Meet Belinda Clemmensen, Author, Podcaster, Coach, Speaker

BELINDA CLEMMENSEN is the founder and CEO of Women’s Leadership Intensive, which inspires, empowers, supports, and equips women to lead the change the world needs. She received the gold Canada Award for Excellence in training and isa certified professional coach, training provider, and member of the International Coaching Federation. Belinda earned her master of education in workplace learning and change from the University of Toronto. She lives in Ontario with her family. This is her interview

What’s your typical day like now? How is it different from your daily routines in the past?

One thing many of you may relate to is that I get up way earlier than I did when I was younger. I used to get frustrated that I can’t seem to sleep past 5am anymore, but I’ve come to really enjoy it.  I start my day more gently, with some writing and reflection, walking, and coffee of course!  That early morning time has become sacred; I do my best thinking and I prepare myself for my day. If inspired I may also do some yoga, but I try not to have any expectations of myself at that time.

Once I’ve eased into the day in that way, I’m ready to roll. I usually start work around 6:30 because my brain is fired up by then and my mind is clear.  I tend to power through my day with meetings, podcasts, facilitating training and coaching the women in our leadership programs.  I absolutely love my work and enjoy the more intense pace for most of the day.

By 4:00pm I’m done. At that point it’s walking the dog, catching up with my family, dinner and downtime. I no longer work evenings and frankly, no one would want me to! Definitely not my best work.

What advice would you give a woman over 40?

The media will try to tell you that your best years are behind you, physically of course, that messaging is everywhere, but in all ways really.  Don’t believe it. It’s absolutely not true and if we buy into that we not only give away our power but also our joy. The job of media has become primarily to sell you something – an idea, a product, a service – and you’ll only buy those things if you feel like you need something outside of yourself, so there are messages everywhere telling us we need all these things in order to stay young, or healthy, or relevant, or employable, or happy.  The truth is you get better every year, as long as you are doing inner work of reflection and learning. 

Not only does it serve women to believe that about us but it also serves the greater good. Because the world desperately needs women to get in touch with what matters most to us, and the research shows that when we do we put our considerable energies into making things better. Whether that’s on a small scale in your own life or community, or on a bigger one tackling the social and environmental issues we are all facing. One thing I know, everything, across every metric, gets better when women get behind it.

Tell us about any community projects you are involved in and why you support them?

The Women’s Leadership Intensive (WLI) partners with organizations like the Canadian Women’s Chamber of Commerce and the Gender Equality Network because they are working to unite and support all women so we can come together, join our voices and engage the power of the many.

WLI is also a Certified B Corp. Certified B Corporations are businesses that meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose.

If you had the power to solve one and only one problem in the world, what would it be and why?

Gender inequality, hands down. Why? Because the global research consistently shows that when women participate at scale in things like education, politics and leadership everything gets better for everyone. Care about profitability? Gender diverse leadership teams deliver above average profitability consistently. Care about social determinants like access to education and healthcare? When women lead those things improve. Women’s participation in leadership has been linked to more ethical and inclusive decision making, reduced greenhouse gas emissions and even more enduring peace agreements.

Basically, if you want to make the world a better place, gender equality and equity is the way to get there.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Be bold and believe in yourself. It sounds so cliché, but it’s so universally true for so many women. I coach women who are incredibly accomplished yet still struggle with self-confidence. I can relate. I wish I could go back and tell myself that my ideas and perspectives actually matter, and that I as a human being, get to take up space and be heard.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

Well, this is going to sound self-promotional, but it’s genuine. I would recommend Women, Leadership and Saving the World, Why Everything Gets Better When Women Lead, because it’s the book I wished someone had written for me.  I wrote the book so that women would feel seen and would finally understand the systemic context that they’ve been living and working in all their lives. The male defaults that run in the background, almost invisible sometimes, but that we’ve been adapting to and compensating for all our lives. I wrote the book to help women get free so they can live and lead truer to themselves.

When and why did you start your business?

When I was nearing 50, I had a crisis of consciousness. As an entrepreneur I had a successful leadership development company, and I loved my work but I couldn’t help thinking that if I was going to be 50 then I only had so much time left to really make a difference. It didn’t feel like doors were closing, just the opposite actually, it helped me prioritize myself and my work in a new way so that I could make best use of the years of work still in front of me and contribute as much as possible.

So I took somewhat of a left turn and started WLI, our mission to inspire, empower, support and equip women to lead the change the world needs. It was a risk to start over at almost 50 but even when it was hard, it’s always felt right. I’m so fortunate to be at this time in my life when I can move closer and closer to a sense of purpose in my work.

What’s been the best advice you received as a business owner?

I’ve founded three successful businesses now and early on in my first business a mentor said to me that it takes three to five years for your business to really get off the ground. That’s how long you have to be willing to pour your heart and soul into building the business and working for every contract and every lead.  If you can make it past that point, then the tide starts to turn, and things start flowing back to you. You don’t have to work so hard, sometimes the clients just find you, you start getting referrals, you’ve done all the big experimentation to figure out which products and services are the right ones for your business, you’ve started to build your team. 

That advice has been true every single time I’ve started a new business, and it’s kept me going during the dark moments when I’ve wondered if I’ve made a terrible mistake and it might never work. I just remember to give it that time, stick with it, keep working and learning, and the tide will turn. 

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