Thursday, July 14, 2016

Thought Leader #5 | Lesley Dixon | Chief Executive PSS

The Women’s Organisation Thought Leader Series is back with our fifth reflection. We have previously spoken to Hana Awwad of Chocolate Envelope Designs, Jennie Riding from Ancorra Environmental Services Ltd, Lisa Pearson from the Hampson Hughes Group and Maggie Mullan, Principal at Maggie Mullan Architects Ltd. This time we asked CEO of PSS Lesley Dixon to share her thoughts with us following her award success earlier this year. Here is what Lesley told us.

Lesley Dixon Chief Executive PSS

"I was asked to write this having won the Chief Executive’s award in the Women in Business Awards. These awards are about women excelling in leadership positions across the city. Right now it is difficult to ignore the issue of women leaders. As things stand our next Prime Minister will be a woman and there is a challenge from a woman to lead the opposition; although given the recent pace of events that could all change by the time I finish writing this!

Those of you know that know PSS will probably know us as a major provider of services in the health and social care area, both in this city and across a number of regions in the UK – but there’s so much more to the organisation. Not only have ideas such as Citizens Advice Bureau and Legal Aid come from PSS; it also has a rich story to tell on women in leadership roles.

PSS was founded by Eleanor Rathbone. And Eleanor Rathbone was Chair of PSS for a number of years. From its inception in 1919 PSS has had a paid senior staff member; our first General Secretary was a woman called Dorothy Keeling. To have two women at the helm back at that point in time was pretty radical. And PSS’ focus on women didn’t stop there. Our founder Eleanor Rathbone campaigned for and oversaw the introduction of what was known as family allowance – an amount of money paid weekly to the mother as opposed to the father. PSS also supported women in the face of powerful opposition – on one occasion from the Catholic Church. Many years ago PSS was giving family planning advice to married women. PSS had agreed not to advise Catholic women, but the Catholic Church wanted PSS to stop this activity in its entirety. But we didn’t, because we didn’t think this was the right thing to do. There followed a stand-off with the church, but PSS didn’t back down. A number of volunteers stopped giving their time, but they were more than compensated for by new people who saw that PSS was doing what it believed to be right.

And our focus on women continues as we approach our centenary. We have services that work with women offenders as well as victims of domestic violence. And today our Leadership Team of four is filled with women – and purely and simply because they are the best people for the job.

So whilst the media is concentrating on issues such as hem length and kitten heels – its attitude to women being seen for what it is – organisations like PSS are full of women doing amazing things!"

The Women’s Organisation would like to say a massive thank you to Lesley for being part of our Thought Leader series and for sharing with us her reflections.

To find out more about the amazing work of PSS please visit

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