Shop Ethical - 50% of Profits Donated


Interview with Danusia Malina-Derben, author, podcaster and consultant.

Interview with Danusia Malina-Derben, author, podcaster and consultant.

Do you know the people that you meet and after you hang up the phone you are both smiling and asking yourself "what has just happened?" this is my feeling with Danusia. Even when I feel that I am being confident she challenges me to be more, to intentionally be too much. And that is an energy that we all need. 

Who is Danusia Malina-Derben, the author, podcaster, entrepreneur and leadership consultant?

To preface everything, my feminist values inform how I live my life, how and who I love, and how I run my business.

I’m white, cis-het, straight presenting, well-educated, middle-class, and able-bodied. My positionality includes many privileges that carry great responsibility to challenge the unjust framework of white supremacist, capitalist patriarchy. It’s obvious I benefit from unearned advantages.

The titles about me above cover who I am partially as a ‘productive’ human being in the world.

In my day job I head a specialist global consulting firm fixing senior team dynamics in FTSE 100 & Fortune 500 corporations.

In my night job I host podcasts including top 2% ranking School for Mothers show rebranded as Parents Who Think debate show (early 2024) and I also produce top 5% ranking kids show, Seraphina Speaks.

I write feminist books. My part memoir part manifesto book on motherhood, NOISE: A Manifesto Modernising Motherhood (Triumph Press) came out in March 2021. It sets out bold new paradigms for ambitious mothers who want more than old-style balance. The Telegraph broadsheet called it, “a complete debrief of motherhood”.

In May 2022, my next book, SPUNK: A Manifesto Modernising Fatherhood (Triumph Press) landed in book stores and was hailed as a “thought-provoking problem-solving roadmap causing a stir for modern fathers” (Metro). It makes an optimistic argument to dismantle the ‘Father-stunter culture”.

24/7 I’m mother of ten kids. Seven grown + flown (Freddie, George, Jack, Tom, Harriet, Isadora & Meredith) and tween triplets (Montgomery, Seraphina & Horatio). My life’s work has been to do right by my children while also doing right by me. Living within, what I call the Mother-Stopper systemic culture, works against this being straightforward, welcome or even possible.

The notion of mothers as full and free individuals in our own right that’s what made me write NOISE but more than that it’s the backcloth of my life. The concept of “self” especially as it relates to self-interest, self-regard and that old chestnut, selfishness is problematic because women are not supposed to prioritise ourselves.

Why did you decide to do what you do?

The biggest decision I made was to attempt to marry my ambitions for a big life for myself and my talents, alongside having a large family. I could not choose a partial life. This has nothing to do with a hackneyed version of having it all, it is about meaning and purpose. I do not see motherhood as my “calling” as some pinnacle of being a woman. Nor do I want to pit work up against being a mother in an either/or binary.

I risk being labeled difficult, inconvenient and non-compliant by insisting that mothers are human beings too and that “not being selfless” is a feature of being human. This must not be collapsed into lack of love for others, most obviously our children. Last time I surveyed more than 1,000 fathers globally for my fatherhood book SPUNK I discovered no man is asked to sacrifice himself in order to be a father.

What is the behind the scenes story?

I became a mother at seventeen years old. By twenty two I’d birthed four sons. I skipped A levels and went straight to University of Lancaster where I read Social Policy. Feminist Studies and Politics featured high in my study units. I gave birth to my fifth child mid Masters degree at Lancaster Business School then secured PhD funding and an ESRC Research Fellowship. During my PhD panel interview I was asked if I would give up commitment to my chosen field when I became a mother. An illegal question, but more importantly an irrelevant one as I was already mother of five. Assumptions can be a dangerous thing!

As a tenured career academic I wrote scholarly work on cross-cultural research methodology, hedonistic consumption and feminist analyses of the Academy, and more. As an example “Surviving the Academy: Feminist Perspectives” was an aptly titled book I co-edited.

During my first ever maternity leave with my sixth child, I decided to also set up my own consulting business which ran alongside my academic career. Eventually I switched into this being my primary focus, and I gave birth to my seventh child.

Creating a career in academe included plenty of wonderful highs. It also involved significant lows that few people share. Jennifer Snodgrass outlines some of the
realities for women in academe. One example from my experience was systematic sexual harassment by a leading Professor offered in promise of being published in the most respected global journal of my chosen area left me choosing between my integrity and career progression. I declined the offer of sexual contact (and assured publication), at risk of the demise of my career. My rejection did not mean the end of my career and indeed being published in key refereed journals. This is not a gloss over, I’d have to devote wodges of words to do justice to the how and why of that. I have no regrets and am proud to have built my fab senior academic career despite some difficult conditions.

Meanwhile, I’ve never left behind my scholarly and analytic skills. They serve me everyday!

What is the biggest impact on what you do?

The biggest impact on what I do now is childcare as I raise my triplets. Care has become hellish - availability is low, cost is meteoric, as well as we need specialist care for neurodiverse kids. The childcare system is broken.

What has been your biggest learning since you started?

I redefined success beyond money and productivity which also means I resist hustle culture. I prioritise sleep.

What is the goal? The big vision of what you would like to achieve?

My personal goal is to unlearn harmful conditioning and bring my life and work into even greater alignment with my values.

This is the identical questionnaire!

What is Feminism for you?

Being committed to dismantling all systems of oppression (racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, anti-fat bias, ageism, etc.) because I know that they’re mutually reinforcing. “The truth is, no one of us can be free until everybody is free,” Maya Angelou.

Which “everyday sexism” really bothers you?

I’ll choose one of several. This bothers me:
When women post smart, interesting and thought provoking words on social media only to receive a torrent of comments that say something along the lines of,

“Love your dress/make up/hair/shoes/insert another word about looks”.

This benevolent sexism
focuses attention and praise on women’s appearance and in doing so renders invisible or downgrades their other attributes. How women look isnotour currency. Concentrating on image and looks distracts away from our power.

Do you remember when you started identifying as a Feminist and why?

I grew up on Dartmoor. In my very early teens I discovered Spare Rib, iconic feminist magazine. I used to walk across the moors to go collect my copy after I saved pocket money to order it. I was the only person who ordered the mag, the geriatric newsagent told me. He was bemused by the covers. I can’t remember where I first heard about it. What I know is this, I never did not identify as a feminist.

Who is your biggest feminist role model?

I’d rather not distil the vast impact of a multitude of feminist role models down to one. Knowing that there is not one feminist role model that spurs me is liberating and empowering. I’ve sought out feminist rocket fuel from disparate sources. The common theme: life on their own terms & defying stereotypes.

What is your favourite Feminist quote?

“Headstrong opinionated arsehole women make headstrong opinionated arsehole kids and that's not a bad thing" ~ Catherine Reitman

What is your proud feminist victory?

Bringing feminist activism to senior teams in corporations while raising feminist children

What is your feminist recommendation?

What is your feminist call of action to whoever is reading?

I cannot better this


You can follow her substack here!

Leave a comment (all fields required)

Comments will be approved before showing up.