In September, Society held a breakfast event at the House of St Barnabas for a group of ambitious women leaders in the social sector. We wanted to bring a varied group of women together who are interested in disruptive innovation and systemic change, and to enable interesting discussions about career progression, ambition, and leadership.

Society is passionate about supporting and enabling diverse talent progression in the social sector. We know there is a severe lack of diverse leadership at all levels and recognise that as an executive search firm we are a key part of the conversation for change. We therefore seek to hold meaningful events like this, where talented and promising people can network and learn from one another, and where we can work to overcome some of the obstacles to progression faced particularly by women, ethnic minorities, and the disabled.

The panel was chaired by Tanya Stevens from Society and included three speakers who shared their career insights and reflections to our guests. Our speakers were:

Lisa Harker - Director, The Nuffield Family Justice Observatory
Lisa’s career has combined research, policy, journalism, campaigning and service delivery with a focus on finding ways to improve the lives of the UK’s most disadvantaged children. Since April 2019 she has been Director of the Nuffield Family Justice Observatory, an organization seeking to ensure that decisions made about children in the family justice system are informed by research. Lisa has previously been Chief Executive of The Art Room, Director of Strategy at the NSPCC, led the thinktank the Institute for Public Policy Research, and acted as an advisor to BBC News. She has also held various senior advisory roles within government, including as ‘child poverty tsar'.

Dhivya O’Connor - Former CEO, Children with Cancer UK
Dhivya is a dynamic charity leader with over 20 years’ experience leading business transformations, engineering growth and cultivating highly effective teams. As the former Chief Executive of Children with Cancer UK, Dhivya led the strategic transformation of this 30-year-old charity. Dhivya is currently an advisor to the Belgian based charity, Positively Alive, which is seeking to spearhead a global movement to eradicate HIV and associated stigma. Prior to joining the charity sector in 2010, Dhivya spent over a decade in various commercial strategy and business development roles, across Banking, Financial Services, Travel and Retail. Dhivya is currently on a maternity break, after the recent birth of her second child.

Sophie Walker - Chief Executive, Young Women’s Trust
Sophie spent 18 years at Reuters as an international journalist and news editor, covering politics, economics, trade and conflict. Her passion for social justice drove her to get involved in advocacy work as a blogger, lobbyist, campaigner and ambassador for Ambitious About Autism, Include Me TOO and the National Autistic Society. In 2015, she helped to create the Women’s Equality Party, Britain’s first feminist political party, which she led and grew into a 45,000-member movement. Sophie joined Young Women’s Trust as Chief Executive in September 2019.