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Tuesday 20 April 2021

"Fix the system, not the people who don’t fit"

PSM - and FDA President Vicky Johnson - report from our first ever Virtual Women into Leadership event.


Women into Leadership was established to help women with the challenges they face as they aspire to achieve senior grades within the civil service. Starting in London eleven years ago, the event has now grown to cover the north and Midlands in England, as well as events across Wales and Scotland.

The FDA works with media and events specialists Dods to create an agenda full of inspiring senior speakers who share their experiences and advice, as well as breakout sessions from coaches and consultants to help build confidence and focus on maximising impact.

After an incredibly uncertain 2020 for everyone, the first virtual Women into Leadership event was held over two days in late February 2021. Speakers included Department for Education Permanent Secretary Susan Acland-Hood, Deputy Cabinet Secretary Helen MacNamara, former Permanent Secretary Clare Moriarty, and Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Permanent Secretary Sarah Healey.

Acland-Hood spoke about creating a culture of inclusivity and inspiring positive change, telling delegates “don’t make a decision on a bad day”. Moriarty discussed authenticity and the need to “fix the system not the people who don’t fit”. She also shared her definition of leadership as “making it possible for other people to do their best work”.

MacNamara focused on the conundrum of confidence and how “kindness is a motivator”, while Healey told delegates to believe in themselves, finishing by stating “if we can cope with this [pandemic] we can cope with anything!”

FDA President Vicky Johnson shares her insight as Chair of the first virtual Women into Leadership conference.

Chairing was an amazing if not daunting experience and so many people fed back that they felt energised it has clearly worked well.  The slides and presentations being accessible online mean delegates can view the material again and crucially, look at the break out sessions they didn’t manage to watch on the day.

Women into Leadership is important to the FDA for many reasons: to provide our members with some development and some food for thought; to show women (and men) aspiring to senior grades how some people have achieved those promotions; and provide hope that there a way forward on your career path, however unusual your start may have been.  It also provides networking opportunities, the power of which can never be underestimated. 

But this year, I think it has been doubly important to provide delegates with the chance to see how others have coped with remote working, to exchange anecdotes about how they separate home from work and to simply share experiences to enable us to continue to develop.  The FDA has done some amazing work this year, moving a lot of what it offers online – this is another shining example and one that should remain a focus however it develops.

The FDA and Dods are aiming to hold physical Women into Leadership events across the UK during late 2021 and early 2022. For the latest information, including how to register, visit www.womenintoleadership.co.uk - FDA members receive a significant discount.

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