International Women’s Day 2024: Sally Powell

Sally Powell is an experienced leadership coach and strategic facilitator, with over twenty years’ experience leading and coaching individuals and teams for world-class brands. She is the co-founder of ‘IMPACT: Women Who Lead’, which brings together cohorts of talented women who want to lead differently. She lives with her husband and their two boys in Edinburgh, surrounded by beauty.

  1. How did you get to where you are today in business?

I have always had a strong sense to follow what feels good, and a confidence to know that there is opportunity all around me. I wanted to work in business after university, and spent eighteen years working for FTSE 100s, leading teams for inspiring companies and world-class brands (Microsoft, Tesco, Diageo). It allowed me to travel the world, and work on diverse projects with interesting people.

When an opportunity came up to move to the USA with our young family, I was brave enough to take off the job title label and explore what really makes me tick. It was hard to face the truth that I wanted change, and it allowed me to see how much I loved coaching others. I wanted to build a business doing that. I am fascinated by how we talk to ourselves and behave with each other, and what makes individuals and teams thrive.

  1. When did you first notice gender disparity and when do you think your first experience of inequity was?

There were two moments. One as an intern with a large financial services company, during my final year of university. It was the first time I had noticed how many men were at Director level and above, and women were in the ‘doing’ and supporting roles.

Many years later, I saw a document showing the salaries of everyone in my team. I’m not sure why I was shown it, but all the highest earners, by some way, were men. It made me start to question how many roles I had been under paid in because I was a woman. And how many roles I had not questioned the pay I was being offered.

In my naivety I didn’t think inequity would apply to me. I realise now the bias that impacts all of us and is deeply rooted in the systems we work and live within.

It has been a huge driver in co-founding the women’s leadership programme IMPACT with my business partner Sam, and wanting to see more women thriving and loving what they do.

  1. What advice do you wish you could give your younger self?

Three things! 

  • To manage my energy, and see rest and play, as important as work.
  • To ask for help when I can’t find the clarity. It is a sign of strength.
  • To not assume that others know how I am feeling. I am working at this one!
  1. What has been your greatest achievement in business?

Setting up my own coaching business. Now in my eighth year it is truly the most varied, creative, and authentic work I have done. Sometimes it is hard to see it as work, sometimes it is hard to be motivated, but mostly it is exceptionally rewarding.

  1. How can we inspire a younger generation of girls and young women to break through the glass ceiling?

I see my teenage nieces and they are inspiring to watch. They have a good balance of the importance of working hard and leading a joyful life. They inspire me to do the work I am doing for my generation, the generation of 40-65+ year old women whose knowledge, wisdom and experience we need, more than ever.

There are too many women checking out of work because they don’t feel supported, valued, and heard. This is a generation we need to cherish and see possibility in.



Lauren Cox

Head of Marketing