Leading Ladies Profile

This year our Gender Equity campaign created the ‘Leading Ladies’ series to celebrate, advocate for and discuss challenges facing women in leadership. To hear our series lead, Iqra Shahid's, thoughts on female leadership, see our blog ‘A Love Letter to Leading Ladies’.


We are so excited to share these profiles of leading women in their respective fields sharing their personal experiences and challenges and advice for future leaders.

 
 
 
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Deborah Gill

Biography 

Deborah Gill MBBS FRCGP EdD PFHEA is a Professor of Medical Education and acting Vice Provost, Education and Student Experience at UCL. Before taking on this role she was Director of UCL Medical School for six years and Pro Vice Provost at UCL.


Deborah qualified in medicine in 1990 from the Middlesex Hospital Medical School and completed her postgraduate training in general practice in 1995. Her academic career began in 1996 as an Academic Training Fellow in the Department of Primary Care at Bart’s and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry and then as a Lecturer in Primary Care at the Royal Free Hospital School of Medicine. In 2002 she was appointed Senior Lecturer in Medical Education at UCL Medical School to lead on both faculty development and curriculum reform and she has remained at UCL Medical School where she was made Director in 2014.


Her scholarly work has concerned peer assisted learning, education supervision, professional formation and professionalism. Her doctoral research concerned the formation of professional identity of newly qualified doctors. She led the introduction of the ambitious MBBS 2012 project which established a contemporary, integrated and patient-focused MBBS programme at UCL.

As an experienced and expert educator she holds a doctoral degree in education and is a Principal Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. In 2014 Deborah was the winner of the 2014 ‘Women in the City’ Future Leaders Award in recognition of her leadership achievements and potential.


She has recently stepped back from her role as a general practitioner in North London. She is married to a fellow GP and has one son and one naughty dog.

What has been key to your success?

Being in the right place at the right time and being open to experience. If you are really good at what you do, optimistic and willing to take on a challenge the opportunities come to you. I have also been fortunate enough to have a wonderful female mentor and boss and a ‘sponsor’ who says good things about me at higher tables. 

What accomplishments are you most proud of and why?

Being a mother and raising a happy healthy child who sees that women can be powerful, effective and should be making important decisions.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Don’t wait to be noticed. Push yourself to do what you want to do rather than waiting for opportunities. Create your own opportunities and network with as many people as you can.

How do you think we can get more women into leadership?

Encourage them at school and university to take leadership opportunities. Give them access to good 2nd-in-command roles to find their feet and their allies. Consider schemes to try something out like shadowing and secondments. Encourage them to focus on developing and using their strengths as leaders rather than their weaknesses. Mentorship with the right balance of challenge and support. Make leadership roles at all levels part-time or job share. Repeatedly offer chances/suggest applications - a bit like smokers and giving up - there is a right time but it is not obvious; it varies for each individual, it waxes and wanes.

As a female leader, what are the most significant barriers you have faced in your career and how did you overcome them?

The most important opinion in the room is the one you have of yourself. You can be your own most significant barrier. Timidity, not feeling good enough or clever enough, worrying what others think about you is a waste of energy. Coaching, experience in smaller leadership roles and getting older (and less bothered about what others think/needing people to like me) has also helped.

How do you balance your career with other roles you have in life (e.g: parent, child, friend)?

Patchily most of the time and badly from time to time. I have had to live with some guilt, had to live in a filthy house and benignly neglect my family at times. However most of the time I have been able to juggle things. I have forgiving friends, a husband without excessive ego and have, at times, worked part-time. You can have it all - but not all at the same time.

How do you feel about men not getting asked about their personal lives when women so frequently are? Is it something you feel all genders should be asked or none should?

I rarely notice this. I ask everyone I meet personal questions. It is part of having respectful curiosity and interest. I am a people person so I need chatter, I like to know what makes people tick and what might be pre-occupying them.

 
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Tahira Widlof

Biography 

Tahira Widlof is a highly experienced director of strategy, innovation and operations having worked in retail for 30 years. She has led teams in the UK and New Zealand with experience in remote working with teams in Australia, the US and India. Tahira has been responsible for sales in excess of £40M and has led in excess of 700 colleagues. She also led New Zealand’s first ever dedicated online store opening.

Tahira won the prestigious Chairman’s award at the 17th annual Asian Women of Achievement Awards in 2016. She was the guest speaker at Buckingham Palace for 2016 International Women’s week. 

Tahira has been involved in mentoring, challenging and motivating others through associations with charities, public bodies and commercial organisations. Tahira is also a Women of the Future Ambassador, which is a unique initiative that connects Women of the Future and Asian Women of Achievement Award alumni with school sixth-formers. The objective of the Programme is to provide students with mentors and role models, thus strengthening the pipeline of talent among Britain’s young women.

What has been key to your success?

Tenacity and believing in myself.

What is one characteristic that you believe every leader should possess and why?

Kindness. Demonstrating kindness positively impacts both business and society. Kindness makes business sense- it improves outcomes; whether it be productivity, engagement or customer service. People do not forget acts of kindness. This quality will manifest in being and showing friendliness, generosity, consideration, empathy, courage, authenticity and fairness.

“Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless” - Mother Teresa

What accomplishments are you most proud of and why?

Being asked to be the guest speaker at Buckingham Palace for International Women’s Week, attended by 80 leading women from across the world. 

What advice would you give your younger self?

Don’t wait to be noticed. Push yourself to do what you want to do rather than waiting for opportunities. Create your own opportunities and network with as many people as you can.

How do you think we can get more women into leadership?

Women need more role models. I am a big believer in ‘you can’t be what you can’t see’. Seeing women in senior positions will help drive the next generation of leaders who have had more opportunity to see equity at that level.

What advice would you give to aspiring female leaders? 

Get yourself a mentor who will be your sounding board and guide. This can be anyone you look up to or has the qualities you aspire to. The relationship between mentee and mentor will help you grow.

How do you balance your career with other roles you have in life (e.g: parent, child, friend)?

You have to make the time. My family have always known what my job entails and have supported me. You have to be good at planning and involve your family members in supporting household chores. I dedicate a morning at the weekend where I batch cook meals for the week to ensure we eat healthily and have something to look forward to.

People often wonder about the differences between how men and women lead. What are your thoughts on that?

My experience has been that women involve more, direct less and care about how and why something needs to be done. This is beneficial to the overall work environment as it leads to more cohesive, committed teams where things are seen through to completion. Men will take more risks but this isn’t always a good thing hence why a balanced workforce is necessary: it brings the best of both gender qualities.


“Strength lies in differences, not in similarities” - late Stephen Covey - an American educator, author, businessman and keynote speaker

 
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Dr Amy Evans

Biography 

Dr Evans is the Lead Clinician in Genitourinary Medicine (Sexual Health & HIV) & Infectious Diseases at Leeds Teaching Hospitals trust. She was a Co-Medical Lead at Leeds Sexual Health service until December 2020 and has been a GU Medicine consultant since 2005. Dr Evans qualified in Glasgow 1995 & trained in Glasgow, London, Edinburgh, Manchester, Leeds & Tanzania with studentships in Cordoba & Bogota.

What has been key to your success?

  

A sense of humour, a mutual appreciation of supportive colleagues, and long hours of hard work.

What is one characteristic that you believe every leader should possess and why?

They have to be able to demonstrate that they have listened.

What accomplishments are you most proud of and why

Creating innovative NHS job plans for talented consultants (many of whom happen to be women) who are disbelieving in their own negotiating power e.g. across 3 different specialities, with annualisation allowing overseas work, to enable a talented Dr and international bridge player to do both and aim for some work-life balance.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Bang it out! Just do 10 minutes, you don’t have to donate a kidney each time you have a deadline. Timeliness and your time are valuable.

How do you think we can get more women into leadership?

Show them that they’re already doing it and suggest shared roles, learning opportunities and mentorship. 

What advice would you give to aspiring female leaders? 

Don’t sweat the small stuff, don’t think you have to be perfect, already competent or qualified to do the job - many men don’t think like this; they give it a punt and assume they’ll learn on the job. Women are rarely so bold and often underestimate their existing competencies.


Choose your partner wisely and have discussions before it happens about future ‘what if’ scenarios e.g. what if one of you had a higher profile/ longer hours / higher paid job and the other had to pick up caring duties/ childcare etc.

Be kind - to yourself; to each other.

 
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Jane Quigley

Biography 

Jane M Quigley, RN, BSN, OCN is Senior Vice President Digital Health, PRA Health Sciences.


Jane has over 25 years of clinical haematology/oncology experience and advanced data modelling and advanced analytics experience. Jane leverages technology, applications real world data to aid in disease modelling, real world evidence, health outcomes research, therapeutic forecasting and reimbursement. Jane works with clients from pre-clinical development through post marketing safety and surveillance. Jane’s work with de-identified patient level data has been presented and published globally including the Journal of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network, The Journal of Oncology, ESMO/ECCO, ASCO, ASH, SABCS. Jane is the author of over 60 manuscripts and abstracts.

What has been key to your success?

Believing in myself and not taking no for an answer, especially from people who do not have the authority to say yes.

What is one characteristic that you believe every leader should possess and why?

Empathy. If you cannot understand where your team is coming from, you will not be able to lead them.

What accomplishments are you most proud of and why

Being the first person to use real world data for an orphan drug indication in a paediatric malignancy.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Make your own expectations, don’t accept other peoples’.

How do you balance your career with other roles you have in life?

I think balance is the hardest thing to manage, I work at this every day!

How do you feel about men not getting asked about their personal lives when women so frequently are? Is this something you feel all genders should be asked or none should?

This is always a curious thing. The gender bias including questions about personal lives I feel has improved over the years, but we have a way to go. From first-hand experience while seeking funding from a Venture Capital firm, I was asked about 10 different questions related to marriage, children, support for children at home etc. While my co-founder who was a male was not asked any. It truly is no one’s business to ask a man or a woman about their personal life.

Which woman has most inspired you and why?

My great grandmother - who lived to be 103, raised 5 children during the depression and loved to learn every day.

What advice would you give to aspiring female leaders? 

Trust your gut/instincts.

 
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Rachel Carrell

Biography 

Rachel Carrell is the founder and CEO of Koru Kids, a fast-growing tech company dedicated to building the world’s best childcare service. Originally from New Zealand, Rachel holds a masters and doctorate from the University of Oxford, where she was a Rhodes Scholar. She has received numerous awards including ‘Inspirational Mother’ and ‘Best Businesswoman in Tech’, and was elected a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum in recognition of her work. Rachel is also the mother of two young children. She was CEO of a multinational healthcare company when she had her first baby, experienced first-hand how difficult and expensive it was to arrange childcare, and decided to found Koru Kids.

What has been key to your success?

The key to my success has definitely been making connections with peers in my industry and other founders and learning from them. I have only been able to do anything because I was part of a community of leaders, founders and entrepreneurs who have helped each other learn. For me, that has been critical. It’s the same actually as a parent, I have learned pretty much all aspects of my parenting from discussing things with other parents, especially other mothers. The biggest tip I would give anyone starting out in business is: find your tribe, find your community, find a safe space where you can connect with people who are at a similar stage on the journey to you or maybe a little bit more advanced than you and learn from them.

What is one characteristic that you believe every leader should possess and why?

One of the main characteristics that I look for in people I hire- and I also think it’s very important for leaders- is humility. That’s another way of saying ‘learning orientation’ or ‘growth mindset’, to me these are all different words for the same main quality which is knowing that you have so much to learn. One of the main things if I ever give advice to any young entrepreneurs it is to ‘be a sponge’, learn from absolutely every direction you can, every situation, every person that you meet. I can really tell the difference between people who do that and people who don’t. Quite often I meet people who might be confident (which is great), might be passionate (which is great) but they can be close-minded and don’t necessarily have that learning mindset. You can tell because they don’t follow the same steep trajectory that the people who approach life with more humility have where they know they don’t know everything so they’re looking to learn as fast as they can.

How do you balance your career with other roles you have in life?

Some other roles I have in my life: I’m a wife, I’m a mother and I’m a friend. I have to say friendship right now is taking a bit of a backseat because there are only 24 hours in the day and I choose to give my time right now to my family- to my husband and my two young children- and to my business. I do like to connect with people but unfortunately the really deep ‘university-style’ friendships I used to have, I just don’t have time for them anymore. It is very important to me to balance my life with my other roles, luckily working from home makes this a lot easier. I have a full-time nanny which is very critical to my life and getting all of this balance right. For my job, what I do is I help families find nannies so you can imagine I have a wonderful nanny myself and she has been really invaluable during lockdown. She can supervise home-schooling, one of the greatest joys in my life is being able to have a meeting in my office and then wander downstairs and talk to my daughter about something that’s going on with her homework and then go back up to my office with a cup of tea. Right now, that balance is working really well but I’m very conscious that I’m extremely lucky and privileged to be able to have that set-up and so one of the things that I get out of bed for everyday is to try to help more working parents have a more balanced life and get the childcare support that they need.

How do you feel about men not getting asked about their personal lives when women so frequently are? Is this something you feel all genders should be asked or none should?

I think absolutely women and men should be asked about their personal lives. I was recently interviewed and I got asked a question like this (‘how do you balance things’) and the person asking me made sure that I knew that she asks everyone this, she definitely asked the men as well and I really appreciated her letting me know that. I think all genders should be asked, I think it’s very important that we can bring our full selves to work.

Which woman has most inspired you and why?

Right now, I take a lot of inspiration from the Prime Minister of my home country. I’m from New Zealand originally and the Prime Minister is Jacinda Ardern. She is a wonderful role model. I think she embodies modern leadership; she is very empathetic, very humble, very practical, very approachable, down to earth, she’s smart, she’s completely in control of her brief and she works very hard. I think all of these are just amazing, wonderful leadership qualities that we should look for in any leader.

As a female leader, what are the most significant barriers you have faced in your career and how did you overcome them?

For me, the two- I hate to call them barriers because they are my children!- but the two biggest, lovely challenges I have encountered are my two wonderful children. With the pregnancy and then birth… in both cases I went back to work very quickly after having them. In the case of the second one, actually, within two days I went back to work so very quickly. That was a tough juggle, it’s definitely the hardest thing that I have done in my life. How did I overcome it? I have an incredibly supportive husband. He took two months off from his work and he has a very big job himself; he works in a very high stress, very responsible job and he took two months off it to support me in what I was doing in my career. I’m a big believer in the saying that ‘the most important career decision a woman ever makes is the person that she has as her partner’.

How do you think we can get more women into leadership?

I think that solving childcare is extremely important in getting more women into leadership. I feel so passionately about this, this is the reason I founded my company KoruKids. I think that the brunt of childcare still falls on women and until we can sort out childcare; until we can make it seamless, easy and accessible, until we can make it affordable and properly supported by the government we are not going to be able to get women into leadership. I think what we’ve seen in this pandemic is that when the childcare system breaks the consequences mostly do fall on women, the pandemic has been a horrible step backwards for women. So we need this childcare reform, we need a better childcare infrastructure more desperately than ever and that is exactly what I am trying to build at KoruKids.