Why I’d like to win the Female Leader Award – for our female apprentices. And why it’s ok if I don’t.


This year I have been nominated as Female Leader of the Year in the Downtown Women in Business Awards. I don’t normally enter awards; and I didn’t ask people to nominate or vote for me, but given I am in the final three I thought I would share a few words about why I’d like to win.

It’s all about our female apprentices here at Plus Dane.  I left school after my O levels and went into the world of work as a young woman from a very ordinary background.  A few years later I was lucky enough to get a job in a small, radical housing association called CDS. Its senior leaders were a group of women who inspired me in all kinds of ways. I learnt from them the strength and determination that they put into practice to change things in communities who needed their help most. Through them, and my colleagues I entered a whole world of quite radical feminism and was introduced to writers and activists who truly inspired me.

Over the years I have been fortunate to work for many people, both men and women, who taught me never to fetter my ambition; to believe in myself, continue to educate myself and to put something back into our communities.

I’ve had an amazing career so far.  I’ve been able to run a city council with 12,000 employees, work in Westminster directly for a Cabinet Minister and now as Chief Executive of Plus Dane I have effectively ‘come home’ - as the genesis of our association was CDS and I am sat in the office of the chief executive who first inspired me.

As a leader I am passionate about nurturing talent and especially about bringing young people into the workforce and giving them the tools and space to grow and shine.  The Plus Dane Board shares that vision,  as a result of which we were able last year to take on 18 young apprentices.  These are our leaders of the future and I hope they come to realise their ambitions and dreams while with us. 

Our female apprentices are coming with me to the Downtown Awards so that they can be inspired by the eclectic range of amazing women I know will be there; from young entrepreneurial women beginning their working life, often  running micro businesses to women with more experience under their belt or those working in the corporate world.

So if I win the award it’s for them – to let them know that they inspire me. And that their creativity and energy is a wonderful thing to experience in Plus Dane.

And if I don’t win, that’s ok too, because the other two women shortlisted, Cat Foley and Louise Sui are both truly worthy winners, as are lots of other women who aren’t even on the list.  Sometimes it’s not about winning. It’s about trying to demonstrate leadership to others.

So my message to our apprentices is ‘Be inspired.  Believe in yourself. Don’t let anybody fetter your ambition.  Go forth and . . . lead.’