This week, we’re talking to the dynamic Lucienne Shakir, a personal and professional life coach. She describes herself as a ‘female empowerment specialist’, and she’s passionate about guiding women in leadership roles away from the idea of having to live a ‘perfect’ life. We could all do with a bit more of that.
So, Lucienne, what’s holding back midlife women in their working lives?
It used to be that traditional stereotypes held women back. Now I believe it’s that women feel the need to be everything to everyone and, if they’re not, they’re a failure. Many women in midlife have spent thousands of hours – and pounds – training to be where they are now, only to find that the infrastructures around them don’t support them. I see women leaving their corporate roles in droves, having paused their high-profile careers to raise children, only to find that on the other side it’s no better than when they started.
It’s this disillusionment I see day in, day out. Which is why I love to see women taking ownership, setting up their own organisations that work for them and their colleagues, and changing the landscape from a stiff, male, mostly white corporate conglomerate to a diverse and enriching community.
Who are your favourite midlife role models? Who inspires you and why?
I am 36 – and on the day I write this, my mum turns 56. She is by far the most inspiring midlife role model in my life. She had one child in her teens, one in her twenties and another in her forties – all while studying, teaching and now leading in education. She loves life, her friends and social gatherings, wears what she wants and says what she thinks (even if I don’t like it sometimes). She is simply brilliant.
Tell us about your work?
I was one of the women I describe above. I left a 12-year career in education because of my disillusionment with the system. I spent thousands on an MA in education, and began a PhD in coaching and mentoring, only to realise I was looking for external validation. I quit my job – I’d had a nervous breakdown – left my husband and created a business that provided what I had needed all the way through from school to where I am now.
There are three parts to what I do: private one-to-one coaching; organisational coaching for corporate companies looking to attract, hire and keep top female talent; and a membership scheme for women for whom one-to-one coaching is not currently an option. All of this is to provide frustrated female professionals with a life to love. And I love it.
How do you feel about ageing, personally? And what are your thoughts on the narrative that surrounds it?
The narrative around ageing in the UK is a sad one, especially for women. We are led to believe there is some form of ‘sell-by’ date on our beauty, and that as we lose our youth, we also lose vitality and vibrancy. I actually used to believe that.
Not any more. I do believe life goes a little too quickly and I can’t quite get my head around the fact that I will soon be 40 – but I am happier than I have ever been and if there’s one lesson I’ve learnt, it’s to enjoy the present moment. Thank goodness for women like Grace, who are changing perceptions and providing hope.
What’s the beauty must-have in your make-up bag?
It’s not very sexy, I’m afraid – a good old-fashioned rounded hairbrush, plus a hairband and some clips. If I’ve spent a long day in the city, or travelling (remember those days?), I find the best thing to perk me up is to sort out my hair – and to apply a little blusher. If I’m without the blusher, then it’s a pinch of the cheeks and I’m good to go.
And your Desert Island disc, book and luxury item?
It has to be Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody, Wilde Lupinnen by Charlotte Link and my trusty Chanel bag.
Bohemian Rhapsody has so many memories for me throughout my life – sad and happy – and I would be able to lie back and remember those moments.
I’m half-German and, before my grandmother died, she handed me the Wilde Lupinnen trilogy – they’re the only books I have read more than once.
And the Chanel bag – no need to justify that one!
What are you planning next?
This is so exciting. I’m in the process of launching my first podcast series, That’s What She Said: Conversations with Lucienne Shakir, where I talk with the women I have met around the world to discuss their experiences of being professional females who want a life to love. It’s also being turned into a book – which is simply amazing.