Former pop singer to lead Peace Choir outside Leeds Arena

Photo of Sue Hibberd was Drake, who is leading the Peace Choir

Former chart topper, Sue Hibberd, aka Suzanna Dee, is encouraging everyday singers to sing for peace!  First Direct Arena recently approached Sue to bring together like-minded people willing to join the choir. The choir has been set up to raise awareness of World Peace Day on 21st September.

Many of us feel saddened by social and human justice issues in the UK and around the world.  This event on World Peace Day is being held to remind us how lucky we truly are.  The key message is unity: One choir, one song, one voice!

Fifty people, including a pianist, have already signed up.  Now Sue is encouraging anyone who enjoys singing to join in.  If you sing in the shower, car, at karaoke, or have always wanted to sing in a choir but don’t have the time to commit, come along!

Sue currently is working with a Pudsey-based choir called Raise, who aim to address self-esteem and confidence issues through group singing.  She has also got Leeds College of Music involved, including he choir’s pianist, who was a former pupil.

She had success in the charts 13 years ago and was a session singer for stars such as The Spice Girls, S-Club 7 and Billy Piper. Sue left her career in music for a ‘proper’ job, when she met her now husband and his ready-made family of two children.

After eleven years of family life and with the children grown and off to University, Sue now feels that it’s time for her to give back to society. She wants to make a difference and her motto is to ‘Dream big…Do bigger!’

You can visit the page on Facebook for more information, or simply turn up to register at 8:30pm at the Arena’s VIP area for a 9pm warm-up and a 9:30pm start.

Note to Editors

Facebook Page:

Contact Sue Hibberd (was Drake): 07784 352492 or email:

Release written by Anj Handa. Email: Twitter: @anjhanda


Managing Sexual Tension in the Workplace

Sexual chemistry: man and women sitting on stools with knees touching

Cindy Gallop, formerly of global creative agency network, Bartle Bogle Hegarty, recently wrote a blog entitled ‘Want to get ahead at work? It’s all about sex.’ In it, she makes some interesting points.  My own view is that we are all sexual beings. Whether we’re young or old, married or single, sometimes the people we meet through work turn our heads.

How we deal with those impulses, however, makes all the difference: it’s about respect.  As I’ve matured, I know that I command more respect simply by fully respecting myself.  We radiate this through our language, the way we hold ourselves and the behaviour that we will and won’t tolerate – this is just one of the reasons that I coach women into stepping into their own power.

Sexual Harassment and the Law

Sexual harassment is a form of discrimination under the Equality Act 2010. In a recent case, the UK Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) ruled that a solicitor and his firm must jointly pay over £20,000 to a female employee after he sexually harassed her.  The figure includes £14,000 for injury to feelings, aggravated damages of £4,000 and loss of earnings of £2,111, plus interest.  You’d think he’d know better… Evidently not.

My Personal Experiences

In my early career, I worked in IT recruitment between London and Frankfurt.  I and a handful of female counterparts were hugely outnumbered by hormonally-charged 20-something male colleagues and older, wealthy male Directors, including the infamous uncle of Kate Middledon (but that’s another story). We all worked long hours, which didn’t lend itself well to lasting relationships.

What was considered as ‘banter’ there would be considered deplorable in another type of organisation. I have no doubt that environment toughened me up to the point that at one stage I could out-bloke the blokes.

Behaviour ranged from a colleague theatrically throwing himself at my feet whilst rhapsodising about my legs; being given the Outlook alias ‘My Lovely’ by my manager (much to his embarrassment when my team and I discovered this in a group email); to more sinister comments such as my manager and a colleague asking if I was up for a spit roast. And no, they weren’t inviting me to a barbecue…

Not for Sale

It’s not just been colleagues; clients have gone way beyond the line too. As a sales manager, taking clients out for business dinners was part of my job.  Once, in Munich, a married client twice my age literally dragged me to a wooded area by the restaurant and put his hands all over me. He towered over me and we were out of earshot. Naturally, I was scared, but determined not to show it.

With a steely voice, I told him to back off and thankfully, he did. Usually I wouldn’t have been alone, but my male colleagues had other commitments that evening.  As a result, we had to change the policy so that I would never be put in a vulnerable position again.

I’ve also been called arrogant in public by a new business contact at a conference.  Apparently, I’d rejected his advances because ‘I was pretty and thought I was better than him.’ Nothing to do with the fact he was married and drunk, obviously…

These are just a few of the many examples that I can give and I know I’m not alone.

Workplace Conduct

It’s not always like that. 2015 research by Approved Index showed that 65% of office workers have been involved in at least one workplace romance and 48% in two or more.  Many relationships have emerged from meetings at work and when conducted with respect and professional boundaries, such relationships can be very successful.

As an Equality Act specialist, I once had a bizarre scenario where I was hired by a sports club manager to deliver Equality and Diversity training –for himself.  His Board has required it following a grievance relating to alleged sexual harassment of a female employee.  I’ve delivered such training on numerous occasions, but this was definitely a first.

I won’t share details of the case, but needless to say, inappropriate comments were made, once with alcohol involved.  My training ended up with being more along the lines of coaching.  He had managed the club for many years and had been feeling ashamed, stupid and worried about his job.

At the end, he thanked me for my non-judgemental approach.  Mostly, my guidance was about how others perceive things and what is and isn’t appropriate in a workplace context, including out-of-hours events.

I also have an example of a situation that could have had a completely different outcome.  Recently, a friend, who is high up in a professional services firm, went to make tea. Two colleagues, including a male colleague, were already in the narrow galley kitchen.  As he reached to get the milk, his arm brushed against her chest.

As big-boobed women know, breasts sometimes get in the way.  Knowing it was accidental, she laughed and said “boob brush,” to his visible relief.  By naming it in a lighthearted way, she diffused the situation.


In her article, Cindy Gallop writes “When you lose that sense of shame, when you feel comfortable and confident in yourself as a sexual being, it transforms your outlook and approach to life, and to work.”

I say, in the words of the fabulous Aretha Franklin:

“R-E-S-P-E-C-T find out what it means to me,

R-E-S-P-E-C-T, take care”

A bit about me: I’m an experienced Board member who also happens to be female, of an ethnic minority background and usually younger than my fellow Directors.

Directorships remain largely a man’s world and it takes a certain kind of woman willing to operate in that space. My signature coaching programme, LOVE (You) addresses this gap. I created it so that other female leaders can benefit from the support that I lacked.

With 18 years’ professional experience up to Board level, I’ve combined extensive research, tested executive development techniques and effective coaching tools with deeper self-directed work.

LOVE (You) is delivered in a flexible way, through workshops in confidence and self-awareness, public speaking, blogging and how to engage through social media; to training in equality law and diversity.

Get in touch to discuss how I can help.


Memories and life purpose – shaped by previous generations?

For many years, I’ve had a deep desire to support refugees and asylum seekers, in particular, women. It’s seen me secure funding for a two-year Job Placement Project for Refugees; mentor a 21 year old Somali girl for a year; and lead a global campaign on behalf of my friend Afusat, a Nigerian lady seeking asylum on the grounds of risk of female genital mutilation to her two little girls.

It’s a deep pull that I haven’t been able to explain to myself.  Sometimes it’s been exhausting, but I ‘have’ to carry on, despite encountering resistance from others, including friends and family at times.

I knew that, as children, my own parents had to flee from Pakistan to India during Partition in 1947. I also knew that they’d witnessed many disturbing scenes.  However, since they had been unwilling to talk about it, I hadn’t contemplated how their trauma may have affected me. I hadn’t considered whether it had played a role in my need to reach out to this particular group of people.

Yesterday, for the first time, my parents sat together with me and recounted their experiences for me to write about.  Some of the things I learnt were horrific. How my then 13 year old dad had left on camel and witnessed seen slain Muslims on the street.  And how, whilst swimming in a river, two skulls, belonging to men who had been beheaded, floated towards him.

Childhood memories: Anj and mum in India
Me with mum on a trip to India (ca 1976)

How my aunt, her mum and newly-married sister were made to watch their menfolk line up and have their throats slit by fighters from the North West Frontier; and that the women were then taken to a camp for a year.

Aunty never spoke of what happened to them during that time. I’d only heard of her rescue a year later by my dad’s uncle, an England-educated dentist who sheltered many refugees in his large home in Dehradun.

How mum, aged seven, was taken away by train, first class, since she was recovering from typhoid.

How, in Jammu, she watched her dad give water to a desperately thirsty Muslim boy.  The boy was being crushed in an over-crowded train full of Muslims refugees travelling the other way.

I learnt that granddad was a Hindu nationalist, but couldn’t bear to see a child suffer. He himself had been pre-warned about the coming riots by a fellow shopkeeper, a Muslim friend.

Could it be that these ‘memories’ have somehow been passed to me though my bloodline? Or is my passion for helping refugees and asylum seekers just co-incidence? After all, my siblings don’t feel the way that I do.

Inherited memories?

A couple of years ago, I learnt about how ‘memories’ pass between generations through genetic switches that allow children to inherit the experience of their ancestors.  The technical term, if you’re interested, is ‘transgenerational epigenetic inheritance.’ It means that surroundings can affect an individual’s genetics, which can in turn be passed on.

For a long time, scientists assumed that memories and learned experiences built up during a lifetime must be passed on to future generations – either by teaching or through personal experience.

Research from Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta has shown that it’s possible for some information to be inherited through chemical changes that occur in DNA. Add to this the concept of Epigenetics (additional information layered on top of the sequence of letters that make up DNA).

Now questions are raised about where these changes come from. Until recently, research in this field has been undertaken on animals, but scientists are now taking the effect on humans more seriously. I’ll be watching developments with interest.

Our future generations

New generations from Syria, to Sierra Leone are growing up to scenes they should never be made to witness.  We must consider the wisdom of elders.  Just look to the 12th Century Constitution of the Iroquois Nation (The Great Binding Law) and its explanation of the ‘seventh generation’ philosophy:

“The thickness of your skin shall be seven spans – which is to say that you shall be proof against anger, offensive actions and criticism.  Look and listen for the welfare of the whole people and have always in view not only the present but also the coming generations, even those whose faces are yet beneath the surface of the ground – the unborn of the future Nation.”

About Anj Handa

I want to help women feel confident and resilient enough to create positive change in society, no matter how small; and to build a network of peers to support each other.

Asylum seekers and refugee women are the group where my own attention is focussed, but there’s much to be done for other parts of society too: this is where a network of proactive women comes in.

Men are important in moving this forward too.  There were men that helped me get messages out to peers in a way that I couldn’t: retired, white English professional men and twenty-something African male students in particular.  There was something very special about that: #HeforShe in practice!

If you’re interested in knowing more about how you can help refugee support organisations or get involved in Inspiring Women Changemakers, please get in touch. My email address is

You can get involved on Facebook or Twitter.

The Depths of ‘The Well’ – It’s not PMT!

Photo of The Chalice Well at GlastonburyThe Well – Denise Levertov


At sixteen I believed the moonlight could change me if it would.

I moved my head on the pillow, even moved my bed as the moon slowly crossed the open lattice.

I wanted beauty, a dangerous gleam of steel, my body thinner, my pale face paler.

I moonbathed diligently, as others sunbathe.

But the moon’s unsmiling stare kept me awake.
Mornings, I was flushed and cross.

It was on dark nights of deep sleep that I dreamed the most, sunk in the well, and woke rested, and if not beautiful, filled with some other power.

Women are like Waves

I first read about ‘The Well’ in John Gray’s ‘Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus’ in the Chaper ‘Women are like Waves.’ In the paragraph below, he describes the feelings that women experience when they go into ‘The Well.’

A woman is like a wave. When she feels loved her self-esteem rises and falls in a wave motion. When she is feeling really good, she will reach a peak, but then suddenly her mood may change and her wave crashes down. This crash is temporary.

After she reaches bottom suddenly her mood will shift and she will again feel good about herself. Automatically her wave begins to rise back up….One study revealed that a woman’s self-esteem generally rises and falls in a cycle between 21 and 35 days.

I couldn’t find a reference to the study, but the chapter made perfect sense to me.  ‘The Well’ is the time when we feel unaccountably low. We may feel unloved, or that things aren’t great.  It can feel like walking through fog and articulating ourselves isn’t as easy as usual. Some people crave sweet things.  Personally, I don’t reach for chocolate, although I do want to cocoon myself more during this time.

Why ‘The Well’ is not PMT

Going into ‘The Well’ is not PMT.  I don’t suffer from that in any case, so I knew it wasn’t this that made me feel down at a certain time in the month.  The period when we go into the well happens before then – roughly every three weeks.

Sometimes the feelings only last for a few hours, sometimes a couple of days.  We all go through it, yet it rarely comes up in conversation.  When a friend recently confided in me and admitted that she felt silly for feeling blue when she had nothing to complain about, I told her about ‘The Well.’  “But why does nobody talk about this?!” she exclaimed.

They are now 

I want you to get rid of any notion of feeling silly, ungrateful or any other self-judging comments that you make to yourself.  You can’t help it.  Here’s what goes on in your body between day 15 and day 22 in a 28-day cycle: your progesterone rises; estrogen and testosterone drop for half for a few days, then estrogen rises again.

So what does that mean for you? Around day 15-18, you might experience irritability, fatigue and ‘the blues’ due to plunging estrogen (which also dips again before your period). See the graph above.) From around day 19-22, your estrogen levels rise again and your mood improves.

But…we also have to factor in progesterone. The level rises this whole time and the effect is that we often feel lethargic, quiet, less interested in mingling and more wary.  It’s this hormone that makes us reach for comfort food and gives us ‘brain fog.’

Now that you know what is taking place, I hope that you will honour your feelings.  Just go with them – you need to go to the bottom of the well before you can rise back up.



Learn to love being bonkers!

Learn to love being bonkers quote

You’re bonkers! This is a regular refrain from friends and family, who often wonder what I’m going to get up to next. I’ve come to appreciate it. My version means being playful, curious, spontaneous (and sometimes a bit reckless, sorry mum and dad).

My professional and campaigning life often involve ‘heavy’ subjects, so it’s important to get a balance by injecting fun into my days. Here’s why it’s a great thing.

Being bonkers means I get invites to all sorts of random places, which this month include a private art viewing at stately home, Harewood House and a place on the VIP list at Brutus Gold’s 80s night at O2 Academy in Leeds.

Being bonkers means that I get to have fun on the trampoline at a BBQ whilst other adults sit around cradling their wine.

Being bonkers means being asked to help promote causes I care about. I was involved in the Leeds launch of Warriors film, which only last week was screened at the United Nations in Brussels. After the Leeds screening, I went for a drink with the producer and the Maasai star of the film (who was dressed in his full Warrior regalia at the time).

Being bonkers means forming connections via social media and translating them into real life bonds. I’ve travelled to Wales to stay with a friend that I met on Twitter; and the Aussie that I also met on Twitter now resides in my spare room!

It’s Liberating!

Even Dizzee Rascal thinks so…

Some people think I’m bonkers
But I just think I’m free
Man, I’m just livin’ my life
There’s nothin’ crazy about me

Treat life like an adventure. Go on, be bonkers!

About Me

Through my signature coaching programme, LOVE (You), I work with professional people who have experienced emotional trauma (bereavement, breakup, serious illness, redundancy) and are sick and tired of feeling overwhelmed, lethargic or stuck.

I help people to re-connect with themselves and others; develop plans for a more positive and fulfilled future; and start to look forward with positivity.  I love to witness the visible transformation in them.

I only have a couple of spaces left on my programme, so email me now at if you’re ready for change!

Being a #BloodyDifficultWoman: a compliment?


#BloodyDifficultWoman: Kenneth Clarke MP inadvertently generated a Twitter hashtag when he spoke about the Conservative leadership election candidates on Sky News –  with his microphone still switched on. To Sir Malcolm Rifkind, he said “Theresa is a bloody difficult woman, but you and I worked with Margaret Thatcher…  I get on all right with her … and she is good.”  

Twitterverse responded switfly, mostly with humour.  The above photo was my contribution to the debate.

What is a #BloodyDifficultWoman?

If this means a women who’s unafraid to speak her truth and speak up for what she believes in, I’ll take that.  Let’s start with a dictionary definition of difficult:

“Needing much effort or skill to accomplish, deal with, or understand.”

Indeed. The women I know who would be labelled under that hashtag are highly intelligent, principled and yes, sometimes challenging.  People don’t necessarily need much skill in dealing with us, but we do expect certain standards of integrity and fairness.

Following my experiences of leading the Afusat Saliu campaign, I can’t say I’m a fan of Theresa May, but I do feel that she’s someone who gets things done (even if I don’t agree with her).

There are so many stereotypes about strong women.  I feel this is where their quality attributes are often undermined.

Ice queen, token woman, bitter and single, no life, blokey, manipulative, hard, or angry…These are just some of the phrases that are used to describe strong women.  I haven’t heard such equivalents for men.  They get alpha male, assertive, leader.

You can call me Queen Bee

The most positive phrase I hear about strong women is Queen Bee.  What an analogy 

Let me tell you about Queen Bees…

A Queen Bee is an adult, mated female and is usually the mother of most, if not all, of the bees in the hive.  Unlike the worker bees, her stinger isn’t barbed and she is able to sting repeatedly without dying.

When a young virgin (unmated) queen emerges from a queen cell, she generally seeks out virgin queen rivals and attempts to kill them.  In the workplace, this is described as women pulling the ladders up behind them.

When the after-swarm settles into a new home, virgins queen bees fight to the death until only one is left. If the prime swarm has a virgin queen and an old queen, the old queen is usually allowed to live.  She will continue laying until she dies a natural death.  Then the former virgin, now mated, will take her place (a bit like alpha females identifying their successor).

Get Up, Stand Up!

It doesn’t have to be like that!  Women often don’t speak up, for fear of being described by one of the above phrases.  Even actress Jennifer Lawrence held back from asking for a pay rise. In an open letter, she stated:

I would be lying if I didn’t say there was an element of wanting to be liked that influenced my decision to close the deal without a real fight. I didn’t want to seem ‘difficult’ or ‘spoiled.’ 

At the time, that seemed like a fine idea, until I saw the payroll on the Internet and realized every man I was working with definitely didn’t worry about being “difficult” or “spoiled.”

#BloodyDifficultWoman: May be know her, may we raise her, may we know her.

A bit about me: I’m an experienced Board member who also happens to be female, of an ethnic minority background and usually younger than my fellow Directors. It can be a lonely place and I’d love more women to join me!

I’ve combined 13 years’ experience of advising organisations on equality and workforce development with extensive research into coaching tools and techniques to create LOVE (You) – so that other female leaders can benefit from the support that I lacked.

LOVE (You) is a modular growth mindset programme for professional women which combines high quality executive development techniques with deeper self-directed work. Get in touch to discuss how I can help.

P.S. If you’re struggling to speak up, I am running open workshops in Leeds in July and September. Places are limited, so book now.

Masking Mental Ill-health – Burnout at the Top


Burnout can wreak havoc in your personal and professional life and have a huge impact on the people around you, yet most people are still unwilling to talk about it. From the individual’s point of view, they don’t want to be seen as ‘weak,’ ‘incapable,’ ‘not up to the job’ or any number of things that their internal dialogue is telling them.

Organisations too are reluctant to admit it’s happening in their workplaces.  They see it as a reflection on their culture.  I know this from experience.  In 2011, from a sense of personal frustration due to lack of support from my own employer at the time, I created a workshop for managers on Stress Absence Management.

Within a six-month period, three of my team members had undergone tragedy in their lives and needed time off.  I had to deal with the HR process and facilitate the most positive return to work possible for each of them.  It was a stressful time and my MD made my life very difficult through his lack of utter lack of emotional intelligence.

At the time, I’d undertaken Mental Health First Aid course, but I realised that there wasn’t a product on the market that was aimed at managers that would teach them how to better support themselves and their teams, so I developed one.  Companies snapped up my course – but didn’t want anyone to know they had adopted it!

It’s the unrealistic expectations on leaders, by themselves as well as their bosses; as well as a lack of support, that can led to burnout.


“A state of emotional, mental, and physical exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It occurs when you feel overwhelmed and unable to meet constant demands. As the stress continues, you begin to lose the interest or motivation that led you to take on a certain role in the first place.”

That’s the technical definition.  Now I’d like to describe it from the point of view of Bernie Mudie, who spoke last week at the Mindful Employer conference in Leeds, hosted by Asda.  A former civil servant, she was head of a large Government department, with 300 staff and a contracting area valued at £4bn.

She loved her job. She willingly worked long hours, sat on a number of Boards, engagedworked with MPs and a wide range of stakeholders.  Then, following a restructure it went from “frenetic to supersonic.”  She started to experience memory blanks and initially worried that she was starting to get the dementia her father suffers from.  Then she put on weight, three stone; and her blood pressure rose.

In her words, she went from the top of her game to the bottom virtually overnight.  Her return to work was terrifying and she experienced paranoia about the Stress Risk Assessment.  A further restructure was the final straw, but fortunately she was able to take voluntary severance following her 35 year career.  She’s excited about what comes next.

At the end of her talk, Berni asked a question that resonated with me.  She asked “How do people move forward if they don’t had the advantages that I did?…[as a senior women, people took it more seriously].

A (Very) Personal Story

I know what that feels like.  In the late 90s/early 2000s, I had a high-flying sales career, alternating work each week between London and Frankfurt.  Then things started to go downhill…

My brother was hit by a bus and was in hospital for a few months, initially in a coma; I had to report a friend missing and his body was found a fortnight later (as a 23 year old, I had to attend his inquest alone); in those same two weeks my beloved uncle died unexpectedly; my employer underwent voluntary liquidation; and I went to a new job with a bullying boss.

That final experience was my tipping point and I collapsed at work.  I’d been on auto-pilot for so long that I didn’t realise that I was experiencing burnout.  I was hospitalised for a week and it was at that then, in 2003, that I decided to move back to Leeds, one of the best life decisions I’ve ever made.

Life was smooth again for the next ten years, until a close friend took his life.  As usual, I masked my feelings and supported our friends, not thinking about myself very much at all.  You see, I believed my own rhetoric…“I’m a strong pair of shoulders,” “I’m capable.” “I ‘get’ mental health.”

What a joke!  Three months in, something gave and I decided to go to Cruse for counselling.

At the start of my third session, my counsellor said something that made me sit up.  It was this: “Anj, you know all the techniques.  You understand the grief cycle and where you are on it.  Your challenge is that you are so used to being in control and these events were not in your control.  That’s where your issue lies.”

The Ripple Effect

His words had a huge impact.  They placed me at the start of a journey of becoming more in the flow and adopting an open approach, not just in my home life, but also in my role as a female leader with influence in my business and civic community.

Old habits created a lot of resistance at first, but as you can see from this blog, sharing has become much more natural.  I want to show others that there is always a light at the end of the tunnel and that they’ll emerge stronger, even if it seems out of reach in their present situation.

It never ceases to amaze me how, by being open about this topic, others start to say “Me too.”  The change starts with ourselves.  By being open yourself, you give others the space and ‘permission’ to talk about how they’re feeling.  You don’t need to have the answers, you just need to ask the questions.

I encourage you to start having more honest conversations.  This approach, although difficult for our egos to embrace at first, creates a far-reaching ripple effect – you’ll start to see your workplace start to change before your eyes.  Now go and start talking!

About Me

Through my coaching practice, I work with professional people who have experienced emotional trauma (bereavement, breakup, serious illness, redundancy) and are sick and tired of feeling overwhelmed, lethargic or stuck.

I help people to re-connect with themselves and others; develop plans for a more positive and fulfilled future; and start to look forward with positivity.  I love to witness the visible transformation in them.

It’s World Refugee Day – what difference can YOU make?

It’s World Refugee Day today.  As many people will know, supporting refugees and asylum seekers has always been a matter close to my heart.  Back in 2005, through a previous role, I secured funding for a two-year Job Placement Project for Refugees.  Part of that scheme involved a year-long mentoring programme for refugees, with training from the Refugee Council.

The young lady that I was matched with was a 21 year old Somali girl named Roda.  When we first met, she spoke in a whisper and barely looked up.  Well, I created a mini me!  By the end of the year, she had written poetry and even interviewed people outside Leeds Library with a microphone!

I couldn’t have known it at the time, but it was likely, given her age and country of origin and background, that Roda would have also been a survivor of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).  In Somalia, FGM prevalence is about 95% and is primarily performed on girls aged 4-11.

As fate would have it, I was led in early 2014 to befriend and then lead a campaign on behalf of Afusat Saliu, who was seeking asylum on the ground of the risk of FGM to her two young daughters.  The campaign taught me a lot.  It taught me about the power of social media; of engaging people through authentic communication – led by the heart but supported by credible information; and importantly for me, it showed me what I was made of.

I often say that if someone had told me at the outset what would have been involved, I probably wouldn’t have had the confidence for such an undertaking.  This is why I am passionate about the movement that I’m creating – Inspiring Women Changemakers.

Inspiring Women Changemakers

I want to help women feel confident and resilient enough to create positive change in society, no matter how small; and to build a network of peers to support each other.

Asylum seekers and refugee women are the group where my own attention is focussed, but there’s much to be done for other parts of society too and this is where a network of proactive women comes in.

Men are important in moving this forward too.  There were men that helped me get messages out to peers in a way that I couldn’t: retired, white English professional men and twenty-something African male students in particular.  There was something very special about that -#HeforShe in practice!

Maya Angelou quote refugee supportIf you’re interested in knowing more about how you can help refugee support organisations or get involved in Inspiring Women Changemakers, please get in touch.

My email address is

You can get involved on Facebook or Twitter.


Nervous about public speaking? Here’s how to hook your audience

Microphone for public speaking

Although I’m experienced at public speaking, it’s always useful to learn new skills, so I was delighted to be invited to meet Chris Davison, public speaking coach and author of Hear and Now book.  In his book, he states:

“Nearly three quarters of American women – and over a half of British women – believe that at work, their voices aren’t treated as seriously as a man’s…Clearly a problem of such magnitude needs solving urgently. It’s damaging to those involved and damaging to the greater economy…

…learn how to tackle the dictatorial and overbearing communication style that’s become the corporate norm. You’ll be able to create a happier and more productive working environment, based on greater collaboration, arising from better relationships and a greater level of trust.”

Chris’ findings support the messages I have been giving to the business clients that I work with; namely, that more women should be represented in the boardroom; that they should be encouraged to use their authentic voice, and that their different approaches can make for highly effective stakeholder engagement.  I’m pleased to be able to help beta test his new forum.

A large part of my work focuses on coaching people on how to step up and speak up in their workplace and in their personal lives.  As an experienced Board member who happens to be female, of an ethnic minority background and often younger than my Board counterparts, I’ve had to find my voice and make sure that I use it, especially when it concerns a matter of importance to me.

Too many women, even at a senior level, still don’t, for reasons including imposter syndrome, being talked over/down to, or even a worry about being perceived as too ‘soft’ by favouring case examples (stories) over hard data.

I know that many people, men and women alike, are anxious about public speaking.  Despite my experience, there are still times when I too feel nerves.  Sometimes larger audiences of several hundred feel less daunting than a group of 30 or so peers.

Tips on public speaking

Managing anxiety: There’s a lot going on within our brains and our bodies, especially when we’re feeling nervous.  Have you ever wondered why your knees knock, your voice falters or your hands shake when you’re presenting?

It’s due to Mother Nature.  Adrenaline is flooding your body, putting it into fight or flight mode.  Focusing on your breath can help to bring nerves back under control, and don’t focus too much on your trembling either, as this will only make it worse.

Public Speaking -slidesLoosen your grip on slides: Many presenters are lazy, using their slides to do the talking for them.  Your slides should illustrate the story that you are telling.  They are not to be confused with handouts! Here’s a poor example from a conference I attended earlier this year.  I was seated at the back and couldn’t read these even if I’d wanted to.

Avoid information overload: Don’t bombard your audience with facts.  You should ideally cover three to five key points.  Ten top tips is fine for blogs, but not for talks.

Brain training: Did you know that when you are surprised, your brain is trained to pay attention?  This also activates pleasure responses.  Knowing this, you can figure out ways to enrapture your audience.  Storytelling is an effective way of connecting with your audience if you make it relevant to the subject.

Show your vulnerability:  Your audience will warm to you when you are authentic.  I recently shared a story about how far one of my coaching clients had come and I was trembling as I told her story.  I explained to the audience that I was feeling emotional because I was so proud of her.  When I was done, I got a number of hugs – and a potential new client.

A creative approach to teaching

Over summer, I’ll be delivering public speaking training to eight groups of year 11 and 12 students through the National Citizen Service programme.  I will have 70 students in each and will definitely be kept on my toes, so my programme has to be playful as well as informative.

I’m currently developing creative resources to keep their attention.  Training adults is a breeze in comparison, but I’ve very excited about the materials that I’m developing.  Props, artwork and sound will be brought into play to help them learn how to develop their talks.

P.S. I will be holding Open Workshops in Leeds over summer for small groups of adults too.

Book here

About Me

I’ve spoken at conferences in the UK and abroad.  My coolest gig was speaking at the Actiris anniversary conference in Brussels – the king of Belgium was in the audience! Most recently, I spoke to 200 A’ Level students about Female Genital Mutilation at the exclusive Rodean School in Brighton and at a series of ‘Women in Broadband’ events in Leeds.


The Great Divide – Views on Gender Difference

Uncovering what men and women *really* think about each other!

Gender Difference

In May, I was introduced to Andrew Anderson, an independent film producer who is making a short film documentary about gender differences called ‘The Great Divide’. It’s a documentary formed of two parts: women about their thoughts and opinions of men; and men voicing their views about women.

Andrew is London-based and told me that he was missing a Northern perspective, so I arranged for him to come to Leeds to interview me and four women from my network from varying backgrounds and a wide age range.

Now, we Yorkshire folk are generally known for our direct approach.  Added to that, each of the women I’d enlisted is a real character in her own right, so it’s fair to say that Andrew heard opinions that hadn’t arisen in his earlier interviews…

Gender perspectives on friendship

He got some excellent footage and I’m now helping to identify men that would be willing to be interviewed and will be candid in their views.  (If you or someone you now would be interested, please get in touch).

I don’t want to give anything away before the final edits have been done, but I do know that it will be compelling viewing.  I have to admit through our conversations alone, I’d uncovered some secrets of the Universe!

In complete synchronicity, Andrew’s documentary is helping me to pull together a side project that I’d idly considered last year: a study into cross-gender friendships.  Nothing to do with my day job, just pure curiosity.  Fortunately, he shares my interest, so we’re planning to work together on a bigger project.  Watch this space.

In the meantime, I’ve leave you with this entertaining TEDx Talk by Sam Killerman, who has a one-man show called the Pronounced Metrosexual.


You can check out Andrew’s work at or on Vimeo.