International Women’s Day at City Academy

#beboldforchange on international women's day 2017

Thousands of women take our courses annually, and their motivation, as with the men at City Academy, is often rooted in a desire to develop their confidence, take proactive steps towards fulfilling their aspirations or just feel happier in their own shoes.

Arts and performing arts classes can of course empower us all to be bold and creative, but the unfortunate fact is that the arts world has a sexism problem. Inequality of pay and opportunity in the performance industries makes it all the more amazing that over two thirds of our students are women, and we’re proud they are the blossoming majority here.

Whether it’s a man who started out strutting his stuff in a diva dance workshop and is now a fully fledged commercial dance member, or a woman holding her own on stage in a stand up comedy showcase - our ethos is that each and every class should be a safe space to experiment or simply exemplify your real self, and our hope is that you walk out feeling stronger to face the world.

We’re struck by how amazing people are pretty much on an hourly basis, and how our students and alumni can #beboldforchange everyday, from getting to class and keeping on course despite long days of toil in the office or a family at home, to taking the entrepreneurial leap of setting up an independent creative business.

One of our acting students, Emma Kirby, recently said “Even if you don't intend to make a career out of acting, there are many things you can learn about yourself and others.” She hits a the nail on the head - awareness triggers action.

Certain elements, and the largely transformative nature, of arts and performing arts disciplines resonate strongly with women, as transferable skills that can help in other aspects of their lives.

For example:

- Learning to behave outside of their comfort zone in an acting class
- Being comfortable with standing out in a presence and impact course
- Heeding their own voice and trusting the worth of their knowledge in a storytelling course

With that in mind we designed our communications programmes, How To Get Heard In Meetings, which is popular amongst women. It provides a toolkit for mastering the linguistic and physical aspects that make for strong, impactful vocalisation and mean you’re a force to reckon at the ‘round-table’. In 2014, Harvard Business Review “consistently heard women say that they feel less effective in meetings than they do in other business situations.” Being a valued part of the workforce still continues to be a challenge for many women, especially in group settings such as boardrooms, and that’s even if they’re the designated expert on whatever topic it is that’s being discussed.

The Guardian reporter, Leah Harpur, tried out our business course and wrote about her experience in her article: How to get heard in meetings: deep breaths, superhero poses and owning ‘bossy’. Faced with the task of reciting her day to camera, she writes: “Watching yourself on screen is, of course, excruciating. But it’s an easy to way to see where you’re going wrong and why even those who make a conscious effort to speak in meetings often feel that their ideas and opinions are dismissed. I stumble over my words. My ability to maintain eye contact is, apparently, horrendous. I squirm in my seat, twirl my hair and, no matter how wildly I gesticulate, my words sound vague.”

In February, our voice coach and tutor, Tessa Woods, was a panel speaker for an event organised by Arbitral Women titled ‘Winning Communication’. Even amongst lawyers who specialise in the field of arbitrage, the discussion focussed on how women can maximise their potential by not only finding their voices, but ensuring that their voices are heard.

The theme of sharing experiences is hugely important this International Women’s Day, with the #BeBoldForChange campaign underway across the web and social media, encouraging women to tell their stories of reform, big or small. Offline, there have been strikes, protests, gatherings, talks, exhibitions, and then there are the quieter, behind-the-scenes drivers of reform.

Southwark’s Women’s Network is one such forum, setting standards for inclusivity and investment in the empowerment of women. It is a safe, non-judgemental space for the council’s female staff to share ideas for the greater benefit of the workforce, influencing and shaping council policy. To celebrate the first anniversary of their launch, which coincided with International Women’s Day last year, we were honoured to deliver a storytelling workshop that aligned with their mission statement, facilitating participants to create a powerful narrative and deliver it unapologetically, whilst holding the interest of the audience. Delivering skills like these in both the business and arts sphere is important in a world where the top eight wealthiest individuals are all men, and have largely made their fortunes in technology (an industry where women are notoriously underrepresented) and the eight richest artists today are also men.

All of the inspirational events that happened today and in the run up to it have enabled positive action, raised awareness of women's issues and brought women together in solidarity. City Academy's strongest example of the latter has to be our all-women choir, the Songbirds. West End director, Kat Hare, is the inspirational leader of the choir, and the kind of tutor who promotes a friendly environment that fosters growth and courage. She may be a bit biased, but we think her view of the Songbirds is a great representation of everything we believe International Women's Day should be about:

The change has been huge. When I started out I had six regular members and now we have nearly sixty. They are stronger, better and more unified than ever before. We can pick up material incredibly quickly now and we are tackling some pretty tricky repertoire which they were never capable of before. There is literally nothing I can’t throw at them now!

Happy International Women's Day! To be part of a community, check out our courses here >>>