A new coaching and networking programme supporting the next generation of female cultural leaders in east London is part of the legacy of London 2012. Claire Gevaux tells the story.
Elle (Emerging Legacy Leaders East) is a new coaching and networking programme focused on women who are embarking on a creative career path. It was born out of a need to support the aspirations of women in this century. Women and their male colleagues have a joint responsibility to achieve equal rights for the next generation of cultural leaders. We hope that elle will enable women to be better equipped to deal with the challenges they face, the choices they make and the leaders they will become.
Women and their male colleagues have a joint responsibility to achieve equal rights for the next generation of cultural leaders
My role at The Legacy List, the charity of the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London, is to curate a programme of inspirational and innovative creative projects that have beneficial impacts on artists, arts organisations and people living in the surrounding boroughs of Hackney, Newham, Tower Hamlets and Waltham Forest. I am constantly reminded of our founding objectives to ensure a sustained cultural legacy of London 2012, which benefits east London and beyond. Founded by the Mayor of London and the London Legacy Development Corporation, our remit offers a real opportunity for artists, arts organisations and communities to benefit from an investment in their future and their cultural experience. Elle was inspired by Clare Connor, a creative leader in east London and former Director of Stratford Circus. She said: “There is a chance here to think about women’s voices from east London at a pivotal point in time. We are about to rewrite the script for east London. With this programme, perhaps instead of just inheriting the story, these young women can be the writers, the architects and the creators of it.”
Elle focuses on women at the beginning of their careers. I approached 12 arts and culture organisations in east London to ascertain their interest and commitment in giving their employees time to be coached and get involved. The link with these cultural organisations is a further strength of the programme, which aspires to encourage partnership-working across the arts and cultural sector.
The pilot was launched last September with the first cohort of elle associates - women from the 12 organisations in the neighbouring boroughs of the park. Leaders Lab, an executive coaching consultancy, has been involved from the start. Directors Amanda Baines and Kate Mercer have established a bespoke coaching programme for women in the early stages of their careers. Elle runs until April, and in that time the group of 12 associates will undertake over 24 hours of coaching focused on aspects such as self-confidence, managing upwards, time management and networking skills. At the end of the programme, each associate will be asked to give a presentation demonstrating their learning.
One of the hardest tasks in starting any career is breaking into existing networks, or creating new ones. How to build and maintain relationships with people from whom you can learn and develop your own style is a job in itself. We connect inspirational men and women from a range of sectors through our network of ‘elle experts’ who contribute through a series of events programmed to support the learning outcomes of the coaching sessions. These events, from speed networking to debates on leadership, provide opportunities for the associates to test their learning from the coaching sessions in real but safe environments. Our experts come from a range of disciplines - TV and media, business and finance, as well as arts and culture. Their support and interest in helping shape the future careers of the elle associates demonstrates the remarkable commitment of people who want to ‘give back’.
This year elle is a pilot, but we hope to learn through an independent evaluation and offer the opportunity to more women in the future. In turn, our first cohort of associates will become a new alumni network and continue to benefit from the networking events and the connection with the programme. We will help them sustain their networks and contacts, and ask them to offer their advice and experience to new associates. In the future we hope to have an open application process, reaching out to women working not just within cultural institutions, to recognise the different career choices women make in the arts and cultural sectors.
I am proud of elle and our associates who, in taking a risk on something new, have already demonstrated to us the value and impact the project is having on their careers. We will watch these women develop as freelancers, consultants or in senior roles in arts and cultural organisations across the capital, nationally and internationally, as a new generation of cultural leaders emerges from the talent of east London.
Claire Gevaux is Creative Director of The Legacy List.
‘Building a personal brand and a successful online presence’, on Monday 26 January 7–9.30pm at the Stour Space, is part of the elle programme, and is open to anyone (tickets £7). Click here for further details and booking.