Hello PPMA Members and Friends

On this International Women’s Day, we have asked some of our female members to talk about what they #ChooseToChallenge and below, Emma Browes, a PPMA Board member and HR Service Manager at Leeds City Council, Neisha Porter, PPMA HR Rising Star 2020 and Head of OD at London Borough of Sutton and Hannah Bornet, PPMA Board member and Inclusion and Wellbeing Manager at the Financial Ombudsman Service have all given us their views. Of course all three of them (along with all of our members) have been at the thick of the fast moving and changing workplace environment caused by the pandemic:

Emma Browes, PPMA Board member and HR Service Manager at Leeds City Council:

Choose to challenge is the perfect theme this year in what has been a most challenging of years for everyone.

The pandemic has served to accelerate so much change and bring into sharper focus so much that we need to change. The events of the year have spurred many to raise their voices and makes themselves heard, the Black Lives Matter movement reminds us both of the power of the raised collective voice and that we should never be complacent and think that we have done enough.

As people professionals we are in a unique position to influence and challenge. We work within our organisations to help shape how they respond to world around us and are able to capitalise on the energy of our leadership to make change and take those commitments forward. We play a key role in making sure every individual in our organisations have the best everyday experience

at work and are delivering the best services to make our communities places where everyone can thrive.

International women’s day is one of those days which gives us the opportunity to focus on and reflect on where we have made progress, and where we still need to do more. Just like any ‘protected

characteristic’ none of us fit neatly into one category – not all women have the same experience and that many different factors combine together to both empower and oppress. Just one of the things which the past year has brought home is that we (particularly those in a position of privilege) need to take a more nuanced approach to how we listen, amplify and act.

This is a unique time which demands a unique response. Now is a time to challenge ‘the way we always do things’. We have an opportunity to really reflect on ourselves, how we look at the world and how as people professionals we take action to change.”


Neisha Porter, PPMA HR Rising Star 2020 and Head of OD at London Borough of Sutton:

It’s International Women’s Day and I feel very honoured to share a few thoughts as the world celebrates women!

I am a mother, daughter, sister, aunt, friend and a HR professional to name a few roles I try my best to navigate. It isn’t always easy and given the year that we’ve all experienced it has been a challenging one.

As I reflect on the year professionally, I can honestly say it is the year where I’ve stepped up and stepped out. Hmm what do I mean? I decided to be bold and intentional about the next stage in my career. The first step was applying to the PPMA Rising Star Award, which provided an opportunity for me to be assessed along with other HR professionals. It was such a great learning and networking experience. It was significant step as I counted myself in the running. I think as women all to often we count ourselves out. Maybe due to caring responsibilities, self doubt or even not seeing representation that resonates with us personally.

The next step was applying for a new role during a global pandemic. Those internal conversations tried to rear, naming all the reasons why it might not be the right time. I didn’t listen, I chose to be bold. Here I am being bold again writing to celebrate us Women. My message is simple let’s be bold, let’s step up and out.


Hannah Bornet,  PPMA Board member and Inclusion and Wellbeing Manager at the Financial Ombudsman Service: 

I am choosing to challenge people that use words that have been gendered to undervalue women such as bossy, moody, bubbly or giggly which play into a narrative of unprofessionalism and lack of talent and intelligence. It’s the small things that creep in to the bigger issues and ultimately end in a gender pay gap.

I am aware that I am coming from a position of white, cis straight privilege and my experiences have not included any overt behaviour from others that I could say were discriminatory. I would say that as my #choosetochallenge may suggests – I have experienced underlying currents of belittling, degrading and dismissal, insinuating a lack of intelligence or the right to be part of a conversation – you know, having that seat at the table. And it takes unnecessary time to work through those initial assumptions and prove you are a worthy colleague.

As I have progressed in my career, I experience more pressure to conform to what I would term as white, middleclass, patriarchal traits that are systemic throughout the world of work. The way you participate in meetings, never show emotion, the need for “intellectual” language, maybe even some Latin, seem to be some of the unsaid requirements. This is not anyone’s fault but a legacy we need to disband and move forward from. There has been progress, but still have work to do to shift the dynamics.

I think until we have reached true equality across all characteristics, women need to have an active voice in the organisation raising awareness around specific issues. We need to be open about the reality for people with periods and going through the menopause and the impact of this in the workplace. HR have a specific role to keep these conversations going and not only offer a safe space for women to talk about these things, but also engage with managers to be able to better support thier people.

Every person is made up of individual cells and go through an individual set of experiences and the more we move away from over simplified and automatic thinking, the more we will understand about how special and amazing all people are and the richer our lives and workplaces will be. But until then, women need to continue to challenge the current status quo (see, I can use Latin if I want to!).

Want to hear more women’s voices?  Look out for a new podcast series coming soon.

Happy International Women’s day 2021 from everyone at PPMA!