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Interview with Sinead Sharkey: feminist career coach, Tedx speaker and creator of Generation women

Interview with Sinead Sharkey: feminist career coach, Tedx speaker and creator of Generation women

Sinead is one of those people that care about things and make it her responsibility to fix things. She is determined to create an army of women unapologetically loving themselves, earning what they are worth and pushing forward a more equal a diverse world. She is outspoken, caring and smart and I love the stories of the women impacted by her and how they ask for more!

Who is Sinead Sharkey the woman behind “Generation Women"?

Like all women, I wear many hats. At my heart I’m a woman who loves to change things and make things better for others. As a leadership and career coach for women I love carving my own path and helping women to carve theirs. I am also co-founder of a second business, Reboot, where we’re on a mission to get more women in decision making roles in sport.  Plus I’m a perimenopausal and adhd mum of 2 girls which definitely presents its challenges.  And after years of having no time for hobbies I love sea swimming and I’m currently flirting with stand up comedy!

Why did you decide to start it? What is the story behind it?

I think I’m one of those people that has a delusional or delightful (depending on which way you look at it) belief that I can change the world. Or at least a bit of it. That type of thinking was buried for a long time under low confidence, lack of purpose, and doing the wrong jobs!  That changed when I found a way to tap into what I was truly about. When people saw that side of me I think they could see that fire within me. It’s funny, I started to hear the same thing over and over ‘Sinead, you’re wasted here, go and start your own business’. I used to laugh and think they were the delusional ones.

When I had my first daughter, I did start to wonder was there a different path ahead for me. When the second came along I decided it was now or never. It took a while to work out what I would do and who I really wanted to help, but I was hit by feminist lightning (as you’ll learn further on), and that’s where it all started. I got involved with Lean In and co-developed and delivered a leadership programme that helped almost 800 women. I realised that was my gift and how I could make a difference, so Generation Women was born!  That’s close to 9 years ago and since I’ve helped over 10,000 women to step up in their careers.

What is the biggest impact of what you do?

There’s the financial impact - I help women earn more money, I’ve even had several women triple their salaries from working with me. That makes me happy, that they are earning their true worth.

There’s getting more women into top level roles so that they can maximise their impact and we can change the face of business. That is probably my biggest driver for what I do.

But probably the biggest impact for the women I work with is to reclaim their lives. They walk away with self belief, with boundaries, and able to back themselves fully, so that they never have to accept less than they deserve ever again. That fills my cup, in fact it runneth over.

What has been your biggest learning since you started?

This is one I learn and keep learning, and learn some more…fear is my friend. If I’m afraid it’s usually a sign of something big enough to actually give my energy to. It means I’ll learn. And grow more, and likely get much bigger results!  So much so I now put myself in scary situations because I see every day through coaching that fear is what holds us back from achieving our potential. It’s why I’ve conquered my fear of the sea, given stand up a go, and soon will be fire walking!  The best bit is, it has helped me find things I love and so many different sides to myself.

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

Aaaahhhh this is such a hard question as it changes but at the heart it stays the same. I want to help as many women achieve the careers and impact they deserve. I would love that to be a million, 10 million…or who knows how many. That menopause doesn’t hold them back from what they want, and that’s they achieve success on their terms.


And now our identical questionnaire for everyone!

What is Feminism for you?

Feminism for me is the freedom to be your unmasked, true self…and be accepted for who you are and valued for all of it…not just the parts you that fit with society’s expectations.  It’s also about using your voice for those that can’t to demand more.

Which “everyday sexism” really bothers you?

How to pick…they all bother me!  I’m sure everyone says that. I think because of what I do, it’s women being underestimated. Like a CEO I coach being ignored and their junior (male obvs) assistant being the focus of their conversation. I just can’t even. It gets me angry and drains all of my energy at the same time.

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

Yes. Weirdly I’ve always been a fighter for others’ rights. I was brought up by my dad to believe I could do or be anything, but I was quite late to calling myself a feminist. I fell for the brainwashing that feminism was bad…oh I wanted equality but wasn’t comfortable with the term. Of course I now see the error of my ways. The defining moment was when my eldest daughter was around 2.  I’d put her in front of the tv so I could have a cheeky nap. The advertising that filtered through my zzz’s horrified me. How boys were being encouraged to be explorers and scientists and risk takers. The advertising targeting girls was about selfies, looks, and was vapid and infuriating. I shot up from the sofa with a fire in my belly and a ‘oh hell no’!  I immediately got involved in the Women’s Equality Party and even brought it to Northern Ireland and led the charge for a while…until I realised that was not my path to feminist impact. That’s when Generation Women was born and I decided I had to use my strengths to change the world for my girls in the way I could.

Who is your biggest feminist role model?

This might be a bit vomity, but I’m going to say you Virginia Mendez Meson. I learn from you with every conversation. You have an amazing way of challenging ideas and beliefs with humour and a (mostly) subtle power that packs an amazing punch. I love to learn and be challenged and for me, you’re so approachable and warm in that challenge. I never feel stupid or embarrassed by not knowing or not being right. You have a unique talent my lovely friend!

What is your favourite Feminist quote?

There are so many and picking a favourite is hard…but the one that resonates most at the heart of what I do is probably this…

“If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair.”
Shirley Chisholm

What is your proud feminist victory?

I’m not sure how I would have answered this until recently, but I can say that at this moment it would be my TedX Talk. (make sure you click on it and watch it!) When I was asked to deliver a talk I knew I had to use my platform carefully. I am scared that our progress for women in the workplace is at huge risk because of menopause…or rather the lack of understanding and support. My talk ‘Menopuse: smashing the last glass ceiling’ has had women reaching out to me to say that they hadn’t realised what was happening to them until they watched my talk, and it’s prompted them to get help. I’ve had women come to me in tears to say they were on the verge of quitting and didn’t know why. Helping women at perhaps their most challenging time of life

What is your feminist recommendation?

  • Book: I would have to say Anne of Green Gables!  I’ve recently been watching Anne with an E with my girls and have been reminded of how his and the series of books made me feel as a child…and still do now.  Anne constantly fought against being put in boxes and being told what she could and couldn’t do. And the whole story of Aunt Josephine and Cole, her embracing the marginalised is just beautiful. Thank you Lucy Maud Montgomery for being so ahead of your time, for teaching me to fight from an early age, and for fuelling the imaginations of children for over 100 years!
  • Tv show: Now I am obsessed with TV so this is tricky. There have been many powerful and enjoyable feminist shows in recent years like The Morning Show, Shrill, Grace and Frankie…not to mention must watch documentaries. I think again I’m going to hark back to childhood when I used to love watching The Golden Girls. This was a show that celebrated friendship, ageing, sexuality, women being funny, all with a huge heart. I like to think it shaped me to respect and admire older women, and not to fear becoming one. I’m sure rest a lot of it now that might make me watch through my fingers, but overall it holds a place in my heart for all the right reasons.
  • Film: It has to be Barbie. I watched it with my girls and I laughed, cried, shouted, clapped, sang, danced…all in the cinema. My girls did not love watching it with me. I love to be entertained with a message, and this movie had it all for me. Plus we got to have lots of great conversations as a family afterwards. That for me is a win!  Though I think this speech is the one we really need:

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

One of the benefits of perimenopause has been giving zero fucks…so the mask is well and truly off.  My call to action is don’t wait for that. Or if you’re past that point and you’re still holding onto your mask, let go. We are exhausting ourselves being what other people want us to be. Time to be ourselves. And as an adhd woman that has been liberating!

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