Natalie is 33 years old and is the ISVA Team Leader at RSVP. Natalie attended the Feminist Leadership programme 2019/2020 and is a member of the Manchester cohort who had training in March 2020 and created a resource on women’s health for workplaces called The Invisible Health Workplace Initiative

It was Natalie’s manager who had recommended the course for her. Natalie is quite new to leadership and is keen to learn and grow in her role. She recalls that in addition to the content, the fact that the course was for women only and prioritised women from BAME groups made the course stand out. Natalie explained that the course has had a profound effect on her and that she doesn’t have anything critical to say about it.

I enjoyed the entire course.  The design and structure and how it was facilitated all contributed to the effectiveness of the programme. There was a good combination of exercises, theory, and discussion and it was all inclusive.  All delegates were invited to participate during varying points over the 2 days. Feedback was provided following the individual and group exercises which was both positive and constructive, this was something I particularly liked as it is not only helpful to hear about where you have done well, but it is also valuable to hear honest and open constructive criticism about how you could improve.   I observed the reaction of my fellow delegates at this point and I could see everyone smiling. It was quite exciting.

One of the exercises involved answering a series of questions and reading that aloud to the group.  I had written about my life, therefore, it was a very personal account to share.  Furthermore, public speaking is not my forte.  As I concluded I felt elated at my accomplishment and at the feedback I received from the whole group including the facilitators. We all come from different backgrounds, personally and professionally.  I think hearing from your peers, what they thought, was as important as hearing the facilitators thoughts. 

Natalie says that one element of the training that she particularly enjoyed was to be nominated to facilitate a smaller session, as it gently pushed her out of her comfort zone in a way that would not have been possible if the facilitators only asked for volunteers. 

The way that you and Tebs had observed and noticed the individuals that happened to be a little bit quieter or may have needed that little bit more experience in those areas, was really powerful for me. Because when you first asked, inside I was absolutely dreading it. But then I thought ‘you know what, just give it a go, there’s only 10-12 of us in the room’. Also what I liked was that pressure was not applied to participate, you gave the choice and you explained why you had asked. 

I think that was really powerful to me because it helped boost my confidence and confidence boosting is something that takes practice in the required area and it takes years.  I feel like the programme drew out my confidence in this area and that was really powerful for me. 

Reflecting on the social action project, she says she had first not realised this was part of the course and was a bit worried about what it entailed. But once the project was explained and when the facilitators and group together worked to decide what the project was going to be and deciding areas of responsibilities, she got really excited. She says that the topic of the project (women’s health) is really important to her and she was happy to do something that was so collaborative together with the other participants of the programme. She also said that she liked that no one was pushed to do anything that they did not want, but rather that the tasks and responsibilities was all created and distributed collaboratively. 

As the COVID-19 outbreak took its hold of the UK and subsequent lockdown measures were put in place, the programme underwent some changes. After conversations with WRC, the group decided to continue their social action project, which they felt strongly for and had worked really hard on during the 2 days of training. As a consequence of the lockdown measures, WRC cancelled the originally planned follow-up session and instead delivered 5 online training sessions that were open to all the members of the different cohort.

As a solution, I thought it was brilliant. WRC could have said, ‘ok COVID has happened and we cannot run the last part of the course’. But the fact that an alternative option was found, I thought was brilliant. I must say, I got a lot out of the sessions. Meeting the other women from other cohorts was great as well, it was just great to see the other women, especially as we are all from different backgrounds, personally and professionally. If anything, I think it actually worked better. Even though it would have been great to meet the group face to face, it was really lovely to have the opportunity to talk to the other women too.

In terms of what could have been better to the programme, Natalie made a few suggestions that WRC will take on board going forward. For example, to send out handouts prior to an online training session. She also felt that the programme ended quite abruptly and it would have been nice for the end of the programme to have been honoured in some way. WRC will take this feedback on for future programmes.

In terms of the future, Natalie says that she really wants to stay in touch with WRC and the other participants. 

The course has helped me to think and reflect more about our position in society, our roles as women in a lot of different aspects and thus the challenges we face. It has opened my eyes. I have thought more around intersectionality which was something I was aware of, but not this specific term.  Something that may not have always been at the forefront, is now conscious and something I consider personally and apply practically day to day in both my personal and professional life.

Thank you to Natalie for agreeing to do this interview for WRC and for all the value you brought to the Feminist Leadership programme 2019/2020. 

Feminist Leadership

Feminist Leadership 2019/2020

The Invisible Health Workplace Initiative