Inspirational Woman: Sophia Andeh | Coach & Founder, Butterfly and Beyond

Sophia AndehSophia Andeh is a coach and founder of Butterfly and Beyond. She has coached team members in the pharmaceutical industry for over 20 years, and now has a special interest in coaching to help childless women create fulfilling lives without children.

Her Masters research exploring the experience of coaching in childless women received an award from the European Mentoring and Coaching Council, UK, for the dissertation with the highest potential for societal benefit.

Sophia’s mission is to help women who are childless not by choice to reclaim their sense of self and move from existing, to truly living whole and fulfilled lives. In tandem she raises awareness of the societal unconscious bias that marginalises, isolates and strips women of their self-worth and role within society.

She integrates her coaching experience, and her ten years of teaching yoga, to create a coaching program to help women transform how they view themselves from the inside out, and re-envision their lives with a renewed sense of purpose.

“As a childless woman, I am passionate about helping women to realise how much worth and potential they hold within themselves, and how they have a valuable role in society”.

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

I was born and raised in the UK, a child of parents who emigrated from India in the 1950s and 60s, and I currently live in Oxford. I have two roles! I am a coach, and founder of Butterfly and Beyond – helping women who are childless not by choice or by circumstance, to create meaningful and fulfilled lives without children. I am also a pharmacist, and lead the global medical information group at PTC Therapeutics, a biopharmaceutical company focused on developing treatments for unmet medical needs in people with rare diseases.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I planned my career only at a gross level, i.e., become a pharmacist, and the rest has unfolded as my life has progressed. I had never intended to work in the pharmaceutical industry, but the opportunity to complete part of my pharmacist pre-registration training in industry led to this being the backbone of my career to date. I have found it both enjoyable and rewarding.

This backbone allowed me to explore other avenues in life, I trained and qualified to become a yoga teacher with the British Wheel of Yoga, and in 2020 I completed an MA in Coaching and Mentoring Practice at Oxford Brookes University. I was first introduced to coaching in the early 2000’s in the workplace, and saw the power it had in helping people overcome challenges and achieve their potential. Coaching helped me explore my motivation, beliefs, behaviours and values.

Knowing how coaching helped me professionally both as a coach and coachee, when I realised that I would remain permanently childless, I underwent coaching personally, to help me create a life I could enjoy without children.  I was curious to learn about other childless women’s experience of receiving coaching, and whether it helped them, so I chose to research this for my Masters dissertation, as there was no existing literature on coaching in this context.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

My biggest achievement to date was when my research exploring the experience of coaching in childless women won an award from the European Mentoring and Coaching Council, UK, for the dissertation with the highest potential for societal benefit. For me this signified a recognition of the importance of this issue within society, how it can impact women, and how coaching can help with strategies for women overcome the challenges they may be facing.

Have you faced any challenges along the way?

I have had personal challenges which have shaped me in many ways throughout my life. When I was 13, my brother aged 18 died by suicide, devastating my family. It was one of the factors which made me want to choose a profession in which I could help others. It is only recently that I have found my voice to speak about this, such was the stigma surrounding mental health at the time.

During the last 5 or 6 years, I have faced the challenge of being childless in a pronatalist society, a life which I had not envisioned. Childlessness is another area in which there is stigma, leaving people to feel isolated and excluded. This again spurred me to want to do something to help others.

These life experiences and challenges have made me empathetic, an advocate of good mental health, and a fierce defender of those who don’t fit neat societal norms.

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

Resilience. I believe this is my greatest strength and has helped me to navigate and deal with the challenges that life brings, and find the strength to carry on and work on my dreams and passions.

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

As well as coaching I am a huge fan of mentoring! I have been both a mentor and mentee. I am currently mentoring an intern at PTC who is entering the world of work after finishing her degree. I remember being mentored when I was new to the pharmaceutical industry and how it helped me find my way. I am a coach and mentor to my team members, and I have also been asked by other women to mentor them, which I find an honour and a privilege. Related to childlessness, I have been a mentee in a group mentorship programme run by Gateway Women, an organisation supporting involuntary childless women, which helped me enormously in knowing I was not alone on my journey.

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

One thing springs to mind, and that is education. I have seen it in other areas such as mental health and racism, more people are speaking bravely and openly about these issues, and people are educating themselves on their own hidden and unconscious biases. This will take time and sensitivity, as challenging anything, which for so long has been accepted and ingrained in society and institutions, can feel frightening and threatening, so educating future generations is vital.

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

Don’t let others impose their definitions on you…you are whole, worthy and complete just as you are

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

My next challenge is deciding what to do next! I am the sort of person who wants to do everything, and sometimes I need to step back and work out what I can do, with the time and resource I have, which will have the most impact in my mission of helping involuntary childless women, and increasing awareness and representation for us in society.

I hope to grow and expand Butterfly and Beyond, and maybe even further my research into coaching in childlessness (there I go again, wanting to do everything!).

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