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Can an online coaching programme facilitate behavioural change in women working in STEM fields?

S Jackson, D Bourne International Coaching Psychology Review 2020

With the communication and many aspects of social life moving into the online domain, social interaction and communication between individuals in corporate environments are often being transferred to the virtual realms in search of solutions to save time and money. This paper explores the way in which online coaching can provide a fruitful platform to introduce online communication and staff development in constructive ways where social and relational aspects of the group are accommodated. The two key areas of research presented in this paper are: (i) online coaching: exploring different modes of online coaching and the impact of combining individual and group coaching, and (ii) behavioural change: exploring different methods and approaches to develop self-confidence in young women. The sample chosen for this study is a group of young women. The reason this sample was chosen is that the author’s coaching practice has been delivering a three-month in-person coaching programme, focused on developing young women from different organisations, aged between mid-20s to mid 30s, for the last six years. With organisations cutting costs and individuals being short of time, the author wanted to investigate if an online coaching programme could offer an alternative solution to in-person coaching. Our research, backed up by the author’s own experience, also responds to the call for evidence and confirms previous claims (Followell, 2014) that if coaching is made available to women in the early stages of a career, this can help develop their self-confidence, self-belief and leadership skills. The research presented here is an exploratory, longitudinal study, using a sample size of 12 women, from two organisations, as well as one individual participant. The online coaching programme took place over six weeks, with quantitative and qualitative data gathered on two separate occasions, using questionnaires and semi-structured interviews. The data collected from the first questionnaire and semi-structured interview informed the design of the online coaching programme. The data collected from the second questionnaire and semi-structured interview measured the participant’s expectation against experience of online coaching. Thematic analysis was used to analyse the data. Drawing together current thinking, research objectives and findings, demonstrates how online coaching, using synchronous and asynchronous coaching, combined with individual and group coaching, creates a powerful range of methods to facilitate behavioural change. The study demonstrates that coaching young women, individually, as well as a group, helps to develop self-confidence. The programme also encouraged risk taking which led to new learning and behavioural change.

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