WeSpeak To Empower & Project Women’s Voices

April 4, 2019

WeSpeak, a new organisation dedicated to coaching and increasing opportunities for professional women to be effective speakers, launches in Bermuda this month.

The group, developed by female business leaders, aims to assist women’s professional development by providing an inspiring environment to build presentation and public-speaking skills and confidence through coaching and access to opportunities.

“WeSpeak has been created in response to the increasing difficulty in the corporate sector to secure female speakers for local and international events,” said Kathleen Faries, former CEO of Tokio Millennium Re.

“In a time where gender and diversity on conference panels are being scrutinised more than ever, our industry network identified that many women do not feel comfortable nor have enough opportunities to speak publicly. We plan to change that.”

The idea is the joint brainchild of Ms Faries and fellow Bermuda-based insurance executives Kathleen Reardon, CEO of Bermuda-based reinsurer Hamilton Re, and Kirsten Beasley, Head of Healthcare Broking at Willis Towers Watson North America.

Ms Faries and Ms Reardon noticed the perennial lack of female speakers on industry panels and event organisers’ frustration in trying to attract willing women speakers. Beasley separately had explored the need for public-speaking training for professional women. The trio came together with a combined vision for a dynamic new platform they hope can support their peers and empower a new generation of female business leaders.

“We realised many qualified female executives either are not being asked or are declining to join their male colleagues on industry panels or in keynote opportunities,” noted Ms Reardon. “And many younger women aren’t getting the public exposure and speaking experience they need to help prepare them for leadership roles in their companies.”

A spokesperson said, “In 2018, WeSpeak conducted a survey that identified reasons for the trend. These included: the fact of little or no formal training in effective public speaking being available; a widespread lack of self-assurance when speaking publicly; limited opportunities to practise public speaking in a safe environment; and little access to talented peers or mentors.

“The study revealed although most women recognised public speaking and strong presentation skills were an integral part of their work, an overwhelming majority did not feel prepared or well-practised enough to excel in speaking opportunities. Respondents said they would welcome the chance to receive support and training to help them improve.”

“WeSpeak will accomplish our joint goals by empowering women to speak confidently—whether that means delivering a successful presentation to a team at a board meeting or agreeing to speak as an expert event panellist or keynote,” said Ms Beasley.

WeSpeak is launching an inclusive programme of coaching and events to help women improve their presentation skills, and also creating a bank of Bermuda-based female public speakers and panellists/experts.

“We want to provide women with a supportive forum to develop and project their voices,” said Ms Faries. “We’re offering coaching and training to build confidence. We also plan to facilitate access to speaking opportunities via a dedicated database of women speakers.”

WeSpeak’s online coaching platform will allow women to create a profile and match with trained volunteer coaches from various industry backgrounds. Coaches will work with ‘coachees’ through feedback and feedforward to help them develop skills and confidence. An initial group of coaches received training in January at an event that attracted almost 40 women from various sectors across Bermuda.

This month, WeSpeak hosts a one-day Speakers Boot Camp welcoming more than 100 women from a wide range of industries and backgrounds. Target coachees are professional women in mid- to senior-level roles with 10-plus years’ experience in their field who want to advance their careers.

The training day—to be held April 17 at Washington Properties in Hamilton—will provide learning and training via an interactive ‘action-learning’ approach. The session, the first of several more WeSpeak plans to host in the future, will be led by coaches who received training in January, alongside WeSpeak committee members and other experts.

“We’re encouraging women from across our community to support WeSpeak as coaches or coachees,” said Ms Faries. “It will benefit Bermuda as a whole by helping women develop skills and confidence that will serve them well both personally and professionally, while at the same time greatly expanding their network of support. WeSpeak is about a journey—we’ll learn from experts but also from each other.”

Corporate supporters of WeSpeak include EY, as Platinum Founding Partner, and the Association of Bermuda Insurers & Reinsurers [ABIR], Butterfield Trust and Deloitte as Silver Event Sponsors for the April 17 Speakers Boot Camp. The Association of Bermuda International Companies [ABIC] has also provided support to WeSpeak since inception via its Diversity & Inclusion Committee.

Members of WeSpeak’s Committee include: Kirsten Beasley, Kendaree Burgess; Kathleen Faries, Gemma Godfrey, Rosemary Jones, Fiona Luck, Carolyn Myers, Sylvia Oliveira, Kathleen Reardon, Grainne Richmond, Jo Stanton, Tawana Tannock, Laura Taylor, Peta White, and Suzanne Williams-Charles.

To find out more about WeSpeak or register for the April 17 Speakers Boot Camp, go to WeSpeak.bm or email events@wespeak.bm.

WeSpeak Projecting Women’s Voices [PDF here]:

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