Today is International Women’s Day which is celebrated in many countries and is an opportunity for all of us to acknowledge the huge achievements which women have made in our area. The UN website states it is
a rallying point to build support for women’s rights and participation in the political and economic arenas.
I have been very privileged over the last two decades to meet and work with many very impressive women who have been appointed for senior roles in a range of settings. Sadly, my current work in engineering struggles to recruit women for our sector which is why STEM still needs to travel some distance. Indeed, on Wednesday Sarah Atherton the Wrexham MP raised that theme and thankfully the response from Boris Johnson included
We want to see many more young female scientists
Outside of STEM, there are many settings in Sussex which are being led by women and their presence should be applauded. It is certainly clear that they have achieved a great deal over the last 2-3 decades. In the case of upper tier Councils, it was in the mid 1990’s when East Sussex broke through the ceiling by appointing Cheryl Miller as their Chief Executive who I met 20 years ago. I also met Becky Shaw at the same time and when Cheryl retired, Becky was recruited into that role which she has worked on very well ever since. Then last year Becky was appointed as the Chief Executive in West Sussex in addition of her role in East Sussex. Another Council that has a female leader I know is Crawley Borough whose CE is Natalie Brahma-Pearl who I first met when she worked for Adur District over 10 years earlier. A few years ago, I was also delighted to meet Penny Thompson who was Brighton’s first female CE appointed by the Green Party but sadly her contract was ended by the Labour Party which took over the Council. Three of the 10 other Councils in Sussex currently have women in the leadership posts so there is still some way to go in the future.
Of course, Councils are not the only public sector agencies that can demonstrate that they recognise the Women’s Day and indeed the whole year here in Sussex. East Sussex Fire and Rescue was the first of the blue light organisations to appoint an excellent female leader, Dawn Whittaker and the West Sussex appointed Sabrina Cohen Hatton 18 months ago. The appointment of Jo Shiner for Sussex Police came after she was a very good Deputy Chief Constable and her predecessor in that role Olivia Pinkney was appointed as the Chief Constable over in Hampshire so our female senior Police Officers have broken into a number of places and indeed Jo’s deputy is Julia Chapman. However, it is also important for us to be aware of the many other women who have managed to go a long way. Cheryl Rolph was a key person in ESFRS along with Jules King and in the Police Service a very recent retirement came from Jane Derrick who I had the privilege to work alongside in the past.
Of course, there are many other public sector roles that have equally benefited from appointing women as their leaders. The University of Brighton has Professor Debra Humphris and the NHS is significant with Marianne Griffiths who is the leader in Brighton and Hove and West Sussex Hospitals. I have worked with some of her colleagues and she clearly does a great role. The Sussex Partnership NHS was led by Lisa Rodrigues who I know and her successor Sam Allen is doing a very significant role for this mental health agency.
Outside of the public sector, there are many significant roles in both commercial and charitable sectors. The Chambers of Commerce include Sarah Springford in Brighton and Hove and Ana Christie across Sussex. They both work very effectively and indeed Ana is doing a session today involving two company leaders, Kathy Caton from Brighton Gin and Penina Shepherd from Acumen Business Law. A senior business leader that I know well is Sarra Hawes from Hawes Building Services in Polegate whose industry like ours is mostly male. In the charity sector there are many I know but because ethnicity is also a key theme I am proud to mention Judy Richards and Doris Ndebele who have both worked extensively in Brighton and Hove and there is a lady called Grace Toby who was introduced in the Argus a few days ago. The Brighton and Hove Community Works has had a series of senior leaders and my final reference is the Bishop of Horsham who I have never met but Ruth Bushyager has made a very significant breakthrough in Sussex for the Church of England in the last year.