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Brave Conversations at MSD

Speakers Collective pride themselves on having conversations that make a difference, so we were delighted to be invited to put together a panel for MSD where the topic of the day was ‘Brave Conversations’.

Chris Hemmings
Chris Hemmings

It was hosted by one of our directors, Chris Hemmings, and he was joined by three fascinating speakers, each with different lived experience of having to confront and tackle brave conversations simply as a result of who they are.

We pride ourselves on curating deep, meaningful conversations, and that’s certainly what happened on this occasion.

Ella Dove
Ella Dove

The panellists were Ella Dove; an amputee, having lost her leg in what she describes as a ‘freak running accident’, Sarwat Tasneem; a behavioural change expert who speaks about belief systems and identity, and also a Zimbabwean-born employee who gave great insight into the reality of being a black woman in the pharma industry.

Each of the panellists offered an in-depth look at how they are made to face up to the difficulties of their existence each and every day and offered guidance on how to create a

more compassionate workplace to the three hundred or so employees who had dialled in.

Sarwat Tasneem
Sarwat Tasneem

Chris challenged them to be as raw and honest as possible, so those in attendance were left with no doubt about the importance of ensuring it’s not just those from a minority group who should be fronting up to brave conversations. It’s incumbent on us all, as employees, to develop a working environment where those conversations take place daily - and each of us must learn how to create the space for them to happen.

The engagement from employees during the discussion was excellent, with insightful questions and comments as the hour progressed. And, once it had finished, the feedback was superb.

One of the organisers said “We have had so much positive feedback with people commenting that they now have some great tips, feeling better equipped to have some bold conversations and re-connect on a human level. For some people the panels comments opened their eyes to a different view and others whole heartedly agreed with the replies to Chris’s insightful questions”.

It would be easy to say that change will happen as a direct result of this work. Our organisations’ goal is precisely that, so we can only hope it will. But, what is clear is that those three women were brave enough to speak up, and created a conversation that will, we have no doubt, linger deep in the minds of all of those who heard it.


The Speakers Collective is a Social Enterprise. We work together with a shared commitment to challenge stigma, facilitate important conversations and promote learning on a variety of social issues. If you are looking for a speaker for an upcoming event then please do get in contact with Jo at

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