Club co-hosted a special event on transformational leadership with the University of Kent Business School in Canterbury in May. The first of two speakers was Linda Minnis, Chief Executive of the Charities Trust, and a founder member of The Leaders Club.

The event was recorded on Facebook Live and is available to view at this link.

The World Needs Responsible Business

Linda started by highlighting the need for responsible business and said that this was not something that could simply be bolted on to an organisation, almost like an extra department but it had to be at the very heart of the operation for it to have any real meaning and impact. She gave examples of the inspiration and vision that many companies were bringing to their giving programs by leveraging their resources and creating alliances that were having real impact in the world. Big business has a big capacity to make big change in the world.

Global Goals Provide a Ready Template for Visionary Businesses

Linda talked about the Sustainable Development Goals otherwise known as the Global Goals, which are a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity.  These 17 goals were launched by the United Nations in January 2016.  Adopted by 170 countries, they contain 169 individual goals inside the 17 categories and represent one of the most ambitious programs in human history to create massive change. For companies and organisations seeking to make a difference in the world, there are plenty of opportunities for them to align their resources and vision. 

People Want Companies to do Good

Linda said there is a definite business case for doing this. A Nielsen study in 60 countries showed that 55% of online customers would pay more for goods and services supplied by organisations who demonstrated a commitment to positive social change and environmental impact.

71% of the world’s population live on less than $10 per day and the only way to make a significant increase in people’s prosperity, globally, would be for civil society, government and corporations to make alliances and use their combined powers to create change. One such initiative, the Global Vaccine Alliance has managed to prevent 9 million deaths though immunisation. Acting with other agencies, the private sector has enormous power that can be harnessed with the right vision.

Good Business has a Long History in the UK

The question is how to engage fully and provide the necessary leadership for projects of real transformation? Linda pointed out that in the UK we have a long history of business leaders doing good things. Joseph Rowntree established a foundation over 100 years to provide housing for employees, and this continues today to seek to understand the root cause of social problems.  The Cadbury Foundation also supported their employees and communities with housing. Today, Comic Relief is an example of successfully influencing the face of fundraising by making things fun to do while the organisation focusses on how to spend the money. 

UK private giving is an incredible £20 billion per annum, £12 billion of which still comes from individual giving and Trusts like the Wellcome Foundation, with money continuing to come in from foundation investments set up decades ago.  

How do we engage the business community of today?

Linda was involved in research five years ago that showed 4 key predictions about companies and giving. We can see now much of this starting to happen:

1 Commercialisation – Giving and Doing Good will be Woven into Business Planning

Companies will seek long term profits from their corporate giving. Community programs will be set up to deliver commercial value as well as meeting social needs. Their activities will be aligned with something meaningful. Corporate giving will continue but perhaps within the framework of for-profit ventures. The future is more Win-Win-Win-Win. HSBC is an example of a company investing tens of millions into social investment because they see it pays a greater return.

The social investment market is quite new but it is now worth about £2 billion across 4000 investments. Doing good is not just right it is profitable too.

2 Innovation Unleashed Make it Easy, Fast and Painless for People to Give

New technology, innovative channels and interactive media, will cause an explosion in ground-breaking new practices. Digital technology will allow for real time tracking of impact and will allow giving to fit around busy lives. online volunteering by employees supporting digital causes will become more prominent. Look at JustGiving who raise half a billion a year. Make it easy for people to swipe their card at an event and give quickly.

3 Collaborative Coalitions Rise Above Competition for the Greater Good

Large scale multi stakeholder coalitions will harness collective skills and drive transformational change. Corporate giving  will build loyal and effective working relationships between customers, suppliers, not-for-profit and government agencies. Collaborations including those with competitors will amplify impact and a philosophy of social action will emerge. Bigger businesses are going to be bigger stakeholders in fixing the world. The setting aside of competitive differences will benefit all organisations in terms of enhanced reputation. An example is a £25 million alliance of Tesco and the British Heart Foundation and Diabetes UK to tackle major health issues.

4 Cause Related Movements Campaigns become Exciting and Energised into Movements

Billions of customers will be mobilised to give up their time, second hand items and their fresh ideas for social campaigning.  Companies will facilitate large scale donations through movement fund-raising, and will create a truly engaging consumer experience around causes.  

Take on Causes that Excite the Employees

The Charities Trust, started from Littlewoods, is now 30 years old and administers £100 million of giving for 1000 clients, an amount that has trebled in the last eight years, a big achievement for the charitable sector.  Many of her clients lead the way in employee engagement to support communities that are dear to the staff, and not just the organisation itself.  Previously it was all about what the company was going to do … now, it is about the employees deciding and the company supporting that. It helps employee retainment and turns staff into good leaders. 

The Charities Trust works with the Costa Foundation which has supported 72 schools in nine countries, and not all in places where they trade. The Trust has also worked with Big Issue Invest who raised £50 million in the last five years to support the homeless agenda, attracting institutional investors and philanthropists.  Clients like Nandos might just sell chicken but they also really care about people dying where they source their chicken, particularly of malaria.

A New Philanthropy is Emerging

The next generation of philanthropists will emerge from these young companies and their younger demographic. 

For more details of other events hosted by the Leaders Club visit the site here.

See the next post for …… the second speaker was Linda Crompton, an alumni of the Business School’s first MBA program.  Linda was the first woman to head a bank in North America and also to lead a bank that  pioneered responsible investment principles.   Now she is a leader in gender equality as the CEO and President of Leadership Women, the largest of its kind in the USA………

Wise Leadership Dinner in San Francisco




Wise Leadership will come from a joint venture of the sexes to transform leadership in the 2020s

A special event in San Francisco brought together consultants and entrepreneurs from three continents during the international Wisdom 2.0 Summit in February. The dialogue was about “Wise Leadership in the 21st Century and the contribution of women and men in an era shifting towards the feminine.”  Thirty five leaders attended the event which was hosted by a delegation of four women from Europe, all founding members from ‘The Network for Transformational Leaders’. Their work connects them with leaders around the globe and each had come from countries where their Prime Ministers are women: Iceland, Germany and the UK.  That link led to the enquiry on how leadership styles might be shifting in a changing world.

Round table discussions were set up over dinner with one question about leadership on each table. There was an animated dialogue throughout the evening culminating in each  table sharing insights gleaned.  The questions provoked discussion on what made leaders wise,  how values are shifting in leadership and the kind of leadership that will be required to lead humanity into the future and navigate the massive waves of change that are affecting every aspect of society over the next decade.

When the group looked at what kind of future we wanted and what the world needs as it transitions over the next decade, the discussion pulled together a list of characteristics and qualities which were mostly deemed to represent the feminine aspect of human nature.  Even if women are not the leaders, these qualities are what men and women will need to exhibit.

  • The ability to be open, receptive and listen, particularly paying attention to all voices so that everyone feels heard was high on all lists.
  • The need to show genuine fairness and bring people together, being adept at growing relationships and building community.
  • There is a sense that the future holds even greater complexity so a shared and diverse approach to problem solving will be our only chance of finding our way into potential solutions.
  • That complexity is going to require an ability to think holistically and to really create an integrated approach so that we avoid many of the unintended consequences we see happening today as a bi-product of the advances made in technology.
  • Emotional intelligence will be what sustains successful leaders and will therefore have a much higher priority than the task achievements accumulated on a cv. Character over curriculum.
  • Gone will be the action hero archetype to be replaced by an individual whose strength is measured by their ability to be vulnerable, admit their mistakes and be open to learning new approaches.
  • Ability to slow down: Being able to adjust speeds and valuing the need for pacing and slowing down. Fast-pacing is a highly prized modality but it not only risks mistakes, it can lead to burn-out. Being more measured and understanding the power of pausing will be the sign of a sustainable leader.
  • Keeping back the ego .. the new mantra is less about “me” and more about “we”.
  • More heart-centred: Learning to think and operate from the heart as well as the head.

During the discussion somebody quipped that it was going to be difficult to find individuals who have all of these qualities and who would be prepared to take on leadership in critical times. Co-host Gina Lazenby responded  “The idea that people are waiting for rare and capable individuals to step into high-ranking positions is in itself an old paradigm idea. 

Yes we will always need great leaders who lead teams, groups and movements but the nature of leadership itself is changing. What is emerging now is the need for everyone to step into their own leadership capacities and find these qualities within so they can bring them to the fore. More and more of us will have our leadership moment.”

Runa Magnus, the co-host from Iceland said that “The cross cultural discussions from this evening show a universal desire for a leadership with very different values to what has been normal practice but they are still all human values. In the future will need to draw on different capacities that may have been dormant and in this respect, perhaps women will be leading the way”.

Both Runa and co-host Gina Lazenby from the UK gave insights into the leadership styles of the high profile European female leaders. Gina spoke of the challenges facing the British prime minister Theresa May who swept into the vacuum left after the Brexit vote debacle with a massive mandate for massive change. Although she had many good ideas for decreasing the inequality in the country, somewhere along the line she listened to the wrong advice and called a snap general election which unexpectedly removed her majority.  Now she finds herself in the difficult position of being a negotiator and less of a visionary.  It is difficult too judge how well she is doing in the job since nobody wants to take on this poisoned chalice of Brexit.

On the other hand, the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, is a rare leader who is revered by her peers across the world and held in high esteem in her own country. She has also shown a pragmatic ability to change, setting aside her own personal beliefs, in the case of marriage equality, and allowing legislation through as she felt it served the greater good.  Despite her conservative stance and approach, she has also kept the Left and Right happy. Few leaders in history manage that. Runa spoke of the newly elected Prime Minster of Iceland, Katrín Jakobsdóttir, a mother of three who, even though she is a champion of left green politics managed to create a coalition with the far right party. Says Runa, “These kind of convening skills of bringing differing groups together are going to be a necessary leadership skill as we move away from either/or polarised politics of the left and right. There are more voices that need to be heard and brought together and these women leaders are showing great listening skills in finding common ground.”

There is no argument that a new type of leader is needed if humanity is to evolve, move forward and reach our true potential.  Few employees would want to spend more time at work and even fewer want to work longer hours.  Despite our advances in technology, medicine, education and communication; unhappiness, internal discontent and psychological exhaustion is the norm.

Our work, our research, our workshops have uncovered the need for a revolutionary kind of leadership.  We welcome you to join us in an adventure of courage.  A call to transform our old paradigm.  Women and men have done it in the past.  What can we do as “one” and “together?”

The event was co-hosted by Gina Lazenby, Runa Magnus, Shay Allie and Monique Blokyl, and supported by Benjamin Maurice and Brooks Cole, also from the Network for Transformational Leaders.

Wise Leadership Dinner

Each table gave feedback on their discussions



Being a Woman is a Serious Business

Being a Woman is a Serious Business

The fact that continues to emerge is how much the world is changing and consequently how much business has to play catch up. Where do women fit in and how can feminine values come in, answer questions and solve problems? On last week’s episode of The Rise of the Feminine, a special feature from the WIN conference in Rome, we learned about the serious business of being a woman and the impact of women stepping into the big decisions of the corporate world.


Radio Guests Susan Schachterle, Keith Coats, Prof Nigel Nicholson and Dr Kaouthar Darmoni

Susan Schachterle – Women are not Aware of their Power

  • Women so often don’t even recognize that they carry power. They are conditioned to think of power in terms of how men demonstrate power but women carry a depth of wisdom and power that creates the foundation for any kind of success in business.
  • Women tend to be conditioned to think of power in terms of giant business deals or being able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, very masculine power without beginning to realize that there is nothing weak about connecting, creating relationships and alliances and collaborating. There’s nothing weak about compassion, empathy and nurturing.

Gina Lazenby with Susan Schachterle in Rome, Italy, at the WIN conference

Keith Coats – Women are Natural for Tomorrow’s Leadership & They Can Ask the Right Questions

  • The emerging next economy is referred to as the connection economy or relation economy and this is going to be the first context that doesn’t only not prejudice women in leadership but favors women in leadership.
  • When you look at what it’s going to take to lead in the connection economy, it hinges on the ability to relate, to go over the far more instinctive feel, to have a lot of dexterity. Women generally have a far higher intuitive sense and ability in those areas.
  • One of the biggest challenges facing business is that it’s an understanding that strategy is no longer the leading jab or the driver, it has to be around culture.
  • If you’re talking about an adaptive organization, it’s not a strategic response, it’s a cultural response. When you look at what the ingredients of culture are that make up the business model, women are better equipped to lead in that domain.
  • Smart leaders today are leaders who frame great questions. Again, women are just more comfortable in that, of not needing to have the answers but are of hosting questions, of getting participants to discuss and share opinions. This is really important in politics but especially in corporations today.

Nigel Nicholson – When Women are Given the Choice to Lead, Some are Choosing Not To

  • The way we’ve created and structured the concept of leadership within organizational structures looks pretty poisonous to a lot of women who have leadership capability.
  • Women think they might have to forfeit their personal life, exercise remote authority, or work in a rule based performance driven culture that is always focusing on achievement and tasks of individuals and the like of teamwork and all these other things.
  • What women bring to the table is flexibility and adaptive leadership. It means you don’t try to be a man or a woman for all seasons but you’re ready to do what’s needed or to find somebody else who will do what you can’t do to make sure that the right things happen for the good of the common wealth.

Dr Kaouthar Darmoni – Reframing our Understanding of the Female Body

  • Women don’t dare to use to use their breasts because we think it’s sexual but men use it very well. When they want to be macho, they raise with their chest. Women should do the same as well, it’s a natural expression.
  • What happened in Western society which is very sad, is we internalized this male gaze on the female body. A male gaze which is also has been completely distorted by the culture of pornification. The body is important, not only to desexualize it but also to depornify it.
  • In these spaces, in my culture where come from where we are completely amongst women, we have this pure way of celebrating the female body in its most purest beautiful form as it is.

Listen to the full episode.

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50 Shades of Men

It’s safe to say and we can all agree, that just as all women are not all the same, men are not either. In this episode Gina Lazenby spoke with three men who discussed masculinity, and the many different shades of this takes.


We already heard on the Rise of the Feminine Radio two weeks ago from Jim Myers, author of The Future of Men, that young men in particular are struggling with finding their way to adulthood while more young women are increasingly focused on their education, achievements and planning a well-paid career. They see a relationship as a distraction that can hold them back, so relationships are less of a priority in their 20s.(Listen to that episode here).

That’s one perspective on what’s happening with young men while many older men, particularly white males, can be feeling the squeeze as organisations try to make space for women leaders and people of different ethnic backgrounds. In this episode Gina referred to author Dr Roy Baumeister who says in his book Is There Anything Good About Men, that it is currently taboo to speak good about men. “To be sure, men still outnumber women as top achievers in some domains. Does that mean that in some respects men are better than women? Hardly. We have all been taught to dismiss superior male achievement as evidence of prejudice and oppression.”

The rise of the feminine is about the ascension of women and the increasing values BUT it must not be a movement that puts men down. It is about the rise of women, about finding the feminine within all of us, and for men to connect with their feelings and emotional expression. 

Kenny D’Cruz, the Man Whisperer, says that men are asking “where are all the women?” Women can very much resonate with this as this is a question on many single women’s lips.

Kenny says that men are likely to find a relationship if they become a “man” and not a boy who, he says, are not looking for a real woman. Being a man is more about a life stage than an age and becoming a man involves a process of self-awareness and growth, something that can be done alone, but is more effective by the support of good role models and even attending an increasing number of men’s groups.

David Brower reflects on French masculinity. While sexism still exists in France as it does in many countries, David observed that the French culture and appreciation of beauty, arts and cuisine was a way that helped to get French men out of their heads and to open up their hearts.

Secondly David noticed that expressing an opinion was much more acceptable than in his native America where David felt the restriction of black or white view viewpoints. In France there is more openness to expressing and hearing the many shades of grey in between.

As the father of three boys, Nick Haines valued giving his son is a good grounding in Emotional Intelligence, giving them permission to feel and express as wide a range of emotions as they wanted without feeling inhibited by any old sense of what a man “should” do or show.

In Nick’s household the roles of parenting were flexible so both parents were taking on the roles of breadwinner and carer together. This modeled an adult life that will not confine his sons to feeling pressured to perform to a stereotype but be free to create any household or relationship dynamic that they chose.

LISTEN to this episode.

Download Transcripts of the full interviews: Kenny D’Cruz, David Brower and Nicholas Haines.

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Huge Shifts are Disrupting the Balance of Relationships


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The Rise of the Feminine radio series has touched many corners of society and few areas have shown as much evidence of disruption as the realm of relationships. They are a central part of the human experience, so they are ground zero for the results of cultural influences and changes. How has the increase in opportunities for women affected loving relationships?In this week’s episode of The Rise of the Feminine, Gina Lazenby discussed the status of modern relationships in three age groups with my three experts in the USA and UK. These are some of the insights that came to light.


  • Susie Heath
    – one of UK’s leading intimacy experts speaking about Later Life Relationships
    •Women over 50, experience a child-free life for the first time in decades and breathes new life in them. They have more choices than their mothers and grandmothers before them and they take advantage of them professionally and socially.
    •Their partners on the other hand are ready to slow down and that puts pressure on the relationship. Men have to find their masculine energy to keep up and the relationship requires a revival.
    “Men are looking forward to a relaxing time and being on cruises or just golfing and the women are raring to go do something different.”

    Download a transcript of the full interview.

    Renee Piane
    – one of the USA’s top dating experts speaking about Wonderwomen – successful in business but still single
    “Where are all them men?” the women ask! Women have been so busy, focussed on success, taking on a masculine drive to excel …. this has made it a challenge for finding a relationship.  Slow down, change the pace and make space to accommodate a mate.
    •Women have to treat and nurture their own hearts to be able to align that masculine drive with the feminine nurturer that lies hidden within them. It’s the feminine softness, in addition to accomplishments, that men want women to bring to the relationship.
    “I’m here to say, you need to be able to switch off your wonder woman and tune into that feminine energy that men are dynamically attracted to.”

    “I’m here to say, you need to be able to switch off your wonder woman and tune into that feminine energy that men are dynamically attracted to.”
    Download a transcript of the full interview.

    Jack Myers
    – award-winning cultural visionary, speaking on the under 25s, a new generation of well educated girls and an emerging generation of lost boys
    •The modern woman has been handed the keys to the business world and she’s less interested in finding that special relationship. Relationships are now part of the career plan and young women take that decision more seriously because they don’t want a mate who might hold them back professionally.
    •Women lean on a strong network of other women and that has made their rise possible. All these connections were forged over a century of the women’s movement. Men aren’t keeping up because they don’t have access to male gatherings and discussions and the ‘old boys network’ that served their fathers is not for them.
    “Women are finding it much more difficult to find their educational equal and it’s more important to them than it was to men a couple of decades ago, to find to do so.”

    Download a transcript of the full interview.

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Feminine Wisdom: The World is Not Seeing Something it Needs

1. Feminine Wisdom is Missing from Our Vocabulary 

Feminine wisdom is not something we talk about, it doesn’t exist in our vocabulary and as a result so much of its value is missing from out everyday conversation. Karen Buckley says “I did an online search for wisdom and I discovered that most of the quotes are by men. Then I looked at wisdom in Wikipedia, the photographs are all of men. Old men with white beards. At that time, nobody was young and no women.” Using this as a reference, it’s clear that it’s a subject that remains unknown, even where it’s most necessary.

2. There are Virtually No References for Wise Women

In dictionaries wise women are described as “knowledgeable in matters such as herbal healing, magic charms or other traditional lore.” Even HM Queen Elizabeth, after celebrating her 90th birthday and a 60 year reign, isn’t referred to as a wise woman. Throughout the decades she has interacted with 13 Prime Ministers which has given her a supreme wisdom we don’t talk about. There just isn’t enough of an understanding of what makes a woman wise.

3. Feminine Wisdom is not Valued in Business, but it IS Needed

Business has so far not realized the benefits of feminine wisdom, but new ways of thinking and operating in an increasing number of companies have made an impact by starting to learn from feminine wisdom. This wisdom is incredibly necessary if we consider the needs of the modern individual. According to Leadership consultant Karen Wilhelm Buckley and Thought Leader in Gender Mentoring Betty-Ann Heggie;

  • Feminine wisdom is the blend of the external experience, competency, knowledge and deep inner knowing. It is demonstrated through applied empathy. It’s a quality that allows leaders to perform a service in conjunction with relationship.
  • It takes into account the emotional needs of the clients as well as the tactical or business needs.
  • In business, it takes into account the kinds of ripples of consequences that might be missed if an organisation was only looking through a tactical lens.
  • Feminine energy value systems, tend to be a lot more about the collective and a lot less about the individual.

4. The Reflective Nature of Feminine Wisdom is Necessary

Masculine styles of leadership tend to emphasize quick action over the silence and slower pace of reflection. Feminine wisdom finds answers and solutions by looking inward first and relying on our internal capacity when it comes to making decisions. In the wake of the Brexit resignations, newly appointed Prime Minister Theresa May has decided to take her time to make wise decisions by relying on internal reflection, as well as carefully and slowly looking at the data. She has been bringing her feminine wisdom into situations that have been forcing her to rush towards fast decision-making. Instead,  she has had the courage to step away, slow down, so she can make the best decisions.

5. Feminine Wisdom has a Language for the Internal Experience

Feminine leadership is all about having the courage to take the journey to find the authentic self. It trusts what comes from within and it’s less reliant on external voices and influences. Feminine Leadership Coach, Nyali Muir says, “the feminine is really about identifying and owning what’s going on inside and having a language brought in a landscape and our inner experiences. In the hyper-masculine world which we live, we’re so focused on the external and we have very little language and intelligence for our internal experience.

Karen Wilhelm Buckley, Betty Ann Heggie and Nyali Muir were guest contributors on the Rise of the Feminine radio show on Monday September 12th, 2016. Listen here.

Transcripts of the Interviews are Available for Download

Download the transcript of Karen’s interview.

Download the transcript of Betty-Ann’s interview.

Download the transcript of Nyali’s interview.

Episode 6 Coming up next Monday on Feminine Wisdom!


I am really enjoying the conversations that I am having with a variety of experts and leaders. And I hope you agree, if you’ve had chance to listen to any of the shows, that the discussions are really interesting. This radio series is giving me wonderful opportunities to meet fascinating new people and reconnect with good friends who I might have interviewed in the past for my blogs. That would include Karen Buckley who I met in San Francisco in 2009 and since then we have co-hosted many women’s gatherings in the city and Marin County.

On my next show I reconnected with Karen to talk about feminine wisdom. (I did an interview with her way back in 2010, here, when I called in to her house one Saturday morning when both of us couldn’t be bothered to put on our normal camera make-up … keeping’ it real LOL!) Anyway, we have recently been discussing the impact of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign…. how well-behaved women rarely make history and I’m going to ask Karen to talk about how the wisdom of women is so invisible.

The Country Report for this episode on Monday will be from Canada where I tracked down the brilliant Betty Ann Heggie, literally through an inspired Google search. She is one of the top 100 women of influence in Canada and I’m asking her what makes her country different and how the more feminine values are shaping her nation. I was particularly impressed when he new prime minister, Justin Trudeau, immediately create a 50/50 gender balanced cabinet on coming into office last year. Instead of talking about change needing to happen in the future (like the UK’s David Cameron, he just went ahead and did it!).

Lastly I am reconnecting with the lovely leadership coach Nyali Muir. Nyali has attended many of the women’s gatherings that I used to host in my London home and she’s always brought great wisdom to our evenings. I’m going to ask her about her individual journey, the wisdom she has learnt and what led her to coaching the Kenyan Olympics team.

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