Award-winning Zoe inspires others
The Deputy Principal of Middlesbrough College is showing women in the FE and Skills sector that they can have a successful career and have a family.
Zoe Lewis has recently won the Women’s Leadership Network’s (WLN) first ever Inspiring Leader Award, after being nominated by her Principal. The judges said Zoe was chosen because of “her ability to focus on operational matters and strategic priorities......and by giving her two children the same time, energy and commitment that she takes to work, she is a good role model for junior staff in the college, who see that successful careers can be combined with happy family lives.
Sally Dicketts, chair of WLN and principal of Oxford and Cherwell Valley College added: “Given the current under-representation of women in senior leadership roles, it is important to have role models who will encourage more women to aim high. If women with children do not progress in their careers, the resources used for their development are wasted and the sector loses these women’s substantial skills, experience and intellect. ”
Zoe is a chartered management accountant, and worked for local authorities and a police authority before joining Middlesbrough College in 2005. One of her greatest achievements at the college was overseeing the college’s transition from four, tired sites, to one single, modern £70m campus – at a time when she was starting her family. Middlesbrough College is in the top 10% for full-time course grades in the FE, in the country, despite being in an area of high deprivation and low GCSE attainment.
Zoe, who turns 40 in July, lives near Middlesbrough, in North Yorkshire. Although she was surprised and honoured to win the award, she said she has been lucky to have a supportive husband, family and employer. She feels there is pressure on women to maintain a successful career when they have children, and that this is not always easy without flexible employers, childcare and support systems. As regards being an inspiration to others, Zoe is very modest. She said: “I’m not sure if I am an inspiration, I always try to do my very best at work and at home, I have a lot of energy and drive, but also I’ve been fortunate to work for good forward thinking employers too.”
Looking to the future, in May this year Zoe started the LSIS Senior Leadership and Management Programme. So far she has taken one module but described it as ‘fantastic’. She said: “Through the Programme I have developed a personal development plan and so far have covered coaching, mentoring and strategy. The module I have taken brought me into contact with 20 other senior leaders from the FE & Skills sector. The group really gelled and it was a boost to mix with like-minded individuals.” The next career goal for Zoe is to become a Principal. Zoe said: “In the past I have lacked confidence, but now I feel ready to take on a new challenge. My advice to anyone who wants to further their career is to have confidence in their abilities and to stretch their boundaries. Like a lot of senior managers, I have to choose how I spend my time carefully and I wasn’t too sure what to expect from the Senior Leadership and Management Programme but now I would recommend it to other senior professionals.”
(Left-right): Sally Dicketts, chair of WLN and principal of Oxford and Cherwell Valley College and Zoe Lewis
Last updated: 14 January 2013