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Building confidence: Women Transforming Leadership alumnae reflect on their experience

Oxford Saïd’s annual Women Transforming Leadership Programme (WTL) was held between 2 - 6 October 2017. This year, 49 participants from 24 working countries, and 13 broad industries attended the female only executive development programme.

The Programme was opened by the Vice Chancellor of the University of Oxford, Professor Louise Richardson, who welcomed participants and alumnae at the opening dinner and gave a personal account of some of the challenges she encountered managing her career alongside a family. ‘One of the biggest impediments to female advancement is the difficulty of combining a career with children,’ she said calling  for continued debate and fresh thinking to inform public policies that would provide women with the support to manage the balance between work and family.

Participants included senior leaders from Bank of Indonesia, the European Society of Cardiology, Gold Fields, Google and Symantec who are amongst some of the networks and organisations that sponsor their top talent every year for this programme. At the dinner, incoming participants heard from alumnae on their experiences and impact of the programme.

Vijay Kunadian, Honorary Consultant Interventional Cardiologist: Freeman Hospital, Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (WTL 2016) outlined the life changing nature of the programme and how it has helped her face professional and personal challenges: ‘All the sessions expose your inner self and make you confident you have the potential – that there’s nothing wrong with you, and to go and be yourself.’

Maggie Scott, Assistant Chief Executive, Oxfordshire County Council (WTL 2014), relayed the opportunity the programme provides to properly reflect: ‘You don’t often have the time to be put in some challenging situations, where you analyse yourself and the choices you make in your life. What stuck with me from the programme is the notion of wicked problems. My working life is about wicked and messy problems and things that don’t have linear solutions – it’s where you need to flex your style to deliver successful outcomes.’

Piyali Mitra, Director, Group Strategy, Barclays (WTL 2014) spoke about the effect of the programme: ‘What I found different about this programme is that it is really all about women and is genuinely transformational. I have now got to where I wanted to in terms of being recognised for what I bring to the table and my network. I don’t think I would have done it without the programme. After five days, my brain was quite heavy, but the reality is that I put in quality thinking time for myself and how I want to shape my future (both professionally and personally).’

At the core of the programme is the development of a personal leadership blueprint. Each participant is provided with their own psychometric profile, to think about their own leadership style throughout the week, during strategy sessions, personal coaching, discussions with other participants and experiential learning. The objective is to create a personal strategy and action plan to use after the programme.  

Kathryn Bishop, Programme Director, Women Transforming Leadership, concludes: ‘One of the central tenets of the Women Transforming Leadership Programme is that participants should be supported in identifying and being comfortable with their own leadership styles. It is not about trying to be like a man or another woman, but being confident in being yourself.’

The 2018 programme will take place from 8 - 12 October – To find out more please visit


Kathryn Bishop View profile

Kathryn Bishop is an Associate Fellow of Saïd Business School, where she directs and teaches on leadership programmes for professional service firms and other multi-national corporations.
Transforming Leadership

The Women Transforming Leadership programme gives women an opportunity to discuss and overcome personal or professional obstacles and build heightened self-awareness as they move through their careers