Frances Holmes: Passionately Driving Change

At work, the majority of us want to keep our heads down, do our work, and live a peaceful life. However, we often mistake peace with silence. At times, we choose to remain silent about events and people around us, even though we are not comfortable with them. We do so thinking that is the best thing to do and let our life stay ‘peaceful’. Or maybe we are too afraid to confront and stay silent to avoid further repercussions. Whatever be our reason to stay silent, more often than not it still impacts us and has wider ramifications to our environment by creating a workplace that enables negative behaviors to persist and grow.

For women, maintaining silence, even when they are ill-treated, is all too common. It has been indoctrinated in us, generations after generations, those good women stay silent. Breaking this mindset takes courage, strength and cannot be achieved by an individual, it will take a Revolution of individuals who dares to take a stand and also help others to do so. Frances Holmes, CEO, and Founder Of Speak Out Revolution is one such woman who is speaking out to drive change.

Helping People Draw Courage

Frances started her career as a mathematician and has worked across the engineering sector for the past decade. She had a few key roles that have shaped her career journey. However, it has not been a straight path from A-B and the diversity of her experience has given her the strength and has led her to take on the CEO role at Speak Out. As an award-winning not-for-profit focused on the Diversity and Inclusion space, her organization’s mission is to cancel the culture of silence on harassment and bullying at workplaces.

Frances is motivated about creating truly inclusive workplaces where everyone can bring their whole self to work. She wants to break down the barriers that persist to enable anyone to reach their full potential. Her drive comes from her aspiration for others that come after her to not have to face the same challenges and barriers that she has faced. “There will always be challenges, however in 5 or 10 years, they should be different than those we are facing today. Unfortunately, that is currently not the case, the rate of change towards truly inclusive workplaces is too slow,” says Frances.

There have been three events in her life that have shaped Frances’ journey to date. Firstly, being diagnosed with Dyslexia, she had had to navigate the world slightly differently and understand how to turn the challenges she faced into her strengths. The second was becoming a consultant. This was the steepest learning curve that accelerated her personal and professional development in ways a normal corporate career would not. Finally, founding Speak Out and being named on the HERoes Future Women Leaders list for Diversity and Inclusion as a result of the team’s work, the impact Speak Out is making is so valuable.

Being Vocal

Speak Out Revolution is a not-for-profit with a mission to cancel the culture of silence on harassment and bullying in our workplaces globally. The organization empowers the disempowered to speak out through The Speak Out Survey™, challenge the status quo by increasing transparency via The Speak Out Dashboard™, and advocate for organizational change.

Diversity and Inclusion is a hot topic in every workplace. However, there is a lot of lip service, not a lot of impact. Diversity and Inclusion is a Strategic problem for organizations, not a Human Resource project, and should be treated as one. Speak Out Revolution is driving real, measurable change, through data-driven insights at a strategic level.

What ultimately makes them unique is that their technology (Speak Out Survey and Speak Out Dashboard) is open source, and they present all data transparently. So everyone is empowered to advocate for change. Unlike their closest competitors, they are not interested in helping companies implement technology that captures insights internally and help sustain the status quo. They believe transparency drives change, so their insights on all the metrics that matter when it comes to workplace harassment and bullying are available in the Speak Out Dashboard: Freely available, open-source, filterable, and fully transparent.

Driving Measurable Change

Speak Out seeks to make every workplace globally truly inclusive. “The jury is still out on whether that was a good idea(!) but… I’m really proud that Marie and I saw a problem, worked together to understand it, and brought together our collective expertise to collaborate and deliver a solution that empowers everyone to speak out for more inclusive workplaces.”

Along with Marie Hemingway, Co-founder and CTO, Frances hopes to constructively challenge the systems and processes which silence targets of poor workplace behaviors, not solve the underlying problems. They aspire to disrupt the status quo through their data-driven insights which show:

* Gaslighting is the most prevalent form of workplace harassment (but is not widely understood in the UK)

* 68% of people do not formally report their workplace harassment and bullying to their organizations which means organizations are blind to the problems which drive out the diversity of thought

* Mental health deterioration is the leading consequence of formally reporting workplace harassment and bullying (owing to the reporting process itself)

* It’s 3 times more likely that a person’s situation becomes worse from formally reporting than better

* Only 5% of people who formally report, see a full resolution

* 22% of people are silenced via an NDA or confidentiality agreement limiting their ability to speak out

The duo founded Speak Out in response to real-world challenges experienced across their networks with respect to unresolved concerns and complaints of workplace bullying and harassment. These challenges ultimately led to people (women particularly) being either forced to tolerate unsafe and disrespectful working environments to maintain their roles or leave their organization. After initial research, the team concluded that workplace harassment persists because speaking up and self-preservation are mutually exclusive given the systems and processes in place. “To drive the change we needed to cancel the culture of silence around workplace harassment and bullying, in a way that protected the individual and enabled others to understand the problem and advocate for change. We decided that the best solution was to create the ‘Glassdoor’ of workplace harassment and bullying. We provide insights for individuals to navigate the poor systems in place and shine a light on the challenges different people face in the workplace and the outcomes of trying to resolve those challenges,” explains Frances.

Being Woman

Frances’s career has always been in a male-dominated field. She has always been and still is consistently the only female in meetings. When looking across the corporate world there are still so few women at the senior level, there are barriers that persist that are preventing and discourage women from staying in the corporate world and progressing to leadership positions. The lack of role models and advocates is the reason why workplace inclusion is so important to Frances personally.

As a passionate leader looking for opportunities to empower women, she feels it is important for young women to understand that when they start their career, the 5-year plan is not important. “The roles that enable you to develop and thrive do not come along on an expected timeframe. Don’t get complacent, but also don’t think you need to be on a single trajectory, be open to new unexpected paths, and also know when to change direction when your current path is no longer right for you,” she advises.

The Right Way Forward

For Speak Out, Frances’s goal is to scale. She is keen to expand Speak Out’s reach and impact in workplaces worldwide. “We aspire to be THE independent, impartial body leveraging data-driven insights to disrupt the status quo. A status quo which silences, not protects, targets of poor behaviors in the workplace; holding at risk our ability to create truly inclusive workplaces,” says a confident Frances.

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