Helen McStravick


  • Job: Policy Officer
  • Organisation: Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government (MHCLG)
  • Years in public service: 3.5

My grandmother/mother was a…

My Grandmother started work aged 14 at Tillies, a shirt factory in Derry, Northern Ireland. She moved to London and worked at Kellogs and Marks and Spencer’s for a while, but after much pestering by her Mum she left her job and returned home for a quiet life aged 21!

She worked making records at British Sound Recording, and aged 38 she returned to shirt making which she did until she sadly had a heart attack aged just 45.

Me in a nutshell

Coming from Northern Ireland it’s very hard not to be political, and I learned very early on that I hated the politics of home and how they would only stick to their own (religious) side when canvassing for votes.

It did not help that on our (religious) side, my Dad and his Father were on opposing ends; one more peaceful and the other not so much!

What I noticed was that it was the women who bore the brunt of this; it was their sons and husbands being murdered and yet they were unable to voice their opinions.

The political elite were very wealthy, white and male. So as soon as I could I moved to the mainland.

I am a socialist feminist. You would think by saying socialist that 'feminist' would be implied, but I have learnt by experience that that is most definitely not the case.

I have experience working within an office at a local council, and being 31 and working with Directors who were in there 50s, white and male was very challenging. It was the first time I really understood that some men presume that, because they are male, I shouldn’t be getting in their way.

Well, they got a surprise. 

My role

I have just moved into a Policy role at MCHLG after spending nearly 5 years at DWP.

There I was Team Leader in Child Maintenance, running a team of 10 caseworkers who have to deal with some difficult conversations from families who are hurting.

Money is an emotive subject, but I am proud that we work hard to ensure that as many children as possible receive the help they should get.

If I had a magic wand, what I would do to accelerate gender equality?

I would stop girls attacking each other for the way they look. Sometimes we are our own worst enemies. There is nothing weaker than a divided opposition, so we need to stop focussing on the negatives and be supportive of each other.

I believe that is where the true power lies.

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