Jen Coates
Jen Coates, DIRECTOR OF VOLUNTEERING & BEREAVEMENT SUPPORT | 7 March 2019

On International Women’s Day, Jen Coates, Director of Bereavement Support and Volunteering at Sands, tells us about her typical day at work and how listening is key to being a great leader

As a Director of Bereavement Support and Volunteering, I am fortunate to be supporting the fabulous Networks and Volunteering Team across the UK and also all our amazing volunteers without whom, so much of our work would not be possible.

I also am responsible for our Bereavement Support Services, so ensuring that all of our responses to bereaved parents are exactly what they need at the time and in the way they need, including the lovely Helpline team, Bereavement Support App, Sands support materials and enabling other teams to respond in the most supportive ways possible.

I have worked in many areas including nursing, counselling, MSC in Social Research, a family support practitioner within the children’s hospice movement and setting up services for Macmillan Cancer Support. I’ve been saying yes throughout my career, even when it was terrifying! I want to make a difference, however small or impossibly huge.

I was attracted to Sands because of the combination of the role and the cause, the potential to make a difference and my own losses all rolled into one.

Early in my career I learnt that if you can’t focus, commit to doing something else for five minutes which works every time, (dark chocolate with sea salt is also quite helpful). Listening and having conversations is almost always the answer.

A typical day at Sands for me is like four rolled into one, in the best possible way, though I did find myself thinking it had been an incredibly busy week then realising it was Monday not Friday evening!

I think the best three skills that are essential to being a great leader are listening, enabling and recognising.

My team at Sands are fabulous. To keep my team motivated we share lunches, I help them to recognise their own qualities and skills, we walk around the block when needed.  I also sometimes make pancakes!

My inspiration is many of the awesome, ordinary women and men who have stood up for equality and what they believed was right, despite opposition.

To me, the International Women’s Day slogan, #BalanceForBetter (gender equality) means that feminism and empowering women is not at the expense of men, but empowers everyone. If one person is not equal, none of us are. It’s also the best day ever to have my birthday!

Diversity is so important in the workplace because no one person has all the answers and to support as wide a range of people we need as wide a range skills, experience and awareness and to value every single person as unique.   

I think that by working with men we can help to celebrate and advance the social, economic, cultural, and political achievement of women. This is because everyone needs to work to address any sort of inequality. We all need to recognise and remove the barriers which stand in the way of women having an equal voice and influence.

Click here for further information on International Women’s Day #IWD2019

Click here for further information on the many ways Sands can support you

Jen-Coates-for-IWD-2019