Alison Jefferis is a previous Executive Director and Head of Corporate Affairs at Columbia Threadneedle Investments and a current Clean Break Trustee. As Chair of our Development Committee, in 2020 she supported us to establish our corporate training programme, Achieving Greater Impact. Here, she discusses the unique insights Clean Break has to offer women working in corporate and business environments.
When I joined the board of Clean Break in 2019, my motivation was to contribute to an organisation supporting women with lived experience of the criminal justice system to transform their lives. Established in 1979, Clean Break is a ground-breaking theatre company that has been at the forefront of this work for over 40 years, enabling women to build their confidence and skills through theatre-based training, personal development, and well-being support. I was interested in criminal justice and wanted to learn more, and was attracted to the idea of a theatre company using creative writing and performance for social justice. Being somewhat outside my comfort zone added to the appeal.
What I didn’t expect, was to discover a new way of working that would enable me to become a more effective colleague, manager and leader, and would better equip me to navigate many of the challenges we face today as the corporate world responds to shifting expectations – from colleagues, customers, regulators, investors and society more broadly.
"Clean Break’s experience working with women to own and articulate their strengths, navigate blockages and build presence and influence felt like it had a lot to offer women working in a sector that has struggled to address gender imbalance."
Core to the success of what Clean Break does, is how it operates. From its co-leadership model to the myriad ways it ensures its Members (the women it supports) have a voice in every aspect of the organisation, it questions accepted practice, embraces genuine collaboration, draws heavily on emotional intelligence and creates an environment that empowers all to contribute effectively.
As I got to know and understand Clean Break, I discovered it to be an exceptional organisation working in complex terrain, and it struck me there was a lot we in the City could learn. Clean Break’s experience working with women to own and articulate their strengths, navigate blockages and build presence and influence felt like it had a lot to offer women working in a sector that has struggled to address gender imbalance. In a professional climate that is increasingly reliant on emotional intelligence to promote genuine inclusion, safeguard mental health, manage hybrid-working and navigate ongoing disruption across the workforce, Clean Break is unlike any other organisation in its ability to offer insights that are highly valuable.
After exploring the potential for a corporate training programme, in 2020 a pilot was developed with the generous support of Columbia Threadneedle Investments. Achieving Greater Impact, a one-day training session for women in business, was launched soon after. Designed specifically for women working in environments that are traditionally more male-oriented, the full-day session draws on Clean Break’s specialist knowledge and unique practice and is for women who want to strengthen their voice, create a greater impact at work and progress within their team and in their career. Each participant also has the opportunity to follow up with a bespoke one-to-one coaching session focusing on individual goals and aspirations and ways to achieve them.
"In a professional climate that is increasingly reliant on emotional intelligence to promote genuine inclusion, safeguard mental health, manage hybrid-working and navigate ongoing disruption across the workforce, Clean Break is unlike any other organisation in its ability to offer insights that are highly valuable."
Through 2021 Columbia Threadneedle’s women’s network sponsored the programme, offering the session to all female employees at junior and mid-levels. The initiative was part of a broader strategy to strengthen the firm’s pipeline of diverse leaders by supporting female talent in new ways. More than 40 women completed the one-day programme over 18 months, with exceptionally strong feedback. Many of the women cited the unique value of Clean Break’s practice along with the importance of providing a safe, creative space to explore common experiences and overcome shared challenges.
Achieving Greater Impact will enable you to focus on identifying your unique capabilities, by utilising creative tools to explore and amplify the skills and qualities you bring to your workplace.
You’ll build your confidence, becoming comfortable with expressing and owning your strengths, receiving peer support and feedback, and developing your presentation skills.
And you’ll learn how to address barriers, overcome self-limiting beliefs and workplace challenges, and strengthen your voice.
You’ll share the experience with women you may not have met but have much in common with and will likely make fruitful new connections.
Alongside all of this, you’ll be supporting an organisation that transforms the lives of individual women each day while working to achieve a society where all women can realise their full potential.