Ruth Shaw is Chief Executive of the Sports Grounds Safety Authority in addition to sitting on the board of Women in Football. She is a Governor of Sutton College of Learning for Adults and she also chairs their Development and Standards Committee, overseeing the quality of their curriculum and learner experience. Ruth’s previous roles include Chief Executive of the Football Licensing Authority and Deputy Director for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.
“…doing a good job is not necessarily enough. I spent years thinking that if I worked hard and delivered results I’d be recognised, valued and promoted. Over time I’ve learnt you need to do more to succeed – you need to be active in planning your career and communicating your achievements, and you need to find ways to increase your visibility and build relationships…”
Women in Parliament – numbers are increasing but still some way to go
The next general election will take place on 7th May giving people across the UK the chance to choose their MP. Of the 650 MPs in the House of Commons at present just 148, or around 23%, are women.
One Minister I worked for said that when she joined Parliament there were more MPs called John than there were female MPs in Parliament, so things have improved since then, but there’s still some way to go.
The role and values of Civil Servants
Behind every Minister is a team of Civil Servants. The Civil Service supports the government of the day in developing and implementing its policies, and in delivering public services. Civil servants are expected to carry out their roles with dedication and a commitment to four core values: integrity, honesty, objectivity and impartiality.
Civil Service careers for women
There are still more men than women in senior positions in the Civil Service, but the balance is improving. Last year’s ONS survey showed that at 31st March 2014 just over half (53%) of all Civil Service employees were female. The proportion of females working at Senior Civil Service level was 37.7%, an increase of 1.5 percentage points from 31st March 2013 and 6.6 percentage points on 31st March 2008.
My roles in the Civil Service
I joined the Civil Service in 1999 through the graduate recruitment scheme, and since then I’ve held a number of fascinating roles from working on the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic bid, to my current role as Chief Executive of the Sports Grounds Safety Authority.
The power to change lives
I love the variety of jobs I’ve had, and I love the fact that public servants have the power to change lives. I’ve worked on complex policy areas, in challenging delivery roles, and with some of the brightest people you could meet.
Tips to be a good public servant
One of my managers, who was also a great mentor, gave me some excellent tips about being a good public servant early in my career which I still rely on:
- Never say what Ministers want to hear unless it’s true (and never say you know something when you don’t);
- Ministers want facts and ideas, not opinions (they’ve got their own already);
- Never involve people from more than two levels in any one task (one to specify / monitor / facilitate; one to execute);
- Sometimes reason is not enough, you need to use other methods to persuade;
- Never step into big shoes!
Doing a good job is not necessarily enough – you need to do more to succeed
I’d add another piece of advice, which I think women in particular often learn too late, that doing a good job is not necessarily enough. I spent years thinking that if I worked hard and delivered results I’d be recognised, valued and promoted. Over time I’ve learnt you need to do more to succeed – you need to be active in planning your career and communicating your achievements, and you need to find ways to increase your visibility and build relationships.
Stretching yourself, finding new ways to develop your skills and raise your profile
Finding a mentor and developing networks can be helpful, as can seeking out stretch assignments or extra projects to develop your skills and raise your profile. Five years ago I became a governor at my local adult education college because I wanted to do something within my community, but I also knew it would be a good way to get board level experience.
I’m an active mentor, not just because I want to help a generation of future leaders, but also because I always learn something new myself. I regularly attend networking events run by organisations such as Women 1st, mainly because they’re great fun, but also because I’ve met so many people who I could help or who have helped me, and that’s what makes the world go round.
I founded TEDxWhitehallWomen in 2012, to bring together women from across the Civil Service and beyond to share their stories and spread ideas. As well as hearing from amazing speakers and creating a really vibrant community of interest, one of the best things to come out of TED for me was the collaboration that emerged with one of the members of the project team, Simone Roche, Managing Director of Women 1st.
Why women should ask other women for help
I hardly knew Simone when I asked her to help me with TEDxWhitehallWomen, but she didn’t hesitate to get stuck in. She’s a real force of nature, and reminds me why women should ask other women for help.
Simone took on the licence for TEDxWW in 2013, travelled to Rio to TED Global in 2014 to learn more, and on 29th May she’ll be holding the next TEDxWhitehallWomen event in London. It’ll be three weeks after the nation goes to the polls, so it’ll be interesting to see if we have more women in public life, and what the new Government’s plans for improving gender equality will be.
I’m sure TEDxWhitehallWomen will be as inspiring, entertaining and enjoyable as anything else Simone turns her hand to. I’ll certainly be there – and you’d be welcome to join us.