The 52-year-old from Breightmet in Bolton, who attended the NPW awards with her daughter, says she has been inspired by many strong women and men in her life and wants to make sure others get inspired to strive for equality.
She says one of the strongest woman in her life was her mum, who sadly passed away just a few months before she won the NPW award, and her dad was the biggest feminist she ever met.
Now she has pledged to give mentoring time to support young women starting out in their careers and says women and men need to work together to show that women should and can be brilliant leaders.
“I am very, very lucky to have been inspired by so many brilliant women and men during my life. I was lucky enough to be adopted by a hard working strong mum, who was my rock and I had a great childhood. Sadly, she died a few months ago.
“I could not have worked without my amazing mum looking after my two children from being babies until they started school. Mum didn’t really understand what my job entailed but she just wanted me to be happy.
“My dad died over twenty years ago and was a fiery trade unionist engineer who worked at British Steel and fought for workers’ rights. He wanted me to do well at school and go to university. He inspired me to challenge the status quo and was the biggest feminist I’ve ever met!
“Like most women I have faced many challenges. Patriarchy is as Christine Lagarde said “an insidious conspiracy”. I have been asked in interviews if I have any children, I’ve been told to wear dresses not trousers, and I’ve been handed coats as I walk into a room to chair a meeting. It is an everyday battle for equality, which we all have to fight.
“I think the thing I am the most proud of is creating strong, resilient teams. The team at Wigan is amazing. We are supportive, challenging, courageous and humble. We created BELIEVE IN HER to tackle domestic violence and gender stereotypes and it’s been embraced by the community, sportspeople, primary and secondary schools and brilliant actors like Maxine Peake and Sir Ian McKellan. We are inspiring young women to follow their dreams with confidence.
“I was so bowled over and genuinely elated to win Transformational Leader at the Northern Power Women Awards! I took my 22-year-old daughter, Lily, who is just starting out in her career and she was so proud that I won and really inspired by the event. This is so important for men and women to celebrate and needs to happen every year.
“One of the best books I’ve ever read is “Lean In” by Sheryl Sandberg, CEO at Facebook. If you haven’t read it, please do, it will change your life! The Heidi – Howard scenario is such a true phenomena. Sheryl describes how success is positively correlated with likeability for men whilst negatively correlated for women.
“In an experiment at Harvard students of both sexes judged the same successful businessperson – called Heidi in one group and Howard in another. Howard was described as inspiring and a true leader. The same person but called Heidi was described as a ruthless, cold and hostile person. We need to stop doing this!
“Women and men need to work together to show women can be brilliant leaders and it is ok and encouraged to “Lean In” and sit around the board room table together to develop better plans informed by courageous creative minds.
“Wigan Council has developed a Deal with local residents to rebuild communities in the face of austerity by brokering a less paternalistic and more partnership relationship between citizen and state. I want to continue this work for the next few years and really embed it as a fresh approach that saves public money and improves people’s lives.”