March8 Mentorship: Frances Holmes

Frances Holmes is not only the Head of Technical Innovation at Thales UK, she is also a co-founder and CEO of Speak Out Revolution.

Focused on eradicating bullying and harassment in the workplace, Speak Out strives to break barriers around diversity and inclusion to create more equal workplaces. As both Frances and her fellow co-founder have engineering backgrounds, which is typically a male-dominated industry, they’re familiar with the challenges that women face as a minority group.

Frances says: “There’s a lot of talk about getting more women involved with the STEM community, but not a lot of discussions around barriers that cause women to leave the industries - bullying and harassment is one of them. We therefore work to ensure that everyone - not just women - feel happy and safe at work because if you're anxious about going in, you're never going to bring your full self.”

Speak Out encourages employers and organisations to explore the challenges that exist in their current procedures and culture. To highlight the barriers that persist, Speak Out conducts anonymous surveys asking people to share their lived experiences of toxic workplaces. Through this data, Frances is able to highlight the areas of concern and raise awareness.  

Frances herself is no stranger to positive discrimination, sharing that many people have credited her success to being a woman. She is therefore keen to use the skill and knowledge she has acquired through these experiences to help a mentee in the March8 Mentorship Programme. She says: “I studied a maths degree, which had a 50/50 gender split at my university. When I started at my workplace, I realised that I was the only woman in nearly every meeting - there were only three women in my office. But I never let it stop or intimidate me.”

Throughout her career, Frances had multiple coaches and mentors who helped her along the way. She says: “I was lucky to have these three females in my first office as they supported me as my mentors. They weren’t much older than me, but they’d already been on my journey and that really helped with my confidence. That’s why it’s important that I’m able to give back to others who were once in my situation.”