Why Women Resist Leadership and Their True Calling with Yvette Hopkins I Mel McIntyre

Uncategorized Jul 05, 2023

Hello again!


You know that feeling when you meet someone and it feels like it was ‘meant to be’. That’s exactly how it felt when I met the wonderful Yvette Hopkins. 

That’s why I had such an amazing time in conversation with Yvette earlier this year to celebrate IWD and talk all things women’s leadership in what is still in so many ways, a man’s world.

As a Military Officer, Commander, Commercial Executive, and NxD, Yvette Hopkins has extensive experience leading teams and large complex organisations in multiple high-stakes environments, domains, and sectors.

Most recently Yvette was involved in the Global “Space Race”, focusing on establishing a Scottish vertical launch spaceport contributing to an emerging and vibrant UK Space-based economy.

Prior to that, as a career intelligence officer, Yvette focused on outwitting the adversary, enhancing national security strategy & policy, whilst visibly leading cutting-edge intelligence organizations.

Yvette is in the lifelong pursuit of leadership excellence and recently completed a nine-month global expedition on Women and Leadership with the Women Emerging Non-Profit organization to encourage, inspire, and support women in -and into -leadership. She is also a global keynote public speaker and serves on boards across the Space, Women, Defence, and Charity Sectors.

God, I love this woman! Her brilliance, strength, and wisdom are jaw-dropping. 

Yvette and I met as we were both speakers at the International Women’s Development Conference hosted by Women’s Enterprise Scotland in Feb 2022. Our hearts collided as we recognised one another as island dwellers - myself on tiny Eriskay in the Outer Hebrides, and Yvette in the windswept and wild Shetland Islands. 

We both jammed on how women are so often natural-born leaders. 

Take mine and Yvette’s grannies, for example. Two incredibly strong women who spent their lives as island crofters, living in blackhouses with no running water, heating or electricity. 

They scratched a living and raised their children in the harshest of conditions. They even delivered each other’s babies!

This sense of tight-knit community really allowed our grannies to step into their leadership roles. So much of this spirit is still deeply rooted in the DNA of the islands today - Yvette and I both saw profound evidence of it in how people supported each other during the pandemic. 

I think that’s why both Yvette and I have stepped into leadership in order to create an impact around the world. We have both learned the hard way that showing the world who you really are and honouring your authenticity is the true path to equitable, sustainable power. 

But the fact remains that many women struggle to do the same thing, despite being natural leaders. 


Here is some real talk about women in leadership:


  • Just 9% of FTSE100 companies have female CEOs (Statista, 2023)
  • The global share of women’s leadership roles is just 31% (WeForum.org, 2023)
  • More women than ever are leaving leadership roles, despite their ambition, because of microaggressions and unfair treatment in the workplace (Mckinsey, 2022).


It’s clear that there is still so much work to do to empower women to step into leadership roles. 

This is the very reason I decided to run this series of interviews. I am so heartened by the progress I am watching women make, but so deeply frustrated at how slow and difficult it can be.

Across so much of society - particularly in business - the concept of leadership has been built by men, for men, and around men.

This means that as women, we cannot see our true selves in traditional leadership models. If we want to get ahead we need to squash our feminine traits of empathy, love and compassion and lean fully into the more masculine traits of aggression, control and competitiveness. 

As a society, we work so much better when our feminine and masculine traits and energies are balanced. There is an incredible book called ‘The Athena Doctrine’ that I highly recommend you check out which explores this in rich detail. Of the 64,000 people the book surveyed across 13 nations, two-thirds of respondents believed the world would be a better place if men thought more like women, and the bro tactics and winner-takes-all approach were stopped in their tracks.

Feminine leadership is compassionate, cooperative, generous, and nurturing. When men are raised around strong female leaders, more of these traits come to the surface.   

The person who really embodied this for me is my dad. He was one of nine children, raised by my granny in the blackhouse. He was totally in tune with both his masculine and feminine energy. He was loving, sensitive and caring - and deeply respected women. He was the person who instilled in me the belief that I could achieve anything I set my mind to. His attitude was that of gratitude and appreciation for every blessing in his life. So much of that comes from the strong woman who raised him. 

Representation is so important. The more women and men see examples of authentic, compassionate leadership, the less afraid we will all feel in stepping into our own calling. 

We know that community and a sense of belonging is key. Having a sisterhood you can laugh, cry, celebrate, and commiserate with helps us all to feel stronger and less alone. 

And community is actually what brought Yvette back to Shetland. Her mother is a Shetlander, and her dad a serviceman stationed from overseas. She moved to the US at a young age and then around England, Japan, Germany, and Greece, before returning to the US for college and then joining the military to spend more years abroad. 

No matter where she was in the world when she was younger, her family always returned to Shetland for the summer. For many years, it was the only constant in her life, where community and familiarity lay. There was a strong appeal to living on the same street her ancestors had lived on for generations. 

It made perfect sense for her to put her own roots down in Shetland. She has a sense of stability now that she always craved - one that I understand deeply, as I was called to live in Eriskay after many years of travelling all over the world and being brought up in Edinburgh.

All of Yvette’s life and work experience are what make her recent 9-month expedition surrounding women’s leadership so fascinating. She has such a unique skill set and perspective. After such a long period of deep research, she is more clear than ever that we have so much work to do. 

Her own experience of leadership in the military - notoriously a boy’s club - injects even more passion and urgency into her work around women’s leadership. Because although changes have been made to fundamentally even the playing field, there is real room for improvement.

There’s a responsibility for senior leaders to create an environment free of barriers, so we can all, no matter where we are on the spectrum of gender or identity, flourish and become the people leaders you desire to be.

The more we believe wey are all worthy of leading in this world no matter our talents, gifts or backgrounds, the more we will all step up and be the leaders the world needs us to be. 

So what’s the secret? How can you take one little baby step today to build the world you want to be part of? 

Feed your soul until you can’t hear your self-doubt anymore. Then go out there and get what you deserve! Your dreams are just as important as everyone else’s, and you don’t need to do it alone.

Something I have realised since moving back to the place of my ancestors, is I am my grandmother’s dream. When she was struggling through cold, dark winters of isolation and hardship and dreamed of a better future for her children’s children, I am leading and forging a path that honours all of her sacrifices. They fuel me and strengthen my heart’s mission to help women in business to truly step into their light and create the business of their dreams. 

We need all to rise and relish in this challenge, to create a world where leadership works for both women, men and everyone in-between.

Be authentic in your leadership. 

Don’t listen to the noise and trust your gut. 

Each day when you get up, Look in the mirror and know you are being true to yourself, your values, and your essence. 

In the whole history of humanity, and in everyone to come, there will never be another you. You have a duty to shine your light as brightly as possible and sing the song you came here to sing. 

And Yvette and I are here to help you amplify your voice to speak at its loudest and most purposeful.

We cover so much more than this in our chat, so I urge you to listen. You will walk away with new confidence and vigour in your pursuit of leadership, and ready to step into your true calling at last. 

You can watch our conversation here.


WAIT! Did you get your FREE checklist?


50% Complete

Create Unshakeable Self-Belief Mini Course

Access your free 5-part video coaching from Mel showing how to use your fears to your advantage and create unshakeable self-belief.