Pioneering Women at Management Futures and Nissan

Julia Philpott
March 5, 2020

Ground-breaking programme

Last month, my Management Futures colleagues, Sarah Cartwright, Marianne O’Connor and I were enormously proud to kick off the first ever Women in Leadership programme at Nissan Motor Company.  

The aim of the programme to is help high potential female managers at Nissan to develop their authentic leadership identity, paying particular attention to the factors that impact on female leaders in a male-dominated environment. It helps women to recognise the external (e.g. societal and organisational) and internal (e.g. confidence and self-doubt) challenges that can hold them back and provide them with strategies to overcome these issues.

How is this programme different from other Women in Leadership programmes?

The Management Futures programme is unique for two key reasons:

  1. It tackles head-on the evidence-based issues related to being a female leader
  2. It is supported by regular follow-up coaching, both one-to-one and in groups

We cover topics such as the Impostor Phenomenon, Prove-it-Again! patterns, the difficulties of playing multiple roles (leader, carer, housekeeper etc.) and the masculine / feminine ‘tightrope’, as well as practicing techniques for enhancing presence and image. Some of the discussions can be controversial and uncomfortable – and insight-provoking and attitude-changing.

The case for women-only programmes

There can often be resistance to women-only programmes, from both men and women. I respond to this by sharing the following story:

Two young fish are swimming in the sea, when an older fish glides by and asks, ‘How’s the water?’. The younger fish look baffled and ask each other ‘What’s water?’

The point of the fish story is that, as a result of social conditioning, we have all become familiar with certain ways of working and do not notice the everyday patterns that can create difficulties for underrepresented groups.

In our programme, we highlight the unconscious biases that can affect women simply because they have an ‘outer packaging’ which classifies them as female (and all the associations that go along with that). Research tells us, for example, that men’s successes are typically attributed to skill, while women’s are attributed to luck. We help women to recognise patterns like these - the ‘water’ in which they swim – and to navigate them skilfully.

Male managers need not be excluded from these programmes, but they are unlikely to find the content very relevant (just as a marathon runner would not attend training on how to perform the perfect sprint start). We have also found that women tend to learn more effectively in women-only groups and enjoy building relationships with other female leaders in their organisation.

Furthermore, if we’re being controversial, leadership has pretty much been a men-only gig (by default, since the dawn of time), so women are just playing catch-up here!

Networking and coaching support

Crucially, the 16 women who attended the programme will receive four one-to-one coaching sessions over the next six months. The kick-off day was very full and we shared a great deal of tools and techniques with the delegates. The follow-up coaching will enable them to consolidate this learning and apply it to their own world of work.

The one-to-one coaching will be interspersed with two group coaching sessions. The women already worked in these sub-groups of five or six on the course and have created learning ‘contracts’ to enable their coaching groups to flourish.

A personal journey

On a personal note, this programme marks a career highlight for me. I started working life in the motor industry when, in the not-too-distant past, it had still been acceptable to market cars by draping semi-naked women across the bonnets. It took me several years to recognise the issues with this ‘water’ and many more years to feel equipped to take action.

However, over the past month I have spoken at an event for Women in Banking in Finance, facilitated a coaching programme for Women in Football and delivered a Women in Leadership programme at Nissan. Sarah, Marianne and I had an amazing day at Nissan last month and are thoroughly looking forward to coaching this cohort of female talent. Because, as we know, women rock!

Find out more

To learn more about how Management Futures can help you enhance inclusivity in your organisation, contact us on 020 7928 4841 or info@managementfutures.co.uk

About Julia

Julia Philpott is Head of Coaching at Management Futures. Julia is a qualified and empathetic coach who draws on 25 years of operational, management, HR and leadership development experience to help teams and individuals enhance their performance. She has been a coach for 10 years, following a successful management career with Ford Motor Company, Virgin Atlantic Airways and Tiger Beer UK. Find out more about Julia.

About Sarah

Sarah has a passion for working with women in leadership and is involved in many programmes that are promoting gender equality at work, particularly in the financial sector. Sarah works with women in transition to help them re-boot their personal brand and carve out the career and work-life balance they desire. Find out more about Sarah.

About Marianne

Marianne specialises in female leadership development and has a track record of working with senior and high potential women on how they can enhance their personal brand to raise their profile. She is a senior associate with Career Savvy Women, working with companies to maximise the talents of female leaders and nurture those with potential for senior roles. Find out more about Marianne.

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