Inspirational Woman: Caroline Pankhurst | Founder, Be Braver

caroline pankhurst

Described by Radio 5 as a ‘woman who goes her own way’ she has also been described as ‘a sassy, ballsy focussed and inspirational leader with a sharp mind and quick wit’.

Caroline Pankhurst is the Founder of Be Braver. A mindset, programme and practice that brings together the best of applied psychology to shape ambitious, fulfilling and courageous futures

The psychology of courage, especially in women, is Caroline’s field of study. How risks and fears can accelerate or diminish the opportunities and growth potential we realise for ourselves as leaders, individuals, teams, communities and organisations.

Caroline is an accomplished coach, panellist, facilitator and incredibly engaging speaker who has inspired meaningful behaviours change from simply speaking events alone.

Caroline has sat on panels, delivered keynotes and facilitated both live and online events delivering energy, drive, determination and ambition through humour and storytelling. She designs interactive participatory sessions with audience engagement where-ever believing strongly in the power of connection (one of the 4 pillars of a Be Braver Mindset). An essential part of creating change and growth.

Through Be Braver, Caroline delivers training to develop a Be Braver Mindset in individuals teams and leaders. Be Braver practitioners go on to create significant shifts and changes in their lives, businesses and careers.

In 2020 Caroline Founded the Be Braver Collective. A membership based community specifically for women who want to choose courage and practice a Be Braver mindset personally and professionally. A unique collaborative learning and development based coaching community led by Caroline which supports, advances and connects members through the practice of a Be Braver mindset.

As part of her ongoing research, Caroline hosts Courageous Conversations monthly interviewing a range of guests to explore the lived reality of how women experience courage. These are live events and open to members and non members of the Be Braver Collective.

Caroline sits as a charity trustee for GM4Women charity founded by Dr Helen Pankhurst and in taking the name Pankhurst is passionate about advancing the rights of women for an equitable and sustainable future for all.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I started off my career with a very fixed notion of what I understood might be possible for me. I see now how that limited me in so many ways & I dread to think of the number of opportunities I ignored or didn’t create. It was very linear, rigid & fearful probably.

I really started planning my career if you want to call it that, when I decided to tear up everything I thought I knew & follow what I believed in, not what I thought I ought to do. I had no plan, but a vision & framework to guide me to for know how to create & spot the right opportunities at the right time. Not always with the right people but mostly.

Have you faced any challenges along the way?

Tonnes. More challenges than wins, more fails than successes more knock backs than leap forwards.

When you are a single parent and running a business alone – the struggle is real, the risks not inconsequential. Chuck in a pandemic & a new teaching role as a home schooler & you really see what you are made of.

Yet with that comes the fact that every hard won success & victory you equally can fully take responsibility for – and that’s something that makes me smile. You can’t give your success to your away– which I see so many of my Clients doing. Success belongs to the team, failure belongs to me – both those positions can’t co-exist can they?

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

Be Braver for sure. The programme, the Collective & the Institute. The success story of every Client we’ve helped. Also surviving and adapting to the pandemic as a business I would say.

The stats tell you a lot about the number of small businesses that fold in the first few years without a global pandemic. I think the fact I can look back on it all with a sense of pride & enjoyment about it is a big achievement.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?

That’s easy. Courage.

I am fascinated by it, practice, read, research, observe, model, explore it.

Aristotle said it was a virtue. There are quite a few things I wouldn’t agree necessarily agree with him on but I would agree courage is an essential part of living a full life. A virtuous life. We are born courageous. It is a means of growth & survival & what is life if not gowing & surviving in a world of change, threats risks, fears & uncertainty.

Life seems to get in the way of us noticing & attending to it as we mature.

Our very existence depends upon it & the more we recognise the centrality it plays in living & leading the more rewarding, fulfilling & enjoyable our lives become. The more change and progress we make – the better our decisions.

How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?

If I am someone’s mentee they haven’t told me. If I am mentoring anyone I don’t think of myself as their mentor…

I create meaning connections with people, connections where knowledge, experience, learning and ideas are shared. Infact I’ve created a community on the basis of that central thought.

People do often ask me about getting a mentor, I tend to suggest they focus on what their intention behind it is, what they are wanting out of a mentor and then think about the numerous different ways they can go about finding their answers.

I think it’s the word I have an issue with, it alludes to some sort power dynamic for me which is perhaps why I feel resistant too it.

Creating connection & having curious conversations with people I am all for. Purposeful conversations.

If you could change one thing to accelerate the pace of change for Gender Equality, what would it be?

Violence against women. Women aren’t free. They are fearful.

We are limited and impacted by this so much more than we realise.

The psychological impact of violence against women doesn’t just impact and affect those that have experienced trauma that they are consciously aware of it.

We are all limited by the threats that it poses. Many don’t even question that the limitation on choices and actions that this brings compared to men. Or the unquantifiable damage that violence against women does to a life and those around it. What it takes from a woman and what that means she’s denied the opportunity to give to the world whilst she learns to adapt, recover and live with her trauma.

If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self what would it be?

Your brain is more risk averse than your heart. Your brain is attending to the risks and fears because it is trying to keep you safe from danger.  Learn to understand the difference between danger, risk, and opportunity. Opportunity requires risk. Avoid danger. Do not avoid risks.

Your heart is full of hope and love and will guide you to choose the right risks to take.

When your brains holds hands with your heart you will find yourself holding courage. Your ability to make the courageous decisions in the face or risks and uncertainty, where there isn’t danger, but opportunity.

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