What leadership needs to understand to truly help women create power, presence and purpose


In case you haven’t heard about the EY “PPP” leadership training program, delivered in the US to a group of around 30 female executives, let me bring you briefly up to speed.

It has garnered attention mainly due to its very outdated approach instructing its women on how to dress and act around men, whilst completely dumbing down their inherent feminine values.

An ex-employee who attended the course, clearly unimpressed, shared it with HuffPost.

To my mind, there are several frustrating parts to this story including the facts that:-

  1. The training appears to have been created and delivered by a woman who instead of being at the forefront in challenging corporate culture to change, seemed to perpetuate old and unhelpful stereotypes. Namely focusing on how women need to fix themselves, to fit into a male-dominated workplace. Aren’t we done with that old tune yet?
  2. The training was held in June 2018. Just last year and at the height of the #MeToo movement when women’s voices were gaining traction and thousands of energized women thought they were being heard. What a golden opportunity to talk about the power of collaboration, sponsorship and how to activate change.
  3. The training appears to have completely misrepresented feminine attributes; portraying them negatively and undervaluing their necessity in the workplace. This really frustrates me as within leadership, or any other corporate context, no-one wants to be perceived as child-like, gullible or yielding, yet there are many feminine behaviours all businesses should use.

My experience of EY and its 270,000 employees is limited and whilst they are the villain in this particular story I know they are just one of many companies delivering training to their leaders that isn’t moving quickly enough with the times.

Back in 2016 I attended a wonderfully empowering and uplifting event at their London HQ to celebrate ‘Inclusive Leadership’ – The Definitive Guide to Developing and Executing an Impactful Diversity & Inclusion Strategy – Locally & Globally” written by Charlotte Sweeney & Fleur Bothwick – EY’s current EMEIA Director of D&I. I spoke to both authors and came away inspired but aware that behind the ambitious gender goals and their #womenfastforward hashtag, EY like many large organisations was turning a submarine not a yacht and had years of bias and entrenched behavior to unpack.

Over the past decade, in depth research (and a dose of common sense) tells us that it’s not women who need this patronizing leadership-style training but the top-level leadership team, boardroom and middle management who need help to understand that the structures and systems of power that they have been trying to operate within are past their sell by date, and no longer fit for purpose.

As a coach working with senior female leaders who have become “someone they don’t recognize”, a “man in a dress” “exhausted, disconnected and disillusioned” I know that doubling down on the masculine behavior is not the way to create more inclusive, creative cultures. And neither is being passively meek. Give women support and training? Yes. But make them cutting-edge tools, techniques and programs within a framework that’s been reimagined to support all your people to thrive.

For the last few years, in order to have more purpose, growth and impact, I’ve been part of a growing global community of inspiring feminine leaders, learning how our own power (and in turn our clients) can evolve in a co-creative and inherently feminine way. Together we are learning how to cultivate new ways of working which include all the gains of masculine power but alongside access to an inherent co-creativity we’ve never seen, or understood, before. It’s a game changer for business but still yet relatively new.

Our training has been developed by Dr. Claire Zammit over two decades and comes out of the US, although she’s originally Australian. As a leader and teacher in the transformational space Claire has shared her life-changing Feminine Power principles and practices with millions of women worldwide who are slowly, but surely, coming together to rise. Over 40,000 women from more than 100 countries have graduated from her innovative online Feminine Power Academy (including me) and her Feminine Power Professional Certification Trainings have trained hundreds more creating an impressive business that has generated over $50 million in revenue.

The women I know who have completed this training are brilliantly modeling a new kind of leadership; evolving and enhancing along the way. We are taking the best of our masculine selves; being mentally focused, structured or ordered but we are no longer purely striving for perfection, goal focused, fixed in our thinking or only coming from our head.

We are developing a deep trust in our emotional selves, valuing our mental health and letting go of blame and shame in the process. We understand how to “go with the flow” and connect to a higher power shifting ourselves out of lack, fear or playing small. We ask for help and support and build unshakeable bonds with others that spark new ideas we wouldn’t have dreamt up alone. We more easily nurture our ability to be introspective and self reflective – crucial skills for leaders to have. And our happiness, inspiration and outcomes are going through the roof!

Anyone who wants to empower women going forward (and that should be everyone!) needs to understand the unprecedented shift that is happening and how they can play their part. If you really want to help women tap into their own power, have presence and find their purpose start with how you empower them first. I guarantee the results will be worth it.

Lisa BarnwellAbout the author

Lisa Barnwell is a wellbeing and performance coach and entrepreneurial change-maker, helping transform the health, growth and impact of senior leaders to inspire new ways of working. She draws on extensive experience and a growth mindset to help lead through change and uncertainty. As an IAC® Certified Masteries Coach (CMC) her practice is underpinned by the 9 IAC® coaching masteries™ and 11 ICF core competencies. Lisa is on the Master Masteries Coach (MMC) pathway and completing Feminine Power Professional Transformational Coaching, Facilitation & Leadership Certification Trainings to lead senior leaders and larger groups in greater change and transformation.

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