Cato and Michelle Johansen support leadership teams across Europe and the Channel Islands with a combination of team development, one-to-one coaching and change processes, as well as having delivered the Effective Leadership Module on the GTA and Southampton University MBA programme. Michelle also runs a series of Women in Leadership workshops and the Women’s Leadership Forum.
In 2007 after 27 years in management and leadership roles and 10 years as a director in the finance industry, I unwittingly added to the number of senior women who self-select out of the system by “jumping off the glass cliff”. It wasn’t a plan – I just walked in one day and resigned. I was exhausted, stressed and couldn’t find another ounce of energy to continue balancing the demands of home and family with a high powered job. I needed time to rest, recover and decide what I was going to do with the rest of my working life.
I was lucky enough to be able to spend the next year transitioning into my current career as an executive coach, which included much needed personal development work, reading and reflection on my career and how I might have done things differently. It was slightly cringe-making to discover that I had fallen into many of the traps and default behaviours typical of my gender, but this same literature opened my eyes to the research, mainly in the US, supporting the benefits of gender balanced leadership.
Looking around me it seemed Guernsey was a generation behind our American cousins, but at the same time surely with the opportunities presented by full employment, why couldn’t we be a role model for gender diverse leadership? I decided to do some research of my own, which galvanised me into wanting to do something to redress the imbalance, which was when I founded the Women’s Development Forum in 2009.
To date we have held over 50 meetings, have over 200 members, regularly attract 100+ ladies to our events, have reached over 1000 ladies in Guernsey. We have created a friendly, fun and inclusive community of businesswomen who help each other. We recently launched WDF in Jersey to a very warm welcome, our vision is to support the women in Jersey in a similar way and open up the possibility of greater inter-island networking between the two communities.