The House

Women Making History Today: Joan, Malorie and Sharon


Iwould like to pay tribute to not one but three women who have paved the way for Black women in recent years across literature, healthcare, and the civil service and who are all still making history.

Having worked in the NHS myself for more than a decade, I would rst like to mention Joan Saddler. She has held a series of leadership roles in the NHS and received an OBE for services to health and diversity in 2007. Joan continues her un inching commitment to improving diversity and reducing inequaliti­es as director of equality and partnershi­ps in the NHS Confederat­ion and co-chair of the BME Leadership Network. She has assiduousl­y brought a ention to the impacts of inequaliti­es on both sta and patients within our health service, championin­g the bene ts that diversity in leadership has on outcomes. Recently, she has produced important work, not just helping identify the worse Covid19 outcomes among ethnic minority communitie­s but also proposing concrete steps to tackle this issue. At a time when government has sought to shut down conversati­ons around inequaliti­es, many would do well to listen to Joan.

Malorie Blackman needs almost no introducti­on. Millions of children and young adults have grown up with her novels for more than 30 years, which have done so much to increase the visibility of Black characters in literature – which is sadly still lacking. Most notably, she wrote the thought-provoking Noughts & Crosses series, recently made into a

BBC TV series. ese books provide important insights on racism and injustice for all ages. Yet the nine books in the series are just a small fraction of her incredible output. She should be considered in the top tier of British writers.

e path to Black representa­tion in Parliament is o en retold, but neglected are the stories of those who trod similar, di cult paths through the civil service. Formidable economist Dame Sharon White did break down so many barriers, becoming the rst Black and second only female permanent secretary at the traditiona­lly male, pale and stale Treasury. anks to Sharon and others charting the way, the civil service has become dramatical­ly more representa­tive. Now she has gone on to chair the John Lewis Partnershi­p and is helping the company stay relevant, in a di cult economic climate, while retaining its distinctiv­e ethical commitment­s.

I’m sure we have not seen the last of what Sharon, alongside Joan and Malorie, have to o er.

“We have not seen the last of what Sharon, alongside Joan and Malorie, has to o er”

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Malorie Blackman

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