10 min readJul 5, 2022


An UPFRONT case study; London Office of Technology and Innovation (LOTI)

At UPFRONT, we are on a mission to help 1 million women change their confidence. We do this by transforming their relationship and habits around visibility and confidence itself.

Confidence transformations take place during our 6-week online course, we call each 6-week cohort a Bond (Bond is the collective noun for a group of women). Thousands of Bonders from 50 different countries have graduated from one of our Bonds. We work with organisations like Nike, Pleo, Just Eat Takeaway, the NHS and the Ministry of Justice.

This year, due to popular demand, we launched what we call “private bonds” for businesses and organisations looking to improve their confidence culture and prioritise gender equity in their workplaces. One of our clients is the London Office of Technology and Innovation (LOTI). LOTI was formed to help boroughs work together to bring the best digital and data innovation to improve public services and outcomes for Londoners.

By hosting an UPFRONT’s six-week Bond course, LOTI created the first-of-its-kind opportunity for women in local government to come together to work on themselves and their ability to influence. It was transformative for development and performance with confidence growing in all areas and overall by a staggering 27.6%!

Our job at UPFRONT

Through direct consultation with senior leaders and LOTI team members we pinpointed five core objectives across a LOTI bond of 88 participants:

  • Create a brave space where LOTI team members can gather and foster a culture of asking questions and problem-solving
  • Speak to the experiences of a very diverse set of applications, as ethnic and minority women continue to be underrepresented in local government
  • Create a culture of action and self-advocacy to move forward with diversity initiatives
  • Allow genuine career development through an open-access community
  • Increase self-advocacy of the LOTI cohort

This is the first time in history that women in the local government sector have come together in this way — to focus on their growth, leadership and power.

Emma McGowan, Head of Digital (Social Care) at London Borough of Hackney

The Challenge

“Virtually all local authorities face considerable challenges in hiring and retaining the talent they need in the fields of technology, digital, and data. Without the right people with the right skills, user needs can’t be researched, services can’t be optimised, and data can’t be analysed and interpreted.

At LOTI, we see this skills access challenge as one of our community’s most significant threats. One of the areas we are focusing on is working on diversity and inclusion within the technology, digital, and data community.

Recognising we still have a long way to go to ensure our community both looks and feels like one where all people can thrive. This year, we decided to run a dedicated cohort through Lauren Currie OBE’s highly regarded UPFRONT Confidence Course and create the LOTI Women’s Network.”

Polly Kwok, LOTI Communications and Engagement Manager

Our 88 LOTI Bonders represented Hackney, The Greater London Authority, Greenwich, Hounslow, Hammersmith & Fulham, Kingston, Richmond & Wandsworth, Brent Countil, LOTI, Havering, Lambeth, Lewisham, Newham, Southwark, Waltham Forest, Westminster, Kensington & Chelsea, Brent, Camden, Ealing, Enfield, Barnet.

Why LOTI needed an UPFRONT Culture

Over the last few decades, the share of women in public-sector jobs has risen. According to the most recent data, women made up 35–45 percent of all public appointments, including 54 percent of civil officials.

The importance of equal political participation at all levels of government is critical. So much so that it’s part of the UN’s 13 targeted Sustainable Development Goals, “ensuring women’s full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision-making in political, economic and public life”.

However, women’s representation in local bodies is higher than in parliaments, but still not on equal terms with men. And within those percentages, women tend to hold more junior positions in these organisations, even though women’s share of senior posts has consistently increased.

Confidence Barriers in Local Government

The data shows three areas that create barriers for women when it comes to participating, and leading effectively in local government.

  1. Social and Cultural barriers leading to Structural and Institutional Barriers (this includes money, time, and location)

2. Inequitable Caring and Household Responsibilities leading to Knowledge and Informational Barriers (which are often a consequence of employment policy)

3. The environment of British politics leading to Individual Barriers (where there is a domination and over representation of white male middle class and an absence of intersectionality)

We need to also ask, how do gender, social class, and ethnicity intersect in a way that makes it more difficult for women to get involved in local government? And, what are the barriers related directly to imposter syndrome and motivational factors like ambition, self-confidence, and self-belief.

And further, how does identity and the effect of different types of barriers coming together, leading to overlapping challenges of different intersectionalities?

To help each woman live out LOTI’s core values of People, Collaboration and Transparency, we need to eliminate the most harmful confidence barriers they experience in their position.

We do this by ensuring all members are empowered, can build a growing coalition that can reflect London as a whole, and become leaders in the mission of digital inclusion and advancement. When women lead, transformation travels across silos.

The effect of gender bias and confidence barriers

The above barriers have left women from LOTI, and that of local to wider government bodies, under resourced, underrepresented, under utilised, and underestimated. Inflating an undeserved sense of imposter syndrome.

Women often underestimate their ability to impact and gain influence, especially in environments where technology, innovation, and local government collide, which tend to be white, middle class, and male-dominated.

This is represented in the assessment results taken at the start of the LOTI bond. But first…

Behind the Assessment

Our assessment criteria is a more detailed adaptation of the Clance Imposter Syndrome assessment. It is designed to not only help assess women and non-binary folk’s overall confidence but to show what that confidence looks like in different forms. We broke the Clance Imposter Syndrome scale down into four underlining sub scales of confidence itself; self-advocacy, self-efficacy, self-image, and self-improvement.

At the beginning and the end of the LOTI Bond course we assessed the same four sub scales of confidence with the same evaluation form. There was a marked improvement across all sub scales.

More on our Sub Scales

Imposter syndrome is the leading psychological and clinical measure of confidence. We broke this down further into four sub scales that pertain to personal and professional development and growth, to give a more detailed assessment of confidence.

Self Efficacy: Refers to an individual’s belief in their capacity to execute behaviours necessary to produce specific performance attainments (Bandura, 1977, 1986, 1997)

Sounds like “My voice is important. It deserves to be heard. I’ve been practising confident behaviours, and now I believe that’s true.”

Self Advocacy: The ability to communicate one’s needs and wants and make decisions about the support needed to achieve them (Stodden, Conway, & Chang, 2003).

Sounds like “I know how to ensure my hard work and accomplishments lead to career progression. I know how to take the initiative to communicate my needs and wants to others to support my overall well-being.

Self Improvement: Continuous enhancement of one’s knowledge and skills.

Sounds like “I want to keep growing and learning to do my best work and reach the next level.”

Self Image: The idea one has of one’s abilities, appearance, and personality.

Sounds like “I can show up as me in all that I am and succeed”

Activating Change

In the same systems that reward confidence in male leaders, even if they’re incompetent, punish white women for lacking confidence, women of colour for showing too much of it, and all women for demonstrating it in a way that’s deemed unacceptable. - Ruchika Tulshyan

The Bond is designed to allow women to activate their confidence in themselves and in their community while navigating imperfect and biased systems. You can read LOTI Bonder Lisa Stiddle’s personal account of her experience here.

The critical ways we activated confidence in the women people of LOTI

A snap shot from the LOTI Graduation Party

We deconstructed and rebuilt more inclusive definitions around Leadership.

LOTI women did not want to show up in their Leadership, mirroring what has always been the norm, but instead as themselves. We worked together to reconstruct ideas on Leadership, Authority, and Confidence that are inclusive and genuine in how it presents not only in white women but historically marginalised women.

“It has given me permission to be myself more at work — I need to practice, but I’m on my journey.” — LOTI Bonder

We modelled the community and support network many women in local government lack. LOTI launched its new women’s network while its members used the Bond community as a practice space for the modelling an UPFRONT culture.

“Unlearning is such a powerful thing; it’s hard to change the voices in your head, but new voices are challenging them — sometimes or at least giving a pause. It has been really good to do the course with a colleague as you can share the language and challenge each other on whether we are being UPFRONT or not” — LOTI Bonder

“My heartfelt thanks. Thank you for creating this space where I have met so many wonderful women, learnt so much about myself, and been given so many tools to support and build my confidence to help show the world who I am and how I can be a part of improving. It.” — LOTI Bonder

We proactively targeted burnout by increasing UPFRONT conversations with peers and leaders. Women who are more likely to speak up, challenge, share, have difficult conversations and manage conflict, and experience 24% more support in an organisation.

“I have taken many good things from this, including not constantly apologising for no reason. I am being bold and having that voice to speak up. It was wonderful to see that I wasn’t alone in IT — women supporting, sharing their experiences, and giving great advice to other woman. Lauren — thank you!” — LOTI Bonder

“I finally understand why we need to stand up for ourselves as women! I always felt that I needed to ‘fit in,’ but I need to put myself out there and bring others with me :).” — LOTI Bonder

From the same data presented above we saw an overall confidence increase of 27.6%, moving the LOTI Bonders’ previous confidence score of 47% to well over the 50% mark with a score of 60% overall. LOTI bonders in effect jumped from lacking confidence in themselves and their abilities, and in their roles to being a confidence and growing bond.

Not only has the LOTI bonds confidence dramatically improved, but we can see exactly where and what that means for how they are now performing and growing…

Further exploration of our confidence Sub Scales

Self Advocacy improved the most, increasing by 52.3%

Increased self-advocacy skills allow women to leverage for themselves and to use their privilege for good.

Women who set boundaries, negotiate, and ask for the resources they need are more likely to stay in local government (Krook M L and Norris P (2014) ‘Beyond Quotas: Strategies to Promote Gender Equality in Elected Office,’ Political Studies).

Self Efficacy increased by 22.2%

Women are more likely to believe they have the qualifications and resources to participate and make a change.

Self Image increased by 25.4% |

Women are better able to see themselves in participating in local government and leadership positions. This is a crucial problem for women and historically marginalised people who are vastly underrepresented in local government.

Self Improvement increased by 25%

Women are more likely to believe they can grow into the skills necessary for their role and future roles.

“I have learned to breathe. This course is not only uplifting for women but teaches life skills for you to grow.” — LOTI Bonder

“This course has been a real eye-opener for me, we have discussed some simple concepts, yet I feel I now have the self-belief required to start turning my life around. Thank you, Lauren and team !” — LOTI Bonder

We are excited to see how LOTI continues to activate the women in their organisation as they continue to serve Londoners. We are also proud that we at UPFRONT and LOTI have come together to face the challenges and barriers to progress head on.

A special thank you to Cate McLauren, Emma Mc Gowan, Eddie Copeland and Polly Kwok for you hard work and efforts to make the first LOTI Bond happen.

To every single LOTI Bonder, it was an honour to support and serve you. Keep going.

If you are looking to join companies like LOTI and Nike in creating an UPFRONT culture of confidence at work. We’d love to host a Private Bond for your organisation. Email lauren@weareupfront.com.