Hello and welcome to the very first Podcast from Female Potential
My name is Michelle and I am your host for these episodes. This is my first venture into Podcasting so I am going to be learning how to do this as we go along.
One of my aims in starting to podcast is to introduce some new listeners to this format, people who have followed me on other mediums in the past, so if this is you and this is your very first Podcast listen – welcome to a whole new world of online listening!
I’m of the generation myself who’ve only recently converted to Podcasts or should I say ventured past Radio 4 podcasts, so I’ll make a few recommendations for my favourite Podcasts in the show notes.
To start with I want to say that all other Female Potential Podcasts after this one, will have guest interviewees and will be run along an informal conversational style, but this first one will just be me prattling on as I introduce myself and Female Potential; our ethos, ideas and ambitions for both the Podcast series and the organisation itself which is more than just a Podcast platform.
So why am I and Female Potential podcasting in the first place?
• For 8 years I ran a not-for-profit called the Women’s Development Forum, the forum had a physical presence and in total we ran over 120 meetings usually with 100+ people in the room.
• WDF was a forum to support the gender equality conversation and an easy safe space for women to network.
• The Forum was of its time; it was founded in 2009 and ran until last summer. At inception we were still just hinting at gender balance being a good thing, then we went through the Davies report years, where the conversation got more strident – hey gender balance is a business issue not a women’s right’s issue! And when this didn’t solve things, we went on to look at all the complex nuanced arguments behind unconscious bias and what was really keeping the gender imbalance as stuck as it is.
• It’s not like all of these topics have gone away or been solved, they haven’t, but in a post-Weinstein world the arguments are more nuances and complex than ever. And at the same time other global shifts are occurring in the female space – but more on that later.
• Switching from holding these conversations at lunchtime events to branching out into Podcasting was the suggestion of our millennial daughters – both avid consumers of podcasts.
• So through Podcasting we hope to reach out to both the previous WDF audience and also potentially to a younger audience who are more likely to listen online than attend events. But I know that will depend on our content and style. My daughter has already warned me about using my posh telephone voice!
• When we decided to close WDF, we had a bit of money left over – that money has paid for the Podcasting equipment, the software and some training and will ensure that for time being at least our format will be free. And will be free of those if you want to keep on the air – donate now – pleas.
• We will also be free of the conversations that suddenly launch into an advert and a promo code to buy the product,. That’s not to say we won’t occasionally plug something but that will be because we genuinely like the product and think it’s good, not because we are being paid to do so.
• What is exciting is that without adverts and sponsors we can truly have our own voice and opinions, and also that these opinions are able to flex, morph and change in relation to local and world events as they happen.
• So the Podcast is a way for us to continue having eclectic female focussed conversations about issues that affect women in their lives and workplace. And a way to raise topics no one else seems to be talking about locally, well not in public anyway.
• On launch there will be 3 episodes ready to listen to and thereafter we will release one per month with the monthly FP newsletter.
• If you have any ideas or would like to feature in a future episode, do please get in touch on firstname.lastname@example.org
The thing about Podcasting is that while we might be focussing locally, we are of course discoverable globally via all the normal podcasting platforms. So if you have found Female Potential through your usual podcast platform you might want to know a little more about the locality where are we broadcasting from : –
• So we are broadcasting from the lovely island of Guernsey in the Channel Islands, for those that don’t know us it’s a wonderful place to live. Situated off the Normandy and north Brittany coasts in France, we are a self-governing UK crown dependency.
• An island of just 25 sq. miles and 63K inhabitants. We are not a tax haven but an area of low tax, which has enabled a thriving off-shore finance centre to become our main industry over the past 30+ years.
• Despite Guernsey being a beautiful place to live, with near full employment the gender equality issues here are just as pronounced, if not more so, than in the UK and nearby Europe.
• Like many small communities we have an aging demographic, high cost of living and high property prices, mean most women need to work, but then struggle with the high costs of child care.
• Island life also has its benefits – short commute times, if you are local then grandparents can be close by, 40 miles of glorious coast with 30 or more beaches, cliff paths and all land at the edge of the island with open access for all.
• Our interviewees will in the main be local women – hence our strapline – local women, global issues. In particular we will look at how global issues affect us locally, with our different legislation and often out dated work practises.
• My challenge already has been persuading local women to agree to be interviewed! I’ve had comments such as – I have my personal brand to consider! I could say that off air but not on it, what if someone recognised my voice? What if my employer heard what I say and doesn’t like it?
• So our developing protocol will be first names only, and on occasions not even that. In this way identities and reputations will be protected and hopefully we can tease out what people really think and start some long overdue and much needed dialogue around contentious topics.
• Of course some people will want to be named in full for example the local author who is the subject of Episode 2 and has just launching her first book Dancing with the Moon; a spiritual journey through IVF. Of course we want to name her in full – Emma Despres – and plug the book – she certainly deserves that after all her efforts.
If I think of anything else about podcasting I’ll add it in later but for now let’s get on with the rest of our topic for today – Female Potential.
So in part – today I am conducting my own interview!
Question – WDF, Female Potential’s predecessor, was an organisation dedicated to gender equality, is that Female Potential’s mission too.
Answer – yes but only partially. Let me explain ….
Firstly let’s be clear – I am a feminist – that is I believe in the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes. You see when you put it like that – who can possibly say they are not a feminist?
For 8 years I led an organisation, looking at the issue of gender imbalance in the workplace from a traditional corporate world view. That is looking at the issue of gender equality from within a masculine encoded system.
From that view point we see a constant diet from the media of statistics about women not being adequately represented on boards, the continuing gender pay gap despite 30 years of legislation. Arguments that teeter into discussions about sexual harassment and the disadvantages of gender, before getting bogged down in endless discussions about family friendly policies.
Men and women have bought into the idea that: –
• what is currently happening isn’t right
• somehow needs fixing
• can be addressed by being indignant about it
• while cajoling the women to buck up, lean in, step up and generally sort themselves out.
I don’t think I’m alone in being bored rigid by the endless media treatment of this subject. I find myself flicking over articles on a daily basis that don’t say anything new, and with the Forum I eventually lost patience and the will to live, through inviting speakers to events who came with glossy job titles and supposed exciting new angles on the topic, only for them to trot out the same old stuff I’d been quoting for the past 10 years+!
From this angle the situation always feels insurmountable.
In the time WDF worked with sponsors EY on their Women. Fast Forward campaign, the clock on their website went from ticking down from 89 years a couple of years ago to the current 216 years which is now the estimate by the world economic forum of how long it will take to reach global gender parity!
Of course stats like that are going to be disheartening and lead us to give up! In a way I did.
Sitting outside the system for some months has helped me see the situation differently.
What has become evident is that if we only view this topic from within the patriarchy, with our man goggles on if you like, then as women we are going to see ourselves as perpetually running to catch up – the “also rans” in the human race. Trying to fashion ourselves on men as we do so, judging our success and self-worth on job titles and pay packets, air-miles travelled and shoe horning ourselves into ways of being that don’t come naturally to most us.
We end up feeling like victims. If we’re lucky, then not victims of any individual man, but of a system, a system which seems stacked against us. It starts to feel hopeless and when the constant striving starts to really hurt, we notice – hey was my body actually designed to spend all these hours indoors at a desk, cut off from fresh air and the natural elements? What is this doing to my mental health, let alone my physical well-being?
Disillusioned we either dig deeper, grab a suit of armour and set off on a hero’s journey – I can be a CEO, I can be prime minister, I’ll show the men, women are just as good – watch me while I break the system.
That or we secretly start to plot our escape…..
My own history as the only woman on a corporate board for over 10 years meant that I went native for those years, worked hard, played hard, learned to be tough. In many ways tried to be the son my father never had. Yes I attempted the hero’s journey or as I’ve heard it referred to more recently – the Shero’s journey – when women try to do it the same way men do.
When actually what I’ve discover since is what we really need to be doing is discovering our own Heroine’s journey …..
But before we go there, let’s be clear I’m not one of those man-hating feminist. I’ve used the line often enough – I like men I’ve even married a few. But joking aside at Female Potential we support the masculine; we don’t advocate fighting, punishing or hating men. Most men are fabulous human beings, or at least like us, they have the potential to be.
#MeToo is helping call out a few of the bad ones but we need to keep that in perspective and not alienate the masculine. Suicide rates show us it’s hard enough to be a man in 2018, it’s not our job as women to make it any harder!
The problem is we do need to call attention to unconscious bias and unhelpful stereotypes and at the same time be mindful of the damage that going into attack mode can cause. Anecdotal evidence is saying that more men today don’t want to work with women because they see it as too dangerous – that is not helping equality. Putting Harvey Weinstein behind bars may give us some satisfaction but it won’t help, if it like the world economic forum’s clock, puts the equality movement in reverse.
Both men and women need support, the Patriarchy is as damaging to the true masculine with its distorted views of the alpha male as it is to the true feminine.
What I am learning is that simply focusing on gender tends to divides us, but when we focus on the feminine principles of caring and inclusivity they tend to unite us.
Modern feminism must include men, but as we learned at WDF including men changes the dynamic in the room. So often it is helpful for women to work together to create a safe enough space for women to go deep, at Female Potential this is the underlying principle of working together in what we call Pods, which work as circles of support and operate on principles of equality.
Question – So how can we remove our patriarchy googles, and what will we see differently if we do?
• Well one view is that Trump is doing a great job!
• A great job of galvanising a whole new generation of women to say enough – it’s time to act.
• You just have to listen to Milck’s – Women’s March anthem – I won’t keep quiet – to be inspired. If you’ve not heard it there’s a link in the show notes
• Quietly and not so quietly around the world women are rising
• Women are calling out injustices, women are looking at the stories they have been telling and calling for a new narrative.
• Feminine values and principles have been undervalued by society for millennia, and for millennia women have lived the victim story to these injustices.
• BUT now things are shifting
• There are movements happening all around the world, thousands of women in thousands of organisations are waking up to the shifts that are occurring.
• A recognition that the straight jacket doesn’t fit, it never fitted.
• A recognition that before the Patriarchy there was something else
A time when the feminine was revered, the Goddess was worshiped and female qualities were valued.
Stories from almost every culture around the world talk about the founding place of women in society
• How once upon a time Grandmother Spider span the world into being
• In South America – Pachamama is lauded as the world mother
• Gaia – is mother earth herself
• In our own Celtic mythology, Danu gave birth to all the other Gods
• Women gave birth to life and were the bearers of the cup of knowledge
• Museums around the world abound with ancient goddess and fertility symbols
• Women as Yin were associated with the earth, with the land, in contrast with the masculine yang of the heavens
• But it was only when the creation myth was written down in the Abrahamic religions that somehow women – being of the earth – began to mean something objectionable.
This whole subject deserves its own Podcast – but as women, and particularly Western Women we need to reach back in time to before the Patriarchy i.e. around 1,100 BC when most of the world’s religions were written down, to help start to redress the current imbalance between the masculine and feminine, and bring feminine values back in alignment to sit side by side and equal with those of the true masculine.
We need to shout from the roof tops – women the bearers of new life, the traditional guardians of the land are not an afterthought created from a rib.
The story of Eve in the book of Genesis is the underpinning for countless measures which have limited the actions rights and status of women. It is time to cast back our nets beyond this particular creation myth to bring forward again the forgotten jewels of female values.
To remember – Love, inclusivity, nurture and compassion – our world is crying out for them.
Ah yes there is nothing quite like standing atop one’s soap box, and feeling the empowerment of lifting up ones arm, quoting the words sung by Keala Settle in all her boob bouncing, bearded glory: –
I won’t let them break me down to dust
I know that there’s a place for us
For we are glorious
When the sharpest words wanna cut me down
I’m gonna send a flood, gonna drown them out
I am brave, I am bruised
I am who I’m meant to be, this is me
Look out ’cause here I come
And I’m marching on to the beat I drum
I’m not scared to be seen
I make no apologies, this is me!
Rousing words indeed!
Question – So what will Female Potential actually be doing to help this mission?
Answer – Coaching, for a start
We need to hold the paradox – that at the same time as starting to really value feminine values and principles we do still need more women to rise to the top, so they can write their own new rules and start correcting the societal imbalance.
As a coach I have been working with mostly women, over the past 10+ years – mainly on a one-to-one basis – to help them explore possibilities and release more of their potential. I’ve coached folk to step up to board roles, take new career paths, start businesses, overcome set-backs and many other career defining assignments.
While at the same time undergoing 100 of hours of my own personal and spiritual development journey to help me release more of my own potential.
Over time what I’ve come to realise is that sometimes we are nearly there and just need a cheer leader to help us over the final hurdle, but at other times
our true potential is completely unknown to us – it lies in the parts of us we just don’t yet know.
Like lots of other stuff in life, the possibilities for doing things differently are tucked away in our unconscious minds and we need to do a combination of digging, coaxing and sometimes cajoling to pry it out into the open.
Doing just this over the years I have discovered things about myself I would never have even have guessed – such as the power my unconscious inner drivers have had over my own life decisions.
You’ve probably all heard of the inner critic, sometime referred to as the Super-ego – and it’s constant, barely audible negative whisperings we learn in childhood –
• What if I fail? I’ll never be able to get up again.
• What if this is it and I don’t have any more potential?
• What if that teacher / my father was right – I am stupid?
These constant self attacks stop us from even putting our hands up for that new assignment, let alone striking out to discover what else might be possible for us.
But what I’ve learned is it’s not just the inner critic at work, most of us have a variety of other inner voices too: –
• The inner pusher, who says we don’t deserve to rest yet, we still need to do more
• The inner perfectionist, who says we need to know more, do it better, get it right
• The inner pleaser, who says we need to keep everyone else happy first
• And that’s before we look at the Inner Patriarch, who sits in judgement to make sure we obey the rules society has laid down for women to stay safe
• Or the inner nice girl trying her best not to be rejected in the playground so she can be acceptable to the cool set, another set of internal gender stereotypical rules
So it really is time for us all to wake up from the tyranny of our inner worlds and tell a new story, develop the voices of the long forgotten female stereotypes: –
• The Inner Artemis – who knows her own heart and her mission in the world
• The Inner Goddess of the land – who is grounded in the earth and feels her sense of place in the world. In the words of Sharon Blackie – is able to rise rooted
• The inner wild woman, the medicine woman, the one that isn’t afraid of her sexuality, the one that turns her anger into the power of right action, the one that knows her own beauty, the one that never runs out of love or compassion for herself or the world and her creatures
If you really want to be inspired – Listen to Today I Rise, on YouTube created by Alexandra Feldner – one of the founders of the Femme Q initiative …
• Where are you little girl with the broken wings but full of hope?
• Where are you wise woman covered in wounds?
• Today is the day I will not sit still and give in anymore
• Today I rise
• Through the alchemy of my darkest nights, I heal and thrive
• Today I rise
Now this is the heroine’s journey …
Do please click on the Youtube link in the show notes and spend the best 4 minutes ever, feeling the words, listening to the music and allowing the images to reach parts that no podcast could ever do.
So over the past 9 months while Female Potential has been growing as a concept in me, getting ready to be birthed in the world – I’ve laid down on the earth in my garden, laid down on the pebbles on the sea shore, dunked myself in the ocean and gasped at the clarity the cold can bring and I’ve really attempted to feel into – what my heart yearns for in this next stage of my own development journey, and what is it that my years of experience, years of learning and years of life can help manifest in the world: –
My reasoning being that if my heart yearns for it, then surely I cannot be alone ….
What I’ve found is
1. My heart yearns for community – to do my personal development work in the company of other like-minded souls.
2. To have my pain held, my tears dried and my triumph’s celebrated.
3. My heart yearns to be seen by others as whole, even when I feel totally broken
4. My heart yearns to have others there to support me when I fail so I can pick myself up and carry on instead of crumbling
5. My heart yearns to do nothing other than allow the learning to unfold in me
6. My heart yearns for laughter and fun, life is short and some of my potential maybe hilarious
7. My heart yearns to be inspired by others and have their passion ignite a spark in me
Having invested years of my own money in my own development, where I have found my hearts yearning to be met and the greatest benefit to my process has been when I have been working together with others in small supportive groups.
I give thanks to the wonderful group I am part of in Dorset, where over the past 3 years I have learned to sit in circle and share from my heart and not just my head.
I give thanks to my own Pod mates who have met on the fourth Monday of the month for 11 years by Skype – Lykke in Copenhagen, Marie-Clair in Frankfurt and me here in Guernsey. We met as part of a leadership course in Spain in 2007, and there is something unique about a Pod mate which is very different from a normal friend.
• Pod mates can be trusted with our stories and our truths
• Pod mates will listen without interrupting
• Pod mates will encourage us to say more when we think we’ve finished
• Pod mates don’t collude with our version of the story
• They will ask questions and challenge us but always with love, and in support of our further learning
• Pod mates are there for each other whatever happens in life
One of my dearest wishes has been to replicate the Pod structure In Guernsey and I’m delighted to report that the first Pod has been running now for a couple of years. The Swans are a Leadership Pod consisting of women with age ranges from early 30s to 60s, and jobs ranging from directors to managers, entrepreneurs to administrators.
The concept has been well and truly proved but up until now I didn’t have the band width to expand it – but with the end of WDF and the dawn of Female Potential that has changed and developing more Pods is going to be my primary job, together with my one-to-once coaching practise over the next few years.
There are a number of topics for Pods that we will be exploring: –
A new Leadership Pod will launch in the autumn
Tis one has the rare privilege of being led by both myself and my husband, Cato. He is a Leadership Consultant Coach at INSEAD , the world’s #1 business school. The Pod will commence with a 2 day immersive leadership challenge, which creates the foundations for the Pod to work together over the following year.
Our other signature Pod will be the 3 Keys to Unlocking your Potential in which we will focus on: –
o Learning more about yourself using the Enneagram, as a map of self-identity, more info on the blog
o Identifying the unconscious barriers holding you back, to allow you to tap into your unexplored potential
o Before setting an achievement goal to be undertaken with the collective support and witnessing of your Pod mates
• I am also going to be running a number of subject specific Pods each running over a quarter: –
o Overcoming fear of public speaking and/or speaking up at meetings – this is a real pet subject of mine as it is one thing, which overcome, can really turn a career around
o Building Resilience – working with neuroscience to take charge of our endocrine system. Through movement, sound, laughter, sea swimming – we can literally change our brains through using our bodies differently
o Mindful Drinking – wine o’clock has reached epidemic proportions, as women we need other more life sustaining ways to regulate our stress, because once we start on this road it is one of the most insidious habits to break – but break it we can, with the help of our Pod mates.
So our job here at Female Potential is to help you explore possibilities, ignite passion and unlock more of your potential.
• Our belief is learning is way more effective when we break out of traditional training methods, which exclusively take a top down cognitive approach.
• Instead we will bring you all manner of alternative methodologies, all of which have been thoroughly road tested by yours truly over the last 10+ years.
• And where appropriate we will also attempt to bring you some of the science behind the alternative approaches to keep any over active inner critics quiet.
Female Potential has one foot firmly in the corporate world, I have spent the vast majority of my working life there, and one foot firmly in the more alternative world, where I have spent over 15 years venturing in my personal development journey.
Personally I now refuse to reject any alternative practice as too weird – my experience is that the weirder I go, the more I challenge myself beyond known territory, then the more I learn about myself.
So it will be my complete and utter joy to introduce you to more of the weirder side of life, both through the Podcasts and through the workshops and networking events we will hold locally. We are already planning events including: –
• Mindful dancing
• A gong sound bath
• Campfire beach breakfasts
• Systemic Constellation workshop
This may seem a challenging combination to some of you, um how are HR going to sign off on that one? Well I can assure you that any HR department worth its salt in today’s world will have a well-being focus, and they may just say yes let me take another look at that, it just might be what we’ve been looking for!
Because if you look at the contrast between say leadership development and alternate therapies through another lens, then that’s just another way of saying let’s look at how we redress the imbalance between our own masculine and feminine energies.
So the Female Potential Podcast will be broadcasting some really corporate sounding episodes, looking at the gender pay gap, maternity rights, how inspirational high flyers have done it etc. plus other episodes that will be more eclectic and cover alternative concepts and practises.
Hopefully we will dance seamlessly between the two with the aim that we can model embracing all aspects of ourselves as women.
Our invitation to you will be to keep an open mind, especially when we get weird, because you may just discover the key to unlocking more of your own potential is through one of these routes.
Oh and by the way, for those of you who’s Inner patriarchs are having a breakdown at the mere thought of mindful dancing or gong baths, then please know that science is actually catching up with the alternative world. It seems that when you boil things down most practises have an explanation at the quantum physics level. So just tell the boss it’s quantum physics and hopefully that will shut them up!
So in summary Female Potential will be: –
1. Podcasting – on corporate and other topics relevant to women
2. Offering coaching – corporate coaching, voice dialogue coaching, relationship coaching and taster sessions, all bookable through the website
3. Running small group Development Pods to unlock more of your potential – we will be running a couple of free Test Pod evenings so you can get the idea, look and feel of a Pod before signing up
4. Running an eclectic series of networking events and workshops
5. Opening ourselves up to co-host and co-run events that fit our mandate
If you want to find out more about me and how I found my way to having a foot firmly in both the corporate and alternative worlds, please see the About section on the blog and do please carry on listening to the Podcasts series, I’m sure I will tell more of my story as we go along.
From a personal perspective – I am a mother, a step-mother, a wife, a step-granny, a daughter, a sister, an aunt, a friend. I’ve done marriage, divorce, affairs, single parenthood, blended families and remarriage – not all at the same time.
I’ve had periods of life where I have been the major breadwinner and others where I have been very much in a secondary earning role. I’ve experienced the subtle and not so subtle power difference in both these roles.
But I do need to park my privilege, I’ve always been white, well-educated from a stable two parent home, I’ve never been physically abused by a partner, and apart from one incident all sex has been consensual. I am in a loving relationship with a caring man and will have been married for 15 years this summer.
My experiences have got me to this point in life! Up until now my public face has been mainly corporate – I was trying but not always succeeding to fit in with that world. While I kept my more alternative side largely out of view but all that is changing. It’s time to come out of what I’ve heard described as the spiritual closest and be who I really am in the world.
I’m definitely not saying I have it all figured out, I’m certainly not going to reach enlightenment any time soon, but I am doing my personal work to digest my history, and I am trying to work in a way that greets the future as it emerges.
To end this first Podcast on Female Potential; ethos, ideas and ambitions, I want to go back to the words of Alexandra Feldner from “Today I Rise”
• I open my eyes and I am ready to face my wholeness as a woman
• And my limitless capacities
• I will walk my path with audacity
• For Today I Rise
• I rise and shine and I’m ready go on my quest
• Today I rise without doubt or hesitation
• Today I rise without excuses, without procrastination
• Today I call upon my sisters to join a movement of resoluteness and concern
• Today is my call to action
• I will fulfil my mission without further distraction
• Today is the day I will start to offer the world the wisdom of my heart
Until next time – goodbye.