Think Women’s 40 Outstanding Global Women 2023 - Ellen Shustik, Inner Wings

As part of our Think Women Outstanding Global Women series, we spoke to Ellen Shustik from Inner Wings Foundation. Ellen has had an international career in politics and democratic support, but is now focusing on building the mental health & confidence of children and teens. She is also a passionate believer in how a global perspective can bring more valuable empathy to leadership roles.

Ellen is one of the inspirational leaders we are celebrating for International Women’s Day 2023.

A pioneering programme which helps children to build self-confidence and develop a growth mindset has now reached more than 5,000 children and trained over 300 teachers in more than 100 schools in the UK.Ellen Shustik, head of programmes and external relations at the Inner Wings Foundation, has had an international career in politics and democratic support, which led her to be develop an mentoring, especially among young girls and women.“Post-Covid we have had a real mental health crisis and anxiety is on the rise among children,” she explains. “That makes it a crucial time to help schools, and we provide the resources to the schools for free and the training for teachers.”There is a lot of pressure on schools and Inner Wings provides an holistic programme around mental health and confidence building for schools to help them with their pastoral care.“It is something I am really proud of because we are providing something that's so crucial right now for young children,” she says. “We hear all the time from teachers how much children’s confidence has suffered and how much anxiety has increased since Covid. We are receiving such positive feedback on the impact of the programmes on particular children or groups of children and certainly girls in particular.”The training is designed to give young children the tools and skills to be more resilient, more confident and to develop their own personal intrinsic value and develop a growth mindset. It helps nurture and develop their public speaking skills and teach them that they can do whatever they want and that they should pursue their dreams. For girls in particular, that might be to go and study STEM subjects, break down these barriers and reach leadership roles in industry.Ellen is a dual Canadian-British citizen now living in London. The Inner Wings programmes, Finding Your Superpower and Finding Your Voice, are designed to equip the next generation of school leavers with the skills they need to be active and fulfilled members of society and the workplace in whatever they choose to do. The foundation is the initiative of co-founders Darren Roos, South African-born CEO of global software company IFS, and Melissa Di Donato Roos – an acclaimed American-born British business and technology leader, the first female CEO of SUSE, the world’s largest open source software company, and technology group chair of the 30% Club, which has the goal of achieving a third of women on S&P boards by 2023.Ellen has over 20 years of experience working in the fields of democracy and governance, international development and politics. She has worked for large international and multilateral organisations around the world and spent several years working for the Liberal Party of Canada. As a democracy practitioner, she has worked with political parties, parliaments, civil society and on women’s political empowerment, to strengthen democratic processes. With a strong background in elections, she has been an observer with over a dozen international election observation missions in all regions of the world. As a human rights advocate, she has worked on global campaigns against modern slavery and violence against women in politics, as well as preventing extremism through education. She holds a Masters in European Studies and a Masters in Human Rights Law.

A global perspective can bring empathy to leadership

“In terms of a global perspective, I've lived and worked in a lot of countries,” she says. “I've lived in Egypt, Nepal, Malaysia, London, Paris, Stockholm and Dublin for multinational, multicultural organisations.“Growing up, I went to very good schools. I went to an all-girls school and had a very positive experience, where we were told we could do whatever we wanted to and that was very positive and very encouraging. Not all girls get that. I recently went back to my secondary school in Montreal, to be their keynote speaker and to talk to the girls about my unpredictable career trajectory, and that you need confidence to go after what you want to do.“We are now in a more global world, thanks in part to social media, and I think that a global focus is a more accurate reflection of what the world is. Living and working abroad, and having that exposure early on to other cultures and places makes you more tolerant, open-minded, accepting and empathetic.”She describes her own leadership style as “kind and compassionate” and says that, having had many different managers with different styles, she has always appreciated line managers who have been kind and compassionate and empathetic, while also being demanding and expecting hard work.“I think you can get to the top being really kind, and a nice person to work with and that breeds a lot of loyalty.”For more information on how your school or workplace can access these free confidence-building programmes and help build the next generation of confident leaders one child at a time, visit Discover a wealth of material on YouTube including a mini-series of short videos on Finding your super powers for parents, children and teachers to access at home. Ellen will be at our amazing Think Women event on 10 March to celebrate International Women’s Day. She will have a table at the Institute of Directors so that she can talk to attendees about the work that Inner Wings are doing to help children build confidence and to support girls in particular to study STEM subjects. We hope you will join us there. For booking and more information, see our Think Women agenda for the day.


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