Inspirational Woman: Laura Cordingley | Chief Executive, Chance to Shine

Laura CordingleyLaura is Chief Executive at Chance to Shine, a national cricket charity that supports half-a-million young people a year.

Helping them to play, learn and develop life-skills, through the sport. Chance to Shine believes in the power of cricket and sport to inspire young people, excite new passions and ultimately help to change lives. The charity works in states schools and disadvantaged communities throughout the country.

Laura previously worked at the Mayor of London’s office as Assistant Director, responsible for Team London, Volunteering and Sport across the Capital.

From 2013-2017 she was Community Development Manager at Marylebone Cricket Club, the owner of Lord’s Cricket Ground, where she developed and delivered the Club’s inaugural community engagement strategy. Earlier in her career, she held sports development roles at Durham City School Sports Partnership and Volleyball England. Laura previously played for her country at netball.

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

I’m CEO at Chance to Shine, a national cricket charity that helps half-a-million young people a year to benefit from cricket, keep physically active and develop skills for life. I’ve always been hugely passionate about sport’s unique ability to change lives and engage people in a way like no other. I was fortunate as a youngster to be introduced to netball and went on to represent my country until an injury meant I had to stop playing.  I think it’s so important that girls and boys get the opportunity to benefit from sport as I did.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I always knew I wanted to work in sport, originally I considered being a physiotherapist or nutritionist, the latter I ruled out after university because I couldn’t afford to do the Masters Degree. In my early career I didn’t have an exact career path in mind but I focused on moving to jobs that added different skills/experiences to my CV. In the last 5-6 years I was encouraged by a previous boss to dream big and think about where I’d like to be in the future. I knew I wanted to stay in sport and that I liked working with people so thought I could progress well in a senior management role. In order to do that I looked at gaps I had in my experience and as an example this led me to undertake some additional financial training at London Business School in my spare time outside of work.

Have you faced any challenges along the way?

Of course! Challenges come in a variety of shapes and sizes, it’s unrealistic to think everything will be plain sailing. I learnt from sport that it’s important to concentrate on what is and isn’t in your control. Earlier in my career a big challenge came about when due to external factors, we lost 75% of funding at a local level for sport development. I couldn’t control this but I was determined to sustain our work as we knew it was having a positive impact on young people. It was stressful as staff were understandably nervous about their future, many of whom had families to support and I had to ask them to trust me that I’d make it work. Within a year we had managed to maintain the offer at the same level by sourcing local funding from partners and it still exists to this day.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

On a personal level playing netball for my country when I was younger is an achievement I am very proud of, having that kind of personal development through sport at a young age has absolutely contributed to my career journey. In a professional capacity, it was a really proud moment to recently celebrate reaching our two-millionth girl through Chance to Shine.

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

It might sound a bit corny but I’ve always stayed true to myself, I used to have the view that in order to progress I had to change who I was as I had an a image of what a successful female looked like in a senior executive position. Once I’d realised I didn’t need to change this really helped me focus on the strengths that I possess. I’m very people orientated, love working through challenges and finding solutions that work for your organisation as well as partners. I also always strive to achieve my personal best, I think that’s something I have taken from sport, I’m relentless in self-analysing how I’m performing and ultimately what that means.

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

I think mentoring is fantastic, I’ve certainly benefited from having some excellent mentors to help me on my journey. I haven’t formally mentored anyone yet but I’d like to think I’ve helped others as much as I can to progress on their career journeys. I’m always open if someone asks for advice and I’ve spent time with a variety of people talking about their career pathways, helping them to consider either next steps or a movement either in to or out of the sport sector.

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

I’ve recently heard a lot of talk about women either being held back or holding themselves back from having a family because they are worried about how it will affect their careers. I think we’ve still got a way to go until women feel comfortable talking about the desire to have a family whilst progressing their career. I’ve spoken to too many people who are scared to mention it to bosses and therefore struggle with the process of making a decision about when is good for them to think about starting a family. When I applied for the role at Chance to Shine I spoke about my desire to have a family in the future at interview, I have to admit I wasn’t sure how it would go but I wanted to be truthful with our trustees. In fact they were very supportive and it made me even more certain that this was an organisation I wanted to join.

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

Take opportunities, both large and small, when you get them, if one presents itself say yes if you are able to. You never know what might come of it, it’ll certainly provide an additional experience, potentially another string to your bow and lastly, build your network, keep in touch with those who you rate along the way, you never know when another opportunity might arise.

What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?

We’ve gained some great momentum at Chance to Shine in the last couple of years, my next challenge is to help the organisation further demonstrate the impact of what we do, continue to strengthen our fundraising and keep on innovating on how we work with partners.

An example of which is that we’ve recently launched a new national programme which aims to help teenage girls develop their leadership skills through cricket. Through this programme we want to partner with like-minded businesses who can see the value in girls developing their leadership and life-skills through sport. There’s been some fantastic research that shows the power of sport on women and that many powerful women in business attribute sport as a major factor to their individual success. We therefore think it is imperative that we help girls learn from a young age, that the skills they are developing through cricket can help them achieve in business and life.

We hope to make this programme sustainable through corporate support, helping girls to develop from classroom to boardroom and we’d love to speak to businesses with a focus on diversity & inclusion where this resonates.

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