I am interviewing Sarah Perugia. Sarah is an accredited Executive Leadership Coach, Team Facilitator and Key Note Speaker. One of her coaching programmes is called Women on a Mission which focuses on helping women entrepreneurs to build confidence and vision to overcome barriers. I hope to find out a little more about Sarah, her career and her focus on celebrating and supporting women leaders. This felt like a fitting topic to explore around International Women’s Day. This year’s theme is Each for Equal.
This is part three of our interview.
M: You transitioned from acting into coaching quite naturally but what is it that made you go into coaching women. I know that you coach men too but this is an area you are focusing on specifically.
S: I think when I started calling myself a Women in Leadership Coach it was quite an odd ball thing to do. It was quite a long time ago now and people were quite taken aback, and often said aren’t you going to lose 50% of your potential clients? People aren’t going to want to work with you if you are only going to work with women. There was quite a lot of discomfort around it. The other day I described myself as a women in leadership coach and the person said ‘oh there’s loads of them!’. I thought isn’t that interesting how the world has changed in only 7-8 years. I have been facilitating for 20 odd years now, so I have seen a lot change.
It’s interesting how in the women leadership space: networking events, conferences and awards, there is a huge movement that is vibrant, active and passionate. It’s exciting to see!
Over the years I have heard (and still hear) story after story from women about how hard it is, and how many plates they are spinning. Even though women who are the main breadwinner with stay at home partners are still at times texting from Geneva to say ‘don’t forget it’s Brownies’.
I guess my specialism is as much about the clients that were drawn to me as much as the clients I was drawn to. I started with work around presenting with confidence, gravitas and presence, and over the years I have built a specialism in resilience coaching . The two are very interconnected because we can’t walk into the room and influence confidently when we are burnt out.
Also, I am a passionate feminist with two daughters, and I really want to do one tiny thing to help women find their place, success and happiness… and enjoy the journey! A lot of the time women are working so unbelievably hard, and having to do so much more than their male counterparts to have to prove themselves. They are so close to burnout. If I can help a handful of them by helping them feel they have someone who has their back. Then that’s one thing I can contribute to this big process.
Women having each other’s back is key to achieving equality
M: The tradition role of the stay at home mum can be a lovely thing to do if that’s what you want and if it brings you happiness. Equally if you want to work there should be no shame in that. The world hasn’t quite got to a place where it can accept women as equals to men so as a working woman you are going to have a harder time before you have even started. Then you think of all the guilt that you get from being away from your child.
S: I think that one of the answers is women unconditionally having each others’ back. My experience of being a full time working mum and business owner has been quite isolating. For me, at times it was difficult to find people with a similar experience and I felt a sense of exclusion from different social groups. The more we can help women understand and support each other, and the more we can help women find their tribe the stronger they will feel. There are also many men out there who want to help, they are just not always sure how to do it.
M: Having each other’s back is important. We are stronger together. Women are quick to criticise ourselves. It’s a toxic world with social media and we are quick to pick holes in each other.
How can men help to achieve gender equal workplace cultures?
S: It’s also about men getting on board as they are in positions of power a lot of the time and if we can bring them into the conversation and get them to support as well we are only going to be stronger.
S: A conversation I have a lot is men approaching me saying, “I really want to help what can I do?” There is a big movement of men on the sidelines cheering on women and not quite knowing how to make a tangible difference. They don’t want to patronize, they don’t want to rescue, they don’t want to interfere and they don’t know how to speak up. We have another untapped resource which is the ‘men for women’ out there who really want to see women absolutely rocking it.
Yes be part of it and this is how to do it. Help them to be confident that they aren’t going to mess it up. Glad to hear that there are men out there are doing that. A step in the right direction.