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Empowering women’s voices

    This years’ theme for International Women’s Day (IWD) is “DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality,” recognising and celebrating the women and girls who champion the advancement of transformative technology and digital education.

    There is a spotlight on the importance of protecting the rights of women and girls in digital spaces.

    This theme speaks to me as a mum of a teenage daughter whose life often centres around online spaces, and also, I reflect on how much of my work is done online including meetings, workshops, coaching and connections all done in digital spaces. But maybe for me it is one of the threads running through IWD that really resonates with me this being empowerment – ‘the process of becoming stronger and more confident, especially in controlling one’s life and claiming one’s rights’.

    This process starts by bringing awareness to the challenges faced by women and recognising that we are not all born equal, that to have true equality we need equity.  Creating spaces where each of us feels psychologically safe, where we can bring our whole self, with the vulnerability and bravery that this requires without fear of ridicule, retribution or risk to ourselves.

    This is why I am excited to share the latest research from Rogare, that is presenting a blueprint for transformational structural change grounded in theory and evidence Gender Issues in Fundraising: A blueprint for dismantling patriarchal structures in the fundraising profession’ that includes 45 recommendations for how charities can create change and more equity for female fundraisers who end up with the short end of the stick in terms of salary, leadership opportunities, subjection to harassment, and various other forms of systemic barriers to success.

    This research is about protecting the rights of women by focusing on dismantling the barriers that inhibit individual action, while recognising that change is top down and bottom up because as the Dalai Lama said

    “Just as ripples spread out when a single pebble is dropped into water,
    the actions of individuals can have far-reaching effects”

    Space to thrive.

    In her book Thrive, Arianna Huffington talks about how we have stopped allowing the space, the gaps, the pauses, the silence, the things that allow us to regenerate and recharge  – the space for doing nothing! The price we are paying is in terms of our health and wellbeing. It is in these spaces, wherever we find them be it journalling, yoga, reading, watching tv or spending a few minutes longer lying in bed before we get up to face the day, where we find our brave selves, who can find the confidence that is needed to claim our rights!

    This is the brave self who wants to say no more am I willing to feel the dread of Mondays, no more will I spend my days running from one pointless meeting to another, no more will I fear speaking up will sound stupid and no more will what I need not feature on my to do list. Because in the words of Dr. Seuss, How did it get so late so soon? It’s night before it’s afternoon. December is here before it’s June. My goodness how the time has flewn. How did it get so late so soon?”

    If you are lucky, you have a final straw moment before it’s too late, as I did.

    When my two children were little, I worked in a zoo, well for the charity that owned the zoo, home to some of the rarest and most majestic animals on our planet, wow that sounds amazing, I hear you say! It was a special place but for me personally as a working mum getting two small children and myself ready each day, travelling over 100 miles a day, keeping an eye on the clock and speedometer, it was exhausting, juggling life, work, home, and relationships.

    I felt guilt for not being fully present at home. I felt guilt for not being able to solve all the problems I was faced with at work. I felt not good enough on any front.

    Then one day I was driving home, nearly there and then it happened – I stopped at the lights (the last before reaching home) but the car behind me did not stop, it hit my bumper, not hard but hard enough. I burst into tears, not a whimper but full blown, tissue soaking, wailing and body shaking head to toe response.

    The drivers around me jumped out ‘are you ok’ ‘are you hurt’ and ‘I am so sorry’, someone started taking details of this driver. I did gather myself and drive on to pick-up the children, but I was left feeling like I had cracked right open, after what was a small knock and on reflection this was not the first time, I had felt this way. My body was sending me a clear message, one that if I couldn’t ignore any longer.

    I will share later in this blog a simple tool to help bring calm to the chaos, just long enough so you can navigate a path without cracking right open.  

    After this incident I knew something had to change, this was not the life I wanted to live, these were not the feelings I wanted to feel. I started by focusing on what I needed. I asked to work from home one day a week (before hybrid working was even a thing!), so I did not feel rushing around quite so much which helped me feel less overwhelmed by all that was expected of me.

    As a leadership coach I help clients to slow down, so that they can hear the messages of their mind, body and soul. I help them connect with their confident self, that can become hidden from view at times we feel overwhelmed to help them create the life that they want sustainably not stressfully. Help them reclaim their rights.

    I did go onto to resign and have never regretted it. I started to explore different ways of managing by time and energy more effectively, changing how I showed up at work and at home and found a new approach that sustained my confidence even when it felt life a busy day on the motorway.

    Our bodies internal warning system

    The feelings that come with overwhelm, rapid heart rate, difficulty breathing, knot in our stomach, trouble making decisions or disproportionate responses to situations, are all our internal warning system being activated, a natural response. What we need to do is take back control of these feelings, but we can’t think our way out, our brain is overwhelmed and in no fit state to help. We need to create some space to disconnect from what is creating the overwhelm by activating the part of our nervous system that helps us feel safe, helps us rest and digest rather than fight or flight.

    I invite you in moments where can feel your body overwhelmed with physical and mental sensations to go through this simple five step stress busting breathing technique used by everyone from athletes to U.S. Navy SEALs, police officers, and nurses.

    Exercise to calm the chaos in the moment

    Before you get started, make sure that you’re seated upright in a comfortable chair with your feet flat on the floor. Try to be in a stress-free, quiet environment where you can focus on your breathing.

    Keeping your hands relaxed in your lap with your palms facing up, focus on your posture. You should be sitting up straight. This will help you take deep breaths.

    Step 1. Exhale slowing exhale all the oxygen from your lungs. Focus on this intention and be conscious of what you are doing.

    Step 2: Slowly inhale deeply through your nose to the count of four slowly in your head. Feel the air fill your lungs, one section at a time, until your lungs are completely full, and the air moves into your abdomen.

    Step 3: Hold your breath for another slow count of four.

    Step 4: Exhale again through your mouth for the same slow count of four, expelling the air from your lungs and abdomen. Be conscious of the feeling of the air leaving your lungs.

    Step 5: Hold your breath again for the same slow count of four before repeating this process.

    NOTE: If you start feeling dizzy, stay sitting for a minute and resume normal breathing. It can take some practice.

    Why invest in yourself by working with me?

    I have built my fundraising career in the charity sector over 30 years, the last 20 as a senior leader for charities such as WaterAid, Marie Curie Cancer Care and most recently as the Director, Fundraising and Communication at Mental Health Foundation. Alongside being a leadership coach and trainer specialising in one-to-one coaching, action focused live workshops and pre-recorded videos sessions.

    “Friends, family and colleagues may have thought I was coping remarkably well when I started a new job, but it was only because Sarah gave me the space to reflect each week”

    Rosa, one-to-one coaching client

    If you are struggling with self-doubt and stuck in a cycle of over thinking that is wearing you down? Working all the hours but don’t feel like at end of the week you are achieving anything? Being pulled in so many different directions, but you are not sure where to start?

    Can I help you embrace your confident self? Contact me at [email protected] or jump right in to book at Discovery Call – it pops an hour in your diary, use it all or take some time back to rest before your next meeting.

    Find out more at including my new 30-minute online workshop video ‘From Chaos to Confidence’ to help you take your first step to getting back to again.

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