Executive coach and former deputy chief Constable Anne Summers talks to us about empowering women, changing attitudes in the workplace and why #YesSheCan is so important.
Tell us a bit about your current role
I’m currently an executive Coach which involves helping individuals and leaders to be successful by working on their leadership, trying to be the best they can be and helping others to flourish. I was a Police Officer for 31 years, my final role was as the Deputy Chief Constable for the West Midlands Police. I chose this path because I saw it as a means to being able to ‘make a difference’, to protect and serve the public.
What was your first job?
Stacking shelves in a supermarket. I did it for a year - it was hard work!!!
How did you get to the position you are now?
By believing that I should and could make a difference inside the service as well as outside it and by never giving up. I was really naive at the beginning until I realised that just believing you are right doesn’t change anything. To really change things you have to engage with others and help them to recognise when things need changing and then to get them to work to achieve it. Diversity is a prime example of that, it’s been a long tough struggle to change gender stereotyping and we still have a long way to go on that journey.
What are your proudest achievements?
Helping to be part of improving diversity in the police service.
What barriers have you faced in your career?
I’ve faced many especially as a young police officer, mostly born out of fear and a misplaced paternal attempt to protect. Back then there was a belief and misconception that women should only deal with women and children and be exempt from hands-on operational policing. One of my biggest knockbacks includes passing a promotion board for Sergeant to Inspector 4 times over 4 years before being promoted.
What motivated you to keep going?
I’m stubborn! It sounds cheesy but I wanted to improve our service to the public and I believed that in order to do that all our staff, particularly women needed to be able to flourish. My childhood had shown me the impact stereotyping and bullying had on people's, particularly women's confidence. I care deeply about justice, dignity and kindness. I wouldn't and will not compromise on those beliefs.
How do you feel about being a positive role model?
We are all role models in some way, whether we choose to be a good one or not is up to us. I try to stay true to my values by wearing the label gently. My unending quest is for women to believe in themselves. The biggest blocker many/most women face is self-doubt and I work with them to help them realise that the voice in their head that says ‘you’ve gone a step to far, you’re really not good enough, you will fail, you’re an imposter’ is normal and it doesn’t have to stop them.
Every person I’ve ever coached has self-doubt it really is normal!! Don’t let it stop you !!
Who are your inspirations?
Mary, (my wife and my role model) Mrs Watkins (a teacher who saw something in me I couldn’t see) , John Pontin ( Founder of ‘the converging world) an amazing man who is saving the planet one wind turbine and one tree at a time and latterly Michelle Obama (who is brave enough to share her imposter feelings with the world!!)
Why is #YesSheCan important to you?
I’ve tried to help individuals especially women realise their potential throughout my career and #YesSheCan is a brilliant vehicle to make more huge strides towards that goal!
Why do you think we need to break down barriers in the workplace?
I've seen huge changes for the better, but we must continue and press for more. I believe that legislation helps, but real change comes about with changing attitudes. We need to help women empower themselves, help them see their talents and be confident. We need to empower women to challenge inequality effectively. Diversity is important in helping to break down barriers in the workplace and there is a huge amount of research to support that organisations are more successful as a result.
What three tips would you give to young females starting their careers?
Always stick to your values and believe in yourself. If you need to challenge do it with care and kindness.”
What would you say to your 16-year-old self now?
Nurture your passion, follow your dreams and dare to make them happen. If you fall, pick yourself back up and never give up. Let your light shine and you will help others shine too, always be true to yourself. #YesSheCan - YES YOU CAN!!!