Sheila Sturgeon


  • Job:Policy Delivery for Apprenticeships
  • Organisation: Department for Education
  • Years in public service: 2 as a Civil Servant plus 20+ years in the voluntary and statutory sectors

My past …

I was born in the sixties, went to school through the seventies, partied through the eighties, became a student in the (early) nineties, had something of an epiphany at this point, and have worked where I feel I can make a difference ever since.

Along the way I have been a daughter, a sister, a wife, a Mum and then a single Mum, a girlfriend again, a life partner, a Step-Mum, a wife again (to the life partner), a Mother-in-Law and 18 months ago, added Grandma to my list of titles.  I could also add step-sister, half-sister, daughter-in-law, sister-in-law.

As a child and as a teenager, I saw the women around me playing all of these roles, whilst the men in their life carried on being just that - men.

The women kept house and hearth together while the men worked (if the women worked, it was part-time only to buy ‘extras’ for the children).

Men decided how the family spent its money, and generally were the voices of authority in the family.   Children were seen rarely, and only heard if Dad said it was ok.

These women, many of them intelligent, creative and strong characters, played their roles but were never themselves, as was expected at that time.

My present …

In my late 20s, after having my son, leaving my violent husband and then going to University to do the degree that I denied myself (through bloody-minded rebelling!) as a teenager, I found me, and refused to be defined by the various roles I had accumulated as I moved through life’s phases.

I am a curious mix of fiercely independent and utterly reliant upon others’ opinions of me, fighting ‘imposter syndrome’ on a daily basis like many women of my age.

I joined the Civil Service just over 2 years ago after a couple of decades working in the voluntary sector, raising money and delivering programmes supporting disadvantaged people.

I am strongly motivated by two things in my professional life – making a difference and enjoying what I do.  I am very lucky that I am able to do both.

The women of my past had none of the opportunities I have sought out and grasped with both hands.

And that, I think, is one of the key differences.  We are, generally, free to find opportunities outside of the home, and to bring these experiences back with us so that we pass progress forward.

The doors are mostly unlocked, if only we push on them. Sometimes, though, we need to push very, very hard!

Of course, this is not true of every woman, and is not true everywhere, and so there is much, much more to do.

My future …

My future is retirement.  But it’s retirement on my terms (along with my fab husband of course!).

I will drop to part-time, and not be forced out of work by an arbitrary law that says a woman can not work after the age of 60 (as happened to my Mum).

Perhaps I will study (I like the idea of doing PhD in retirement!).  Or perhaps I won’t!  I shall definitely enjoy being an active, involved Grandma.

I hope that I will be able to watch from the sidelines as more women are appointed to the Boards of top companies; perhaps we will see the first female Chancellor of the Exchequer, Head of the Civil Service, President of the USA – there are lots of roles we have not cracked yet.

50:50 representation in Parliament?

Girls will be educated all around the world.

Consent will be the norm, and abuse will be rare.

Men will be feminists.

In fact, my hope is that gender just will not be an issue, and nor will sexuality. And while we are at it, all types of discrimination – race, disability, religion – will be a thing of the past.

Ok, maybe this is a fantasy – at least in my lifetime.  But I do believe in the inherent goodness of people and that this is all possible.  Let’s hope this is sooner, and not later.

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