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Civil Service

International Women’s Day - 8th March 2021

International Women's Day ©Katherine Hanlon, Unsplash

International Women’s Day (IWD) is a global event that celebrates the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The theme for 2021 is #ChooseToChallenge.

This global event encourages everyone to seek out and celebrate women's achievements. The IWD challenge theme asks us to think about how a challenged world is an alert world and from challenge comes change.


This made me think back over my career in the Civil Service, and the many great women I have been fortunate to work with along the way. More than 53% of the Civil Service are women. Almost all of my managers have been women and many have inspired, touched and influenced my career and I remain grateful to them all.

Heidi Stephens

I was in my twenties when I moved from Cornwall to London and worked with some fantastic women. Along the way, I’ve had several ‘work mums’, wise women who really nurtured and supported me, when I lived many miles from home. They helped me feel stronger, more confident and happier. I’ve worked alongside women from different backgrounds, different cultures, races, faiths and all different ages. We have learnt from each other about our food, families, traditions, humour, experiences and our abilities.

Challenge to women

So, here is my challenge to women in the Civil Service. Think about some of the women you work with now, or maybe in the past. Perhaps they might even be someone you never worked with, but who you know would be an inspiring, uplifting colleague or manager. Who made you laugh, who helped you, inspired you or shaped and boosted your career? Then I want you to pick up the phone, drop them an email or even send them a card. Take a moment to take the time to say hi and tell them how you feel and the chances are, it will make their day too.

My challenge is for women to show their appreciation for other women. Now more than ever, it is important to connect and show people you care.

International Women's Day 2021

The Civil Service has some great policies to enable parents and those with other caring responsibilities to work flexibly. However, there is still work to be done to help strengthen the career paths of women and the numbers aspiring to reach the higher grades. Ok, the numbers are increasing, but it’s an inescapable fact that there are still more men than women in grade 6/7 and the Senior Civil Service. Workload, location and travel are all factors that can discourage and prevent women from reaching their potential.

Consider what your challenge might be for IWD and remember this isn’t just for women, men can take part too (also don’t forget it’s International Men’s Day in November). 

So, my pledge this year is to reconnect, stay connected and make new connections. 

Reading tips:

  • Civil Service Local have online events running throughout the week commencing the 8th March and you can find out more here.
  • You can read more about the history of IWD and the themes for this year on this website. 
  • There are some great articles and links to further reading here.

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  1. Comment by Cal posted on

    This article was great, and gutted I missed it in time for International Women's Day as my experience is so similar to yours in that I have worked with some truly incredible women in my time as a Civil Servant. I'm going to respond to your challenge and reach out to them today. A great opportunity to show appreciation for the amazing leaders I've served with.

  2. Comment by Simon posted on

    Heidi, big move on your part trading Cornwall for London, I can only imagine what a different world you entered. We love Cornwall, we visit Saltash every year and re charge our depleted reserves! Interesting to read that still the numbers of Females in G6/7 positions is pointedly less than their Male counterparts. I look forward to reading comments from folk. Very best wishes to you.