Work & Wellbeing

The $11.6bn coaching industry continues to boom, and it's being led by women – for women

16 min read

26 March 2019

Features Editor, Real Business

When some of us think of life coaching we tend to think of 1980s Wall-Street and of haggard stockbrokers after a quick fix. However, the sector has evolved, gone global, and is currently the second fastest growing industry after IT. But recently it's developed a particularly female bent. Enter the age of the female-led and female-focused life coaching. We met the female life coach entrepreneurs bringing comfort, positivity, and inspiration to female executives across the UK in an age of #MeToo, balancing responsibilities, and fighting the gender pay gap.

Increasingly, business owners are being forced to take the health and wellbeing of their employees seriously. From ‘perks’ including free meals, cycle-to-work schemes, and outdoor activities, to providing counselling sessions at the office, wellbeing initiatives and self-care schemes are being seen as conducive to employee productivity as well as personal happiness.

Life coaching is a big part of this societal move towards achieving wellbeing at work and in life. As opposed to traditional therapy, where a person’s past is analysed and discussed, life coaching generally focuses on proactive self-care and self-improvement. This makes it a useful tool to make employees happier and thus, better at their jobs.

The growth of the life coaching industry

According to the International Coach Federation (ICF), more individuals are entering the life coaching profession than ever before, having grown from 47,500 in 2012 to 53,300 by 2016 alone. By 2017, the coaching industry was believed to be a $2 billion global industry, so taking these impressive statistics into account, and in an environment of growing awareness about health and wellbeing at work, these figures should grow even higher in the coming years.

Women’s life coaching is booming, why?

We met a group of life coach leaders in the UK ecosystem who are giving the sector a distinctly feminine flavour. They’re saying that women-led and women-targeted coaching is booming because of political changes taking place in the workplace. Let’s meet the women’s life coaches leading the charge in the UK.

Cat Raincock, Women’s Self-Esteem Coach

Cat Raincock went into life coaching after struggling with balancing the responsibilities of motherhood with a career as an interior designer.

Here is a shocking statistic – did you know that 80% of women in the UK suffer from low self-esteem? Women are looking for a way out of this feeling and they are looking to the life coaching industry to set them straight.

We have witnessed from campaigns such as #MeToo and #TimesUp that women are stepping up and beginning to set boundaries about how they are choosing to be treated. Women are rising and as a consequence so is the life coaching industry. The world of work is the most charged location where these changes are colliding.

As part of society’s narrative, women are conditioned to put other people’s needs before their own. This is because we are programmed to be a giver and caretaker of everyone but ourselves. The modern woman is expected to be everything to everyone, a stellar professional, the perfect partner, and everything –  all the time. This is simply not possible.

By pushing away our voice and feelings about how we are treated, we find ways to numb out – whether that’s overspending, social media, or substance abuse to take our mind off what we don’t want to show or feel.

This is leading many executive women to always chase the next ‘best’ thing – if I get married I will feel good enough, if I have a child I will feel complete, if I get the next promotion I will feel great about myself. In a bid to get rid of that empty feeling, they are looking for coaching so that they can feel good in their own body, gather strength to set boundaries of how they wish to be treated, find their voice and ultimately feel good enough.

Cat’s debut book, ‘Born to Shine: The Modern Woman’s Guide to a Happier Life‘ is available now.

Michelle Zelli, Business and Self-Esteem Life Coach

Feeling Blue, Chip: Life-coach Michelle Zelli on memories and mental health in corporate workspaces

Ex-bluechip exec turned life-coach Michelle Zelli understands mental health struggles from personal experience.

Seventeen years ago, I was in personal need of some coaching. I had ungraciously exited from my Blue Chip Director role with what was termed ‘Executive Burn Out’. But the reality was that I was done with all the stress and pretending that my role was my passion.

I was working 80 hour weeks under relentless pressure, which took the ultimate toll and left me feeling suicidal. Luckily I opted for change. Whilst traditional therapy is designed to go deep, it is not designed to be dynamic or directive. In life coaching, on the other hand, most clients value the directive guidance that’s coming from someone with respected creds, life experience, and an inside out knowledge of how to help them reach their potential.

Life coaching has been the second fastest growing industry in the world for over ten consecutive years, behind only IT. The Personal Development Industry is currently worth $11.6bn and is expected to rise at a staggering rate of 6% per annum.

When people ask me why coaching has become such a thing, I say there are many reasons: We are more stressed and anxious than ever before, yet advances in science mean that we know more about the brain, the mind, and emotions, giving an endless opportunity for change. The internet has brought great advancement in information availability to the masses, but it’s also brought social media and a world of judgement which feeds our human frailties and exacerbates a feeling of ‘not good enough’ for many.

People are becoming cynical about taking a pill to feel better. Putting a plaster over their unprocessed emotions isn’t as attractive an option as it once was. Also, there’s no such thing as ‘a job for life’ anymore, we are underpinned by the need to adapt and align as life shifts around us, faster and more ferociously than ever. This leaves us feeling insecure, unsafe and often anxious.

Baby Boomers were the first generation stretching for self-actualisation, but Millenials have since taken the baton. When people realise how quickly they’re able to shift a stagnant business, relationship or personal pattern, through coaching and self-improvement, it galvanises them to take action and try for themselves.

I work with many CEO’s personally, it’s lonely at the top and Imposter Syndrome thrives. The pressure to outperform is staggering in most industries but music, media, and finance – my main business areas – require a superhuman ability to be resilient, connected to your people and offer a 360 vision.

Life coaching is not for the faint-hearted, however having a top coach gives high-powered executives someone on their side who’s been there, done that and probably bought the corporate T-shirt too. We all need a wise ally who knows you better than you know yourself and curates the perfect learning material to help you get the leading edge at work and in life.

Toni Mackenzie, Life Coaching and Self-Development Specialist

Toni Mackenzie entered the life coaching industry during its early days in the UK.

Back in 2005, there were very few life coaches in Manchester, where I’m based, and my website listing almost immediately came up at the top in Google searches. Since that time, the number of clients who contact me looking for help to release their limiting beliefs, fears, and anxieties, and develop their self-belief, confidence, and happiness has increased dramatically.

By working with a skilled and experienced life coach you are able to take control of your inner saboteur, then focus on and achieve your goals by changing the way you think, feel, act and react.

You can have all the training, qualifications and talent in the world, as well as the conscious desire to succeed, but if in your subconscious mind you’re continuously comparing yourself to others, feeling like an impostor, telling yourself that you’re useless, procrastinating, and feeling that you’re not good enough, you are sabotaging your chances of achieving those goals.

Our subconscious minds become programmed at a very early age by the experiences we have and the messages we receive from the influential adults around us – and they take root. Unless we become aware of them and do something about them they will continue to hold us back throughout our professional and personal lives.

Toni Mackenzie is the author of Amazon bestseller self-help book, ‘Your Flight to Happiness: A 7-Step Journey to Emotional Freedom.’

Claire Dale and Patricia Peyton, Companies in Motion

From left, (Claire Dale and Patricia Peyton serve as Directors of Physical Intelligence coaching company, Companies in Motion).

The woman’s self-help industry boom has come about because gender barriers are disintegrating, women (and the men who support them), are increasingly standing up for equal treatment, and both are more successfully finding their own personal approach to their individual roles in society.

Companies in Motion offers Physical Intelligence coaching and training to industry leaders and top performers globally, including one of the world’s most recognised consumer brands, a global investment bank and a multi-national pharmaceutical organisation.

But what is Physical Intelligence? Well, Physical Intelligence helps us evolve in a constructive way, creating businesses and societies where people take responsibility for themselves. This creates an environment where people are thoughtful about how to use their capacity as a human being to foster harmony and achieve and sustain peak performance. It’s time to dismiss unhelpful and untrue notions, including the fact that you need to be merely tough to succeed in business, – for good. By ensuring staff are trained in physical and emotional intelligence, teams can collaborate better and goals met in a more effective and rewarding way.

For decades we’ve all believed that our ability and success were tied in large part to our IQ. Then, in 1996, we learned we needed to also consider EQ (Emotional Intelligence, popularized by Daniel Goleman’s seminal work) – both critical, to be sure. And yet, IQ and EQ alone won’t power performance.

As stress levels rise and as Gen Xers and Millennials become a larger percentage of the workforce, the traditional response to self-help and wellness will no longer be sufficient. Individuals are already searching for, employees will demand – and the best organisations will want to provide – resources to create a healthier and more balanced work environment.

Claire Dale and Patricia Peyton are the authors of ‘Physical Intelligence’(Simon & Schuster).

Katie Phillips, Founder, ‘The School of Self Love’

As well as being a life coach and author, Katie was invited by Google London to speak at their TEDx event in 2015.

In my private coaching, I work with women from a myriad of industries including property development, catering, television, communications, law, design, coaching, finance and beyond. They all have huge professional goals and equally impressive personal goals.

Men and women alike are being called to do life differently – in a more sustainable, collaborative and considered way. I think women are leading the way in this as these qualities are inherently feminine and the feminine thrives when she is supported. Hence the rise in female focussed personal coaching.

I started my female-focused coaching practice in 2010 and back then self-love was received with very mixed reactions. It has been wonderful to witness this term become more mainstream, to the degree that I was recently booked to speak to two law firms with a mixed audience specifically about self-love. I was also booked by Google to speak at their London TED-X on the theme: Self Love = Happiness. Again, to a mixed gender audience and the talk was received incredibly well by all.

I think women are waking up to the fact that having equality doesn’t mean you have to do life in the same way that a man would. In the strive to achieve equality women fell into the role of taking on masculine traits and it has been to their detriment and exhaustion – particularly in business.

Sure, we have a position at the boardroom table now but yet many have lost themselves in the process and there is now a movement and an inner calling for women to show up equally in their own right. To own their feminine qualities which are incredibly powerful (and I would dare to say more powerful than the push, compete, achieve no-matter-the-cost approach of the patriarchy).