On the 23rd October, OxWib were privileged to welcome Lee Chalmers, a reputed leadership consultant, to talk at Brasenose College. Lee is currently a life coach, and is employed by clients ranging from top businesses to powerful individuals, whether they are feeling unfulfilled in life or are seeking leadership training. However, while Lee’s talk described her career path and the challenges along the way, she also shared her views on the roles of women in business and politics, online abuse and where she sees herself in ten years time.
Always put yourself forward for things
A central theme of Lee’s talk was the ways in which we, in both our daily lives and careers, hold ourselves back. Lee has held various jobs in the past, from a bingo caller to working in a skateboard shop, but she admitted that she wouldn’t be where she is today if she had not applied for jobs that even she didn’t think she was capable of getting. Take the skateboard shop, for example; Lee heard that the role of store manager was available in Brighton, and despite lacking experience, managed not only to get the job but to then be headhunted upon the opening of a new store in Kingston.
Sometimes you have to be brutal
On gaining this job, however, Lee learned that it is not always possible to be liked in the world of business. She describes her time there as a lesson in how not to manage, as within the eighteen months most of her employees left because of her direct management style. As Lee commented, ‘people will judge you whatever so you might as well do what you want,’ particularly if it is in the name of good business.
Don’t be afraid to take a risk
While Lee was clearly successful in retail, at the age of thirty she decided she no longer wanted to work for someone else. She needed a change. Lee took the brave step and handed in her notice at her store (which she tried to retract twice in panic!) and decided to make the move into personal development coaching.
Talking to Lee upon her visit it seemed as though the risk had paid off: she confesses that she loves her job and the variety it entails, as her average month consists of coaching individual private clients, travelling to participate in training programmes abroad, going into businesses like Google and speaking at society events such as ours. Lee’s job also gives her power: she smiles when she says that one of the things she loves the most is being able to determine when she works, but ultimately how much she earns.
The power of body language
After talking specifically about her own career, Lee moved onto the subject of women in business in general. One of the things Lee spoke passionately about was the ways in which she perceives women undermining themselves in business.
Lee with our President Rebecca Jones
She recalls watching extremely confident colleagues stand up to make a presentation and instantly undercutting their own power and intelligence by reverting to childish body language like head tilting, hair twirling and ‘girly’ voices. Lee attributed these actions to many women’s desire to appear more attractive in their appearance – whether conscious or not.
What does the future hold?
With such a varied career, our OxWib members wanted to know what the future holds for Lee. When asked 'what's next?' she gave us two answers: politics or academia. Lee currently writes blogs for the Huffington Post and thoroughly enjoys politics, having once begun applications for candidacy before realising it was not the right time.
However, if she doesn't pursue this option, Lee is considering completing her PhD, which she paused several years ago. Her current topic of discussion is internet, particularly Twitter trolling. She has noticed that women specifically are targeted in online abuse as our emphasis on the freedom of speech seems to have jeopardised the right for women not to be abused online.
OxWib genuinely loved having Lee to visit and our committee were privileged to have dinner with her at Turl Street Kitchen after the talk.
Keep up to date with Lee at: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/lee-chalmers/