How NCFE is developing future female leaders

Christine Paxton NCFEMuch has been written and discussed about the need for more females to be represented at senior level in UK businesses, but what are those businesses actually doing to make this a reality and why is it so important?

Here at NCFE, a national Awarding Organisation and educational charity, we’re proud to have a number of female colleagues who have either risen through the ranks to become heads of department, or who have been recruited at the highest level for their skills and expertise.

Just a few months ago, we appointed a female Managing Director, Esme Winch, to lead NCFE in the current period of growth and change. Coming from a high profile role as Principal of Loughborough College and with years of valuable experience in both business and the further education sector, Esme was our top choice for the new position. We identified Esme as the person we needed to lead and drive our organisation forward, and hopefully seeing a female at the top of an organisation like ours will inspire others along the way.

“Our leadership team is made up of 80% females”

Our leadership team is made up of 80% females and we’re particularly pleased to have a female leading our IT services team (a sector that is well known for being male-centric). We’re highly committed to bringing more female IT experts into NCFE and the profession in general. Lindsey Gibson joined NCFE’s customer support team 20 years ago and, through the progression opportunities available which enabled her to learn IT skills, she ended up being appointed as the head of our IT services team. IT is obviously a very fast-moving industry, and Lindsey has successfully led the team through huge changes, and its transformation from a team of almost all contractors to a large team of in-house IT professionals.

In addition, two females from our leadership team – our Centre Support Manager, Jill Gray, and I – were pleased to be selected to be part of the Shine Executive Leadership Programme.

As well as celebrating females who are in senior leadership roles, it’s essential that we don’t forget the generation who are currently deciding on their future careers and coming into employment. Last year, we introduced our Rising Stars Academy, where we took on six apprentices, trained them up and placed them in our IT services and digital marketing teams. Following the completion of the programme, four of the apprentices were rewarded with permanent roles at NCFE, including the only female IT apprentice Chelsea Dryden.

“Last year, we introduced our Rising Stars Academy, where we took on six apprentices, trained them up and placed them in our IT services and digital marketing teams.”

We’ve all been impressed by Junior Tester Chelsea’s skills and abilities over the last year, and she triumphed over her five fellow apprentices to be named ‘Apprentice of the Year’ in a ceremony held to celebrate the apprentices’ completion of the programme. We’re looking forward to seeing her progress and, with Lindsey managing her team, she’ll be able to experience first-hand the opportunities available in the IT sector for talented females.

As an organisation that’s always focused on investing in and developing its people, it’s important to us that we help develop the next generation of female business leaders. With such inspiring examples of female leaders within NCFE, and younger colleagues being trained and inspired by them, we hope that our organisation will continue to be one that sets an example for others to follow.


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