Melody Hossaini speaking to staff at University of Brighton

On Tuesday 22nd March 2016, I was invited to deliver a keynote at the ‘Make it Happen’ conference at University of Brighton. The conference which brought together some 100 staff from all levels at the University, had the aim of advancing women in the workplace and inspiring them as individuals.

This is an area that has formed a large part of the work we have undertaken at InspirEngage International, as well as my speaking tours (see blog on our work at the most influential gathering on women’s issues in the world; The Women’s Forum here). The world is waking up the importance of supporting and engaging women to prosper and to be ambitious enough to want what they deserve. Underlying issues remain around pay gap and lack of representation in certain sectors.

Within my 30 minute presentation, I covered the following components:

  • What the current landscape looks like for gender equality and pipeline for advancement of women
  • Statistical data in the difference in cognitive abilities and ambition traits of men and women
  • Studies on what women have expressed they require for fulfilment and retention in the workplace
  • The changing dynamics in the business world with growth of social enterprise
  • Practical tool on reconnecting participants with their personal purpose and career goals
  • Dialogue with colleagues, sharing insight, challenges and opportunities for change and social impact

It was a great session and I was struck by the depth in thinking on the matter and willingness to practically improve the situation. I urge other educational institutions to engage their teams on this topic. The power lies in addressing unconscious bias, challenging unjust processes that hold women back, encouraging women to become more confident and allowing each person to connect with their personal purpose and connect this to their role.


“Great conference and great presentation. Thank you.” Mairead Stickings, Staff, University of Brighton

“Fascinating talk by Melody” Nicola Ashton, Alumni Engagement Officer, University of Brighton

“Inspiring talk by social entrepreneur @Melody_Hossaini @InspirEngage “what we think we become” “create your own reality” – Penny Simpson, HR Member of Staff, University of Brighton


Email for all enquiries and bookings.



Panel at JWEF Bahrain

Firstly Happy International Women’s Day 2016 to all the fabulous ladies out there and the men who appreciate them! Every IWD I write a blog about a story or message relating to my work on the advancement of women and this one is a special one about a moment that happened very recently that really shocked me and to those who ask ‘but why do we even need IWD still?’ – this is why!

Last month, I was invited to deliver a range of programmes with InspirEngage International in Bahrain. I’m no stranger to the region and had even previously delivered our Bootcamp in Bahrain. This time I was at the Junior World Entrepreneurship Forum- a gathering franchised across the world with the aim of supporting young people to launch their own businesses. Let me paint the scene. It’s day 2 of the conference, 200 people in the room, mostly young people (university students) but on the left side of the auditorium were 50 or so young boys aged 15/16. I’m on stage on a judging panel of an enterprise competition alongside a director of Intel and a gentlemen from one of the UN agencies. He’s talking about the general enterprise community of Bahrain and at one point he asks almost as a rhetorical question aimed at the young boys; “Would you guys ever work under a woman”. Before he’s finished his sentence, a few of the boys shout determinedly; “NO!”

The gentleman pauses but continues his talk generally. Once he’s finished, it’s time to announce the winner of the enterprise competition – but I can’t let it go. I take the mic and say “it’s my moral obligation to challenge you on what you said, in fact it’s all of our social responsibility” – my aim wasn’t to attack but to understand, so I asked if we could speak about it and why they said they would never work under a woman. One of the braver boys who had been most adamant answers “because men are more responsible” This interested me – so I said, “ok so what about if the woman had earned her way justifiably to the senior position – she was great at it, responsible and deserved it – would you work under her then?” – he still said “NO!”

By this point, the gentleman at my side was whispering in my ear to let it go and that they’re just young. The gentleman from the UN was back on the mic by this point saying that in Islam, prophet Mohammad worked for a woman and that it’s important to remember that, but then said something which deeply troubles me; “it’s women who raise children” so basically, if boys think like that then the mother is to blame. They were keen to move things on – and I didn’t even have a mic – so without a mic I persevered (not shown in video clip): I appreciate that every culture is different, religion is different and yes, places like the UK aren’t perfect in equality of gender either (in fact, we also have a long way to go) and this wasn’t about those specific boys, but about us questioning long-held beliefs that we automatically hold and thinking about the consequences of what our beliefs mean. I made the point that raising children and shaping society is more than just women’s responsibility – we all have a power to influence outcomes, and what point would there be to support the girls in the room to launch a business if half the population wouldn’t work for them- especially when Bahrain has no end of talent and potential, which was evident in our Bootcamps. More importantly – our societies are shaped by what we think, say and do; it wasn’t immediately about those boys but about the message it would give out to accept those views.

As I spoke passionately – I looked around at the faces of the women, wondering if they would step in or had a view on it. But the room was silent.

After the panel - the reaction of girls and boys

Interestingly, afterwards, a notable number of the women came up to me thanking me for speaking up, saying they were horrified too. We had an interesting conversation but I made it clear- “next time you hear something which you think should change and is wrong; in your own respectful way, speak up or you’re part of the problem”. I look up and 2 of the young boys from that group were there too – one said “we just wanted to come up to you and apologise on our friend’s behalf- hope it didn’t offend you.” I replied; “Thank you so much – that’s very mature of you. This isn’t about me and it’s not personal. This is about us provoking thought to create change. Here’s an idea – why don’t you go back to school and suggest to a teacher to have a discussion with the boys about this issue”. That was my bottom line aim in speaking out- not for people to adopt my thinking but to provoke thought and let people question opinions they’d previously held without considering an alternative. That’s how change starts.

We are all part of the solution.

For all enquiries:
Tweet/ Ig: @Melody_Hossaini







Women’s Forum Panelist

Since 2005 the Women’s Forum for the Economy & Society has been the world’s leading platform featuring women’s views and voices on major social and economic issues.

'Lighting Many Fires' Panel at Women's Forum 2015

Deploying the experience of both women and men – business leaders, researchers, politicians, entrepreneurs across all generations and geographies come together in rich and edgy debates, acting as a sounding board for today’s important ideas and a springboard for tomorrow’s solutions. I

Panelists at Women's Forum on advancement of women in business

was thrilled to be invited as a speaker at the 2015 global gathering in Deauville held 14-16 October. I was instantly hit by the unique energy- it’s not often you are surrounded by 1000′s of incredibly powerful women.

On the panel, I was joined by Seraina Maag- President & CEO, AIG and Jane Griffiths- Company Group Chairman, Janssen (Johnson & Johnson), moderated by Christie Hunter Arscott. a mother with business, as well as personal anecdotes (revealing that Seraina grew up wanting to work in the circus!). My contribution was focused on the role of social enterprise in the changing dynamics of the business world, as well as how we can better equip young people (especially young women) to advance.

Watch a short clip of my talk on this:

It was a fascinating panel discussion highlighting the fact that children of those mothers who work are statistically more likely to also work and do well, than those who don’t. Another interesting point was also the importance of sponsoring alongside mentoring. This is vital to supporting women to reach senior position (this is a large factor in both Seraina and Jane reaching theirs).

CEO Champions Member

As part of the conference there’s also a private gathering of of 45 leading figures from the public and private sectors called the CEO Champions, which I am a member of, that come together in a luncheon to debate concrete action on “building and strengthening the pipeline” for women’s advancement. Hosted by Clara Gaymard, President, Women’s Forum and CEO and President, GE France.

CEO Champion Members 2015- Deauville

The partner representatives were: Sandrine Devillard, Director and Global Leader of the McKinsey Women Initiative, McKinsey & Company Anthony Gooch, Director of Public Affairs and Communications, OECD, Mary Goudie, Member, UK House of Lords, and Founding Member, the 30 Percent Club, Jane Griffiths, Company Group Chairman, Europe, Middle East and Africa, Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson, Seraina Maag, President & CEO EMEA, AIG Property & Casualty. Among the participants, the CEO Champions meeting, welcomed notable leaders including Marie-Christine Coisne-Roquette, Executive Chairman, Sonepar, Yves Daccord, Director-General of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Agnès Ogier, CEO, Thalys International, Stéphane Pallez, Chairman and CEO, Française des Jeux, Jean-Paul Paloméros, General, former Chief of the French Air Force and former NATO Supreme Allied Commander for Transformation, Shamsa Saleh, CEO, Dubai Women Establishment and Su-Yen Wong, CEO, The Human Capital Leadership Institute and many more.

Melody Hossaini presenting at CEO Champions

Our discussions were fuelled by findings from The Power of Parity: How advancing women’s equality can drive $12 trillion in global growth’, a new study by the McKinsey Global Institute which was previewed during the Global Meeting.

We brainstormed in break-out tables on two main issues: How can we help close the gender gap in society to bring more women into the workforce? How do we create a robust and sustainable pipeline of talented women at each stage of our organizations?

Following this meeting in Deauville, all CEO Champions 2015 will co-sign a white paper capturing key insights and recommendations from the workshop — including their commitments as a group — for sharing broadly with the media as well as with preeminent institutions from the private and public sectors.

Among the “big ideas to explore” that arose:

  • Identify the “invisible” women in organizations and give them what they need to advance
  • Allow family life in the workplace: how family life can better define our professional life (not vice-versa)? Appoint gender diverse couples for CEO positions: a man and a woman to co-lead
  • Build coalitions between public and private sectors or NGOs: partnerships to influence the G20 and governments for greater equality in societies
  • Launch a global survey on employee self-esteem and develop organization-based self-esteem (important for women but also for GenY)
  • Create and disseminate a Gender Parity Index — similar to the McKinsey Gender Parity Score and sustainability index — to assess gender equality in private and public organizations on critical performance indicators
  • CEOs and Executive Committee members can act as role models: take paternity leave, part time, etc.

Look forward to taking the initiatives forward and fighting towards gender parity.