MD, Spark Leadership

Founder and MD of Spark Leadership, Elizabeth Coffey is an internationally recognised consultant, speaker and author focused on developing CEOs, and Board Executives for the world’s leading companies. Her books include 10 Things That Keep CEOs Awake – and How to Put Them to Bed and she has co-authored The Changing Culture of Leadership – Women Leaders’ Voices, a research-based book about women leaders across 20 industries in the UK.


Any father with only daughters – any mother with only sons – knows there is an invisible gender culture that emerges organically when either gender makes up more than 70% of the group. An anodyne example: voices in a majority male conference are pitched lower than the buzz of a female gathering. Our banter differs: a male-dominated Boardroom may be characterised by one-upmanship and focus on sports or ‘boy’s toys’.

Most oilfields remain all-male and breed a fraternity house site atmosphere that is dangerous for female colleagues. This unconscious bias limits female petroleum engineers’ crucial experience in the field, curtailing access to leadership roles. Some women grapple with male cultures and figure out how to make an impact while retaining their authenticity; others choose not to engage. To harness women’s unique talents for our companies and countries, men and women must create solutions together to these unconscious challenges.