This week, we mark International Women’s Day (8 March). It has felt like a year of big progress for gender equality. With women speaking out about sexual harassment and discrimination in new ways, the debate is changing about what is acceptable. The publication of comprehensive data on the gender pay gap is shining a new light on how workforces are structured, and the remaining differences of representation among women and men.
The theme of this year's International Women's Day in the Civil Service is 'Wonder Women'. This doesn’t mean comic-book superheroines in red boots – it's about celebrating the women working in the public sector across the UK who do amazing things, at work or at home. In the run up to International Women’s Day there have been some great tweets and blogs where women have been celebrating those who inspire them or have helped them in some way.
The women who inspire me
I've been thinking about my own Civil Service Wonder Women. I have only ever had one female line manager – the wonderful Dame Lesley Strathie, who so sadly died in 2012, shortly after stepping down as Chief Executive of HM Revenue & Customs. Lesley is still one of my role models. She was always ambitious for the organisation and clear about her expectations. She could be steely when she needed to be, but was a very warm and kind boss with a wicked sense of humour.
Some of the other great women I have worked with in my career include Sharon White, formerly Second Permanent Secretary at the Treasury and now head of Ofcom; Liza Barton, who developed our strategy to support disabled members of staff in HMRC; and Anita Charlesworth, who led new approaches to analysis and welfare reform in the Treasury. Dame Louise Casey is an inspiration, too, for her leadership and plain-speaking on complex issues such as homelessness, integration and families.
I am lucky right now to work with some brilliant women in my role as Civil Service Gender Champion. They include Keela Shackell-Smith and Ellie Binks, who created the cross-Whitehall women’s network and have mobilised such a fantastic Civil Service campaign to celebrate the suffrage centenary. You can follow the suffrage flag relay on Twitter at @SuffrageFlag.
At our recent suffrage centenary celebrations launch, Emily Miles, Director of Strategy at the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs, shared her story – one of the most powerful speeches on gender equality I have heard. Joanna Roper and many colleagues in the Foreign Office do amazing work that makes a real difference to women across the world. These are just a handful of the inspiring women I have encountered over the past few months who work for the Civil Service.
Who has inspired you or helped you? Join in on #IWD2018 and celebrate the great women you know on International Women’s Day. Or find out about events being held by your women’s network - @CGWomensNetwork.
Follow Melanie Dawes on Twitter: @dawes_melanie.