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Gillian Whitworth - the woman driven by her belief in justice and equality

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Profile picture of Gillian who is standing in front of a white wall. Gillian has short brown hair and is wearing a gold, purple, white and green suffrage centenary lanyard


Job: Policy Officer, Bioeconomy Strategy

Organisation: Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

Years in Public Service: 5 months

My grandmother was a…

Both my grandmothers worked their way up in healthcare, despite graduating school with few qualifications to speak of. My maternal grandma, Beth, was personal assistant to Dr David Marsden, a respected specialist in Parkinson’s disease, whilst my Dad’s mum, who us kids called Mimi, was a nurse who treated patients with Tuberculosis and later became a ward sister.

From what I can remember, both were strong-willed and straight-talking women who believed in the power of hard work and caring for others, particularly their families. It is hard to know what they would think about feminism today, being a product of a very different time and culture, but undoubtedly, they were keen to see their children and grandchildren succeed.

The other strong female influence in my life has been my mother, who raised me to believe that I can achieve anything I put my mind to. Her and my dad have been huge influences on shaping my attitude to work, relationships and life.

Me in a paragraph

I am quite an ambitious and driven person. For as long as I can remember, this drive has come from a strong belief in justice and equality, and that everyone deserves the opportunity to live their life to the fullest.

It also comes from being a perfectionist: I enjoy working hard and look for any opportunity to improve, as I think there’s always more we can learn – whether that’s in work or life in general.

As a result, I tend to have a rather hectic schedule and enjoy being busy.

However, I am incredibly lucky to be surrounded by supportive parents, partner, siblings and close friends who help keep me sane and grounded. I try to take opportunities to look around when I can to really appreciate my luck in having such great people around me.

My role

I am a Policy Officer in the Bioeconomy team, which means a variety of things depending on the day and week! As the bioeconomy includes the sectors using biomass and biology, our work spans everything from bio-based plastics to aquaculture (growing seaweed) and bioenergy to industrial biotechnology.

In a lot of areas, it is seeing how we can use biomass and biological materials as a more sustainable alternative to processes that currently use fossil fuels. It is an exciting area to work in as there are so many opportunities for biology to help us address challenges we are facing as a planet, like climate change and food security, and really make a difference to people’s lives. That’s what really motivates me in this role.

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

This is a very hard question to answer! There has been huge progress over the last 100 years, but part of the difficulty we face in speeding up progress for gender equality is fighting against an inevitable backlash to change. Those who have benefitted from the current unequal state of affairs (both women and men) are powerful and often keen to see that things stay as they are.

Movements like #MeToo have been a powerful way to express widespread feelings and experience and fight back against these power disparities, but similar conversations have happened in the past and led to only glacial progress.

I would use my magic wand to speed up the rate at which we are addressing issues like sexual harassment, equal pay and violence against women in all its forms to ensure that these discussions turn into real action. We have also got further to go in bringing intersectionality into our efforts and ensuring equality for ALLwomen.

I would also want to encourage more open discussion amongst men on the way that society’s expectations around masculinity can be damaging both to men themselves and the people around them; we need to invite everyone into this conversation if we want true gender equality.

Anything else you’d like to say

I would like to say thanks to the team running the blog – I’ve really enjoyed reading about the amazing work and lives of women across the Civil Service - as well as the wider team that have been working on the Centenary celebrations. Look forward to seeing what else happens this year!

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