WIF members came together for a special webinar with our Leadership Course alumnae celebrating the contribution that WIF, with the tremendous support of our lead partner Barclays, has made to our members’ development over the years.
Hosted by Faye Carruthers, the webinar was introduced by Tom Corbett, Head of Sponsorship and Media at Barclays, before going on to explore the impact of the Leadership Course and what takeaways our graduates took from the programme. As a Leadership Course graduate herself, Faye knows first-hand how valuable the course can be!
Faye was joined by course graduates; Danielle Gibson, Liverpool FC LFCW Strategic Transformation & Finance; Kerry Downes, Managing Director West Ham United Foundation; Karen Dobres, Co-Director of Lewes FC Women and Lewes FC Men; Alison Speechly, Academy Coach; and Sarah Solémalé, FIFA Senior Manager.
So why did they join WIF’s Leadership Course?
Faye kicked things off by speaking to Karen Dobres about her background in football, Karen explained “previously, I had always thought football was a men’s sport and was about the Premier League exclusively. I didn’t know about grassroots football, I didn’t know that women played football, I was pretty green.”
But when Karen went into a leadership role at Lewes FC, she felt she needed to become more confident in herself and her abilities.
“I felt that when I’m talking with lots of men, and there are lots of men in football, that I lack confidence, especially to be a leader. So I thought that going on the Leadership Course, might give me formal instruction on what it is to be a leader.”
Kerry Downes also struggled to feel confident as a leader and found the course instrumental in helping her find her voice, “It turned out to be the best thing I could have done…it’s been life-changing to be on this. It is a life-changing course.”
Danielle Gibson joined the course because she wanted that extra boost in her career, “I actually attended one of the panel events in Manchester, and it had really inspiring speakers and the delegates who were there that that that day, they were actually on the Leadership Course that week. So it just sounded great.”
Senior Manager at FIFA Sarah Solémalé joined the Leadership Course due to its renowned reputation, as well as for her own career development, “I was actually looking for some sort of guidance on what can I do to go to the next step in my career because after eight years, I’m not in a leadership position- I was looking for some answers on what I have to do to go to the next level”
Ali Speechly’s career as an Academy Coach has been going from strength to strength, so she joined the course to get boost her confidence too, “one of the reasons I wanted to do the Leadership Course was because during lockdown last year, I’d kind of acquired these roles…and then my imposter syndrome kicked in massively.”
Imposter syndrome was a feeling that quite a few of the participants had had to battle and something that Karen Dobres felt the Leadership Course was vital in helping her overcome.
“I always say I get double imposter syndrome in football generally, because it’s like I’m a woman and I also don’t have that history where I can remember what Arsenal did in 1980. But I think, as a woman, I can sometimes feel quite lonely on the board in football and coming to the Leadership Course, I felt a sense of relief.”
Faye added that authenticity is key in overcoming that sense of imposter syndrome, “because you tend to put on a bit of a tough exterior, when you work in football, sometimes to protect yourself a little bit. And actually, if you’re more yourself, then you’re going to be better at your job no matter what you do.”
Ali echoed that sentiment “I think one of the really important parts of the course for me is to never underestimate the importance of creating a safe space. And Women in Football absolutely does that because it creates a safe space for other women to express themselves authentically.”
As well as the confidence to express themselves, the participants also felt that networking was a key takeout. Sarah shared, “I think it’s really important to develop a network and also find those people that sometimes you might not find in your organisation or institution because it’s so work-related.”
The networking opportunities left Kerry feeling “more confident and I’ve found my voice. And it’s a journey, it’s not finished.”
Feeling bright about the future
Whilst the WIF Leadership Course helped all the women directly in their current positions, it also helped inspire them in their career progression. Danielle commented that “it did open doors to other aspects out there that I would never have considered previously.”
Similarly, Ali is now able to recognise the leader in herself, “it was like everyone else could identify the leader in me, but I wasn’t sure that I quite believed it myself. So the course definitely helped with that.”
The graduates also expressed how great it was to exchange information between fellow participants, and gain valuable tips for future use…
Karen commented “it was incredibly useful to have titbits to take forward into what you do”, something which Faye herself said was helpful too, “when people feed something back to you that feels constructive, you take it on board and you don’t see it as an attack whereas if you were in other circumstances, you might feel vulnerable”
So what were the graduates’ final takeaways from the programme?
Ali: “It was the general vibe of our group and being around so many phenomenal women from all across the world who were really pushing boundaries at the top of their game. Empowered women, empower women, right?”
Danielle: “Take note of what has been positive that day- positives can go unnoticed…take time to reflect and make a note of your positive successes and wins, it will inspire you for the next day.”
Sarah: “Drawing on a map where you want to be in one year, two years, or so on, is something that’s helped me quite a lot. And also understanding you can’t make it on your own. You need allies.”
Kerry: “Being proud- saying ‘I’ve got this experience, I’ve got great qualities’- I found those bits very powerful! It empowered me to be stronger.”
Faye: “My biggest problem was negotiating- I’d always just wait and see. What I’ve now done is push and know my worth”.
There’s a flavour of what was discussed in this special session. We hope all the attendees enjoyed the webinar (we certainly did!), but if you missed it you can watch the recording in full here and if you would like to attend our future webinars, sign up to join Women in Football.