Using acting techniques to help women in the workplace

From imposter syndrome to returning to work after having children, being a woman in the corporate world can come with a unique collection of challenges.

RADA Business, the business training department of the world-renowned drama school, has developed a series of courses to help women overcome some of these specific challenges. Using drama and acting techniques, they teach women how to have a great impact in the workplace. We caught up with tutors Sheelagh McNamara and Lisa Akesson to find out more…

Lisa Akesson, tutor at RADA Business

What are the main challenges that women face in the workplace? 

Research shows that women in business are less likely to ask for a pay rise or promotion. This is often demonstrated through behavioural characteristics such as playing small, lacking confidence, not holding their space and authority, and failing to speak up, interject and land their ideas. Women are also more likely to fall into the perfection trap, with a reluctance to own their achievements.

How can women best overcome these?

The training offered by RADA Business, such as the Executive Presence for Women programme, enables women to overcome these specific challenges. We teach women how to power themselves up, to have greater confidence and be more their workplace. The techniques and strategies we offer help women to be braver, take risks and put themselves forward. The practical skills they learn are focused on body, breath and voice, which encourages them to take up space, own their voice and land their message with impact.

Why was your RADA Executive Presence for Women programme set up?

Executive Presence for Women was established four years ago and is the most senior programme in RADA Business’ three-tier women’s portfolio.

Its inception came about because of client demands to enable more senior women to reach the top of their organisations. The acknowledgement was that, despite there being a wealth of female subject matter experts across all sectors, they still weren’t seeing a parity at senior and board level. So we created a programme whereby women can learn together in a safe environment and address the issues that they face in being heard and valued in the workplace.

What we do is empower women to “lean in” and stand tall, speak out and reach beyond to forge their own networks. We enable them to do this by exploring and practising essential skills, rooted within our physicality, vocality and breath. Fine tuning areas that under-power us, and magnifying areas that serve us well, not only enables and empowers our delegates in their own careers but frequently inspires them to be role models for other ambitious women.

Sheelagh McNamara, tutor at RADA Business

How did you decide about the programme content? 

The programme draws on our combined wealth of experience working alongside women, cross-industry and level. It embodies the basis of RADA’s renowned body, breath and voice training to help women find their space and have a voice. Our strategy was to create an immersive, experiential learning experience. It focuses and builds on the strengths that women already have, as well as recognising the areas they might need to stretch out and grow, and addresses their individual challenges. In doing so, we enable them to develop the skills, tools and techniques to become credible and influential leaders.

What should businesses be doing themselves to help tackle these issues?

Business need to continue to recognise the specific challenges that face women in the workplace, and tackle the causes behind the gender inequality existing in senior levels of business. By facilitating networks and developmental opportunities, businesses can ensure women are not only equipped with the tools and strategies to maximise their capabilities and personal impact, but also feel empowered and supported to step forward for new opportunities and initiatives – which will benefit their own careers and the goals of their organisation.

It’s worth mentioning that we don’t only provide training for women: more generally, communication skills training can be transformative for all employees, to improve leadership, listening skills, creativity, teamwork and collaboration, all of which contribute to a stronger and more effective team.

What one piece of advice would you give to women in the workplace?

Don’t be afraid to take up space, and take the time to be heard.


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