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As part of International Women’s Day we celebrated stories within in the OPCC of women leading. Read some of them here.

Alethea Fuller- Deputy Chief Executive

Today is Monday 8 March – International Women’s Day, and across the world people are celebrating the movement for women’s rights. We, along with others will be taking part in events that commemorate and celebrate the political, social and economic achievements of women. Over the decades, the objective of Women’s Day celebration has evolved and embraced culture and ethnicity to emerge as a celebration of appreciation, respect and love towards women.

It is really nice to have a special day for women where we are being honoured, awarded, and appreciated. I will start out by mentioning my mother, who I am thankful to for giving me the drive to get to where I am today. Education to her was very important, and she pushed me every day.  I completed my Masters in December 2017 and she would have been so proud. Becoming Deputy Chief Executive was another career defining moment that would have made her burst with pride.  We strive to make our parents proud and I feel I have achieved that.

We are lucky enough to work in an environment where there is opportunity to achieve, however we know that inequality and racism still persists.  The important work that we are doing on disproportionality is evidence of that. Many in our society face multiple barriers to achieving their full potential, and obstacles to being as resilient as they can be. For some, the start they had in life has meant those barriers are immense, complex and very evident. That is why the work that we do is so important.

Inequalities for women are very real, although the OPCC has a good story to tell. The make-up of our office is such that there are females working at all levels across the office, in numbers greater than males.  Our Senior Management Team consists of 8 members of staff, and 5 of us are females. The work on the gender pay gap within our office builds on other equality work including ensuring there is a diverse mix of employees from a wide range of ethnicities.  Read some of the experiences of our female colleagues below – we all come from different places and because of that, bring a wealth of experiences with us.

I want this IWD to be an empowering one for all the women in the OPCC – we work hard, we strive to ensure that we do things to the best of our ability at all times.  The last year has been both unbelievable and stressful, but we have come through, have shown huge resilience and will continue to do so. Maintaining the family life, home schooling, and still working and delivering has been the challenge that we didn’t see coming.  We will always embrace challenge – never be fearful of change or difficulty because that is when we do our best work. In the words of Maya Angelou – I am grateful to be a woman. I must have done something great in another life’.

Louise Williams- Regional Policy Officer

My achievement as a woman is being a role model to my children, working hard and striving to make a difference in the world, but at the same time learning to recognise when family needs to come first and the importance of work-life balance.

Jennie Alder- Sexual Assault and Abuse Services Coordinator

 One of my achievements was supporting the University of Birmingham in setting up their sexual violence first responders programme, online reporting tool, bystander initiatives and train both staff and academics regularly from 2015 to 2019 on how to respond effectively in a trauma informed way to reduce re-traumatisation particularly within the conduct and appeals process.

Lucy Naylor- Workforce Manager

My professional career started at the age of 16 and for 17 years I worked in male dominated organisations, was overlooked for promotion opportunities, as one day I may have a baby and leave.

At 33 I started working for Wolverhampton University where I interviewed and was successful for a management role whilst 5 months pregnant.

The world I grew up and worked in told me that I would never progress as a woman (especially whilst pregnant). I thought that my bump would affect by chances of being successful in the role, as a pregnant woman can be seen as a liability, who will take a year off to have a child. I never expected to get the job and I am now so grateful that I was seen for my competence and capability as opposed to someone with a womb.

All women within the OPCC are integral, strong and inspirational. Two women who stand out to me as superheroes are:

  • Polly Reed for achieving CEO status at Warwickshire OPCC whilst bringing up 3 young children!
  • Rachel Skett who has returned from maternity leave, adapted to remote working and owned her role, whilst bringing up a 1 year old!

‘Strong women aren’t simply born. We are forged through the challenges of life. With each challenge we grow mentally and emotionally. We move forward with our head held high and a strength that cannot be denied. A woman who’s been through the storm and survived. We are warriors.’

Brittany Bowles- Research Officer

I feel very fortunate to be part of an organisation such as the OPCC very early on in my career. The way in which they are dedicated and focussed on inclusion and diversity is something that has always stood out to me as being special.

It feels only fitting to talk about an inspiring woman in politics given the nature of this role. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is someone who I really look up to as a woman in politics. She has been fearless in her vocalisation of sexism in her role and is a positive role model for so many younger women who are beginning their social justice journey.

Although we still have a long way to go in terms of equality, especially in the world of politics, I believe the coming years are an exciting time for women.

Sara Roach- Strategic Adviser

I never enjoyed school, I left as soon as I could and started a youth training scheme with Jaguar Cars.  I only lasted a year and a half as I couldn’t bear the lewd comments from men as we walked around the plant.  I started temping, mainly admin, and worked in a variety of different roles.  My dad died when I was 18 which took me a bit of time to get over, and not long after that I got pregnant with my first daughter.  I only had four months off work because I needed to get a job and earn some money, so I got a job as a typist at Coventry City Council.  I have always had a strong work ethic which I got from my mum, and have always given 100% to every job that I have had.  I wouldn’t ever say I was ambitious (others might disagree!) but I am definitely passionate about what I do and always wanting to do a good job.  It was this passion and hard work that helped me progress from typist, to admin, to Service Manager, to Head of Service, to Assistant Director, to Deputy Director.  This didn’t happen overnight, I started working for Coventry in 1990 and was appointed Deputy Director in August 2013. 

I loved working for the local authority, the trickiest part of which was managing people who had decided to stay in their roles for a long time and there’s nothing wrong with that(!) but they didn’t always take kindly to being managed by someone who used to do their typing.  It certainly helped me develop patience, diplomacy and a sense of humour!  So that is my journey through the public sector up until March 2015 when I decided that 25 years was enough working for the same organisation and that I wanted to take on an independent role, be my own boss and work with different organisations and people.  I also wanted to help them develop and implement their strategic ambition and improve services.  My advice to anyone is work hard and try to ensure a healthy work life balance.  I now have four daughters, a step daughter, a step son and 3 granddaughters.  I am proud to say that all of my children have got the same work ethic and passion to succeed and I know that in some way I played a part in that. 

Clare Gollop- Director of the West Midlands Violence Reduction Unit

I’m close to marking twenty years in policing, much of the last decade having been spent working with chief constables and force executive ranks across the country. I’ve seen a lot of incredible leaders, but also a lot of very ordinary ones.  Here’s what I wish I’d known sooner:

  • Make a career plan, but don’t follow it blindly. Take time to think about where you want to go, or if you don’t have a firm job role in mind, try thinking about what kind of problems you want to spend your working life puzzling out. What kind of people you want to spend your time with. Figure out what matters to you, how hard you are willing to work, and how that work fits in with the rest of your life.  If you have an idea of your next step, build your network amongst people doing that kind of role already; they will be well placed to help you gain insight and identify the next set of experiences to get under your belt so you’ll be more qualified, better prepared, and have expectations grounded in reality.
  • Take the risk, get the experience. Take on tasks and responsibilities that are tricky or out of your comfort zone, and start getting used to doing this as early in your career as you can. Explore areas you hadn’t considered before; the world is changing so fast that ploughing a narrow niche in stuff you are already good at isn’t going to help you move on; it might not even be enough to help you stand still. Collect challenging experiences and mix it up a bit. Almost all the women I know who are satisfied with their careers didn’t carve a straight path towards their current role. Keep following interesting work and challenging opportunities – you never know where you will end up
  • Build confidence. Start getting used to the idea you are capable of much more than you give yourself credit for. If you need time to build up your confidence, take on some stretch tasks within your role or if you prefer, find a way to practice outside of the spotlight.  I took on my first overt senior leadership roles as a Gold Commander in a voluntary position, and was encouraged by my then-boss to practice running something other than his organisation….But he was watching, and quick to find ways to bring that success back into the workplace – a real advocate and sponsor.
  • Advocate for yourself. Get comfortable speaking up for yourself. Step up to and use the influence that comes with your credibility in the position you hold.  Don’t forget to take some credit when things go well, as well as cheering on your team. Let people who might be able to help know what type of things you are interested in doing next. They aren’t mind readers.
  • Let go of perfectionism. Done is often better than perfect. Perfectionism keeps you trapped in your comfort zone.  Rather than speed things up, it’s a trait that’s noted for slowing down career progression amongst women more than men.  And on that note….I’m done!
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