About the network

As in most industries, women, though well represented in the lower and middle echelons of the public affairs world, are under-represented in top posts. There are some incredibly successful and inspirational women at the top in public affairs, but many more who aspire to get there and struggle to achieve it.

Launched by women in the latter group and supported by women in the former, the Women in Public Affairs Network is an opportunity for women from across the industry to come together in an informal setting, to share experiences, offer advice and support and explore how we can work together to help smash the glass ceiling.

Our Aim:

• Our aim is to set up a network of women working in the public affairs arena, after we found from working in the industry and doing further research that the majority of senior practitioners were men.

• We envisage women from the industry coming together to network, support each other and find solutions to fixing this imbalance of men to women senior practitioners.

• We hope to have networking events and forums at different times and places to suit all working women, which will provide a supportive and advisory platform.

• We welcome feedback and ideas from both men and women public affairs professionals to ensure the network is successful.

Why was the network set up?
“When deciding to make the leap from politics into public affairs I did a lot of research into the different agencies, and was surprised by the relatively small number where the senior team featured as many, or more, women as men.

Baffled by this I also looked for a public affairs women’s network to join to see if I could find some answers, receive some training and find networking opportunities and was surprised to find that no such network existed.

I then embarked upon the CIPR Public Affairs Diploma at the PR Academy I got talking to Ella Uziell-Hamilton who had had a similar experience and had worked on women’s leadership projects in the past. We decided to have a go at setting up a network ourselves. The rest is history!”

Laura Gilmore

About Us

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Ella Fallows (nee Uziell-Hamilton)

Ella started her career working for Kerry McCarthy MP in Parliament, after undertaking a Masters degree in Parliamentary Studies at Leeds University. Following this she moved to Dods where she spent five years, initially in the parliamentary training division, and later in the political engagement division as Communications and Campaigns Manager.

In June 2012 Ella moved to Lexington Communications, where she is Deputy Head of Political Intelligence,  leading on the effective delivery of the company’s political intelligence service. Ella also works on the company’s pro-bono offer, working on campaigns for BeatBullying, One Billion Rising and Platform 51 (now the Young Women’s Trust).

Having lead on the delivery of women’s leadership projects for the public and private sectors, including the hugely successful Women into Leadership conference for the Civil Service, Ella brings her understanding of the key issues affecting women in all workplaces to the Network.

Laura Gilmore

Laura Gilmore started her career in politics working for the Rt Hon David Laws MP in campaigns and research. After this Laura went on to work in local and regional government at Liverpool City Council and for a leading London Assembly Member at City Hall. Laura made the move into the Public Affairs industry in 2010 and joined a public affairs agency working on a variety of accounts.

Laura went back into politics after landing a job as the Head of the Liberal Democrat House of Lords Whips’ Office, as she wanted to gain further political experience whilst the Liberal Democrats were part of the Coalition Government.

Vice Chair of Liberal Democrat Women, Laura is passionate about equality issues and co-founded the Women in Public Affairs Network in the UK with Ella Uziell-Hamilton after a chance conversation whilst doing the CIPR Public Affairs diploma course.

Executive Committee Members

The Executive Committee is appointed on an annual basis and is made up of 10 women from across the industry, from in-house roles and agency. The Committee meets bi-monthly and its role is to put forward ideas for events and activities that the Network can undertake, and to help in finding venues and sponsors for our activity. Additionally, committee members will be contributing to our blog and helping to raise the profile of the Network across the industry.

Appointments for the Committee took place in December 2012 through a fair process of drawing names at random, and the current committee met for the first time in January 2013.

If you are interested in becoming a member of the 2014 Committee, please <a href=”mailto:womeninpa@hotmail.com”>email</a> us to register your interest.

Stacey Frier MCIPR

Senior Parliamentary Adviser, English Heritage
Stacey has over ten years’ experience working in public affairs. Her previous roles include working as a research assistant to John McFall MP and Tom Clarke MP, Parliamentary Officer and then Senior Parliamentary Adviser for the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA). A British Politics and Legislative Studies graduate from the University of Hull, Stacey also has a MA in Legislative Studies and has carried a number of academic projects on All-Party Groups in the UK Parliament. Outside of her work in public affairs, Stacey is a school governor, runs a Guide unit and suffers regularly at the hands of a very poor football team hailing from Leicester.

Lizzie Wills

Account Director, Westminster Advisers

Lizzie has five years’ experience advising clients on a wide range of policy and public affairs activities, with a particular focus on transport and infrastructure. With an excellent understanding of legislative scrutiny and parliamentary processes, Lizzie supports clients in identifying and delivering business-critical strategies and in building and maintaining strong relationships with key external stakeholders. Lizzie has led successful campaigns for major corporates across a diverse range of sectors and is an expert in guiding clients through policy-rich and heavily regulated environments.

Prior to joining Westminster Advisers in January 2014, Lizzie worked at Cohn & Wolfe, MHP Communications and in the office of David Laws MP. Lizzie holds a master’s degree in International Peacekeeping from the University of Birmingham and has an undergraduate degree in Politics and European Studies from the University of Durham.

Soniya Ganvir

Account Manager, Bellenden

Soniya is an Account Manager at Bellenden, where she works across a broad range of accounts, including financial services, education and skills, and social care. Having studied Law at Cambridge University, she has four years’ experience as a paralegal in insurance litigation. Before going to University, she worked for the Leader of the European Parliamentary Labour Party in Brussels. Soniya’s interests include justice, gender, housing, education and environmental policy.

Laura Burley

Senior Public Affairs Manager, The Open University

Laura Burley (née Brandon) is Senior Public Affairs Manager at The Open University (OU). She was previously researcher to Phil Willis MP, Chair of the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee, and also worked in the Office of the Rt Hon Nick Clegg MP before moving into public affairs. She has had campaigning and PA roles at both Breast Cancer Care and the British Dental Association and, most recently at Insight Public Affairs, Laura worked in the policy areas of health and education. Laura also has a degree in politics and history from the University of Sheffield.

Rebecca Parsons

Public Affairs Lead, Visa Europe

Rebecca Parsons (née Whittle) has eight years experience in corporate affairs, spanning both agency and in-house. She currently leads public affairs and stakeholder engagement for payments technology company, Visa Europe, in the UK, Germany and other European markets. She is responsible raising awareness and understanding of Visa Europe amongst parliamentary and other third party stakeholders, including managing public affairs for Visa as a global sponsor of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Previous roles include Head of Public Affairs at independent PR and public affairs consultancy, The SPA Way, where client sectors spanned retail, education and skills, agriculture, financial services and aviation. Rebecca is a member of the CIPR. She graduated from University College London (UCL) with a degree in Geography, with a dissertation on the EU nominated for a prize within the Royal Geographical Society. In 2013, Rebecca was named In-House Professional of the Year at the Public Affairs News Awards.

Florence Richard De Vesvrotte

Public Affairs, ActionAid UK

Florence has been a Public Affairs professional for ActionAid UK for the past three years. Her expertise is to engage parliamentarians on international development issues, on behalf of an organisation that works in more than 45 countries across the world, and addresses issues that range from women’s rights to tax avoidance or food security. As such she travels on a regular basis to developing countries with MPs, and represents ActionAid in various forums. Previously, she worked for The Communication Group, a public affairs consultancy with a wide portfolio of private clients in the gambling and diamond industries. Florence initially graduated in Law and International Relations both in France and in the UK, and worked in International Arbitration for a year before moving into public affairs.

Michelle Lavipour

Account Manager, Edelman

Michelle is an Account Manager at Edelman specialising in corporate communications, message development, issues and crisis management, public affairs, and media training. Prior to this, Michelle was a Consultant at independent communications consultancy Pagefield.  She has provided communications advice to clients across the media, charity, property, infrastructure, pharmaceutical, alcohol, sustainability and fashion sector. Michelle holds an MSC in International Political Theory from the University of Edinburgh.

Anna Wallace

Public Affairs Manager, EE

Anna is Public Affairs Manager at telecommunications provider, EE. She leads the company’s public affairs activity on a number of policy issues including the rollout of high-speed 4G, planning policy, digital inclusion and creative industries. Prior to joining EE Anna was Public Affairs Manager at professional body the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) where she worked on labour market issues and equality and diversity in the workplace. She has also worked in the pharmaceutical and retail industries.

 Anna is a graduate of German and Politics from Aston University, Birmingham. 


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Previous events
6:30pm - 8.30pm
Spring Drinks Reception Thursday 16th May 2013

On Thursday 16th May we held our fourth quarterly drinks reception at the lovely offices of Pagefield in Soho, with drinks and snacks sponsored by Boehringer Ingelheim. Over 70 women from across the public affairs industry came along to network, meet like minded people and hear from our two outstanding speakers, Baroness Tina Stowell and Deborah Mattinson.

Baroness Stowell, the Government’s spokesman in the House of Lords for Women & Equalities and Work & Pensions and the Conservative Party’s Deputy Chief Whip, spoke about her career path from secretary at the MoD to government minister in the House of Lords, via Number 10 press office and the BBC. Her advice to define yourself in your role and to push forward and not be afraid to speak out really struck a chord; she stressed the need to take the opportunity to speak publicly, whether in front of a small group of colleagues or a large audience. This is something we all need to do more of!

Deborah Mattinson, co-founder of Britain Thinks and one of the UK’s leading commentators on public opinion, shared her story of a different but equally impressive career path. Deborah has started a number of businesses and gave us an insight into being your own boss. She too stressed the importance of public speaking, and highlighted the need to network and build relationships with colleagues. She also touched upon the theme of ‘giving something back’; highlighting the mutual benefits of sharing your expertise with a charitable cause. Here she touched on a popular theme and one which will be continued when we host our next event on becoming a charity trustee in July – watch this space for more details!

The night was a great success once again and thank you to everyone who came along. Special thanks go to Michelle, Katie and wonderful photographer Sonia Levesque (@ins0nia) at Pagefield, Hannah Gagen from Boehringer Ingelheim and all at Hanson Search who’ve sponsored and supported the WiPA Network since we launched a year ago. And of course to our inspirational speakers Baroness Stowell and Deborah Mattinson.

If you missed out on this event and want to attend our next one, please get in touch at womeninpa@hotmail.com


6.15pm - 7.30pm
Becoming a Charity Trustee – Tuesday 16 July 6:15-7:30pm

On a hot summer evening, in a busy room at Lexington Communication’s office in Holborn (thankfully air-conditioned!) the Women in Public Affairs Network held a panel session on volunteering as a charity trustee. It was arranged at the request of a number of our 500-strong network, many of whom stated that they would like to hear more about life as a charity trustee, how it can help their careers, what skills they can offer as public affairs professionals and also what it means to ‘give something back.’

And it sounds as though these type of information sessions are much needed and welcome in order to diversify the make-up of charity boards. The average age of a charity trustee is 57 years old. Most are white men from middle-class backgrounds. Of the top 100 charities in the UK, 75% have male chairs on boards.

Having previously worked in the charity sector, I have to admit that I’ve thought about being a charity trustee before but I, like many other members of the Network, have been unsure whether I have the right skills to be on a board and was in the dark as to what being a charity trustee entails. How do I go about finding the right charity for me? What work is involved? What is the time commitment? Are charities really looking for people like me who have communication, public affairs and media skills?

Well, these questions were very much addressed head-on during the panel discussion and by the end of the event, I think I can speak for everyone in that we all came away fired up and ready to find a position on a board of trustees which will truly expose and immerse us in the exciting world of organisational strategies, staff engagement, fundraising and financial planning.

Our speakers, Liza Coffin (a former charity trustee for Development in Action and public affairs professional at a Health charity), Sarah Miller (Head of Press and Public Affairs at the Charity Commission, also a charity trustee herself) and Alex Swallow (Chief Executive of the Small Charities Coalition and Founder of Young Charity Trustees) were all excellent. They told us about their experiences of being on a board, how rewarding it is…. and how it has developed them both personally and professionally.  We also had a discussion as to whether people tend to take up trusteeships in sectors relevant to their day jobs (e.g. would I volunteer for an education charity given that I work in the education sector or is it best to be a trustee in a different area in order to get experience of a different sector?) and a great debate about what it means to be on a board in the current economic and political climate.

The panel session was packed with tips, anecdotes, stories and advice. As Chair, I was scribbling away during the event in order to capture all the key points to share with some of our Networkers. So for those of you who weren’t able to attend, I’ve shared some of them below:

Top tips for finding a rewarding and exciting voluntary position on a board:

  • Assess your skills. Think about what you can offer, what you want to learn and what your expertise is – and not just expertise from your career thus far but also your ‘life’ expertise, perhaps from your hobbies or travels.
  • Do your homework. What sectors are you passionate about? Which charities are based in your locality? Do you want to be on the board of a small charity (where you can perhaps be one of 3 or 4 trustees) or a mid-size charity (with a board of say 12 people?) Once you have determined that, and have pinpointed a few charities of interest, start reading up on them, their accounts and their mission statements.
  • Be confident. Young people have just as much to give to boards as their older peers. Be confident that you will be a great asset!
  • Get to know your charity. Perhaps you could undertake some volunteering to get to know the ethos and people connected to the charity, or if you know them well and are seriously being considered for a post, even ask to observe a board meeting. We heard that volunteering can help open the door to the conversation with senior charity staff about taking on a trustee position…
  • Be proactive! Not all charities advertise their vacancies or perhaps have had vacancies for a while… thus be maverick and approach the charities you wish to be involved in. Send your CV, volunteer, speak to staff and get yourself known. If you ask, they can only say no or inform you they have no vacancies at the present time… but they may well remember you in six months-time when a vacancy appears or even helpfully tell you they have a sister charity which has a vacancy…
  • Prepare. If you do manage to secure a meeting/interview with the Chair of the board, make sure you treat the meeting as a proper interview. Prepare, read up on the charity, read Charity Commission guidance (see below), have some killer questions to hand and sell your enthusiasm for the role.
  • Finally, be frank. We all have busy lives and this trusteeship will be one of your many commitments in your busy diary. Thus, be open with the amount of time you are willing to commit, and also whether you can only attend evening meetings etc. An open and constructive dialogue at the start can only help manage expectations and relationships.

Sources of information/where to look for vacancies:

-        The Charity Commission website – a tool to search for charities by both key word search and location http://www.charitycommission.gov.uk/find-charities/

-        Vacancies on trustee Week website http://trusteesweek.blogspot.co.uk/

-        Vacancies via Trustee Hub from The Guardian http://www.guardian.co.uk/voluntary-sector-network/trustees

-        Vacancies on Young Charity Trustees http://youngcharitytrustees.org/

-        Vacancies via Third Sector (online and in magazines)

-        There are also charity recruitment agencies such as Trustees Unlimited and Prospectus

-        ‘what do trustees do?’ http://vimeo.com/69950502

* You may also wish to read the brilliant Charity Commission publication ‘The essential trustee: what you need to know’ http://www.charitycommission.gov.uk/detailed-guidance/trustees-staff-and-volunteers/the-essential-trustee-what-you-need-to-know-cc3/

* You can find Alex Swallow on linked in: http://uk.linkedin.com/in/alexanderswallow and view an interview about being a trustee with Alex Swallow: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rbk7UKcOtKc.

* Trustees’ Week takes place 4-10 November 2013 – there will be lots to read and plenty of regional events for people to attend so you may wish to follow on Twitter @trusteesweek.

Good luck and happy hunting!

(This blog was written by Laura Burley who is the Senior Public Affairs Manager at the Open University)

18:00 - 20:00
Summer Networking Drinks, Wednesday 16 July 2014


Kindly hosted by Fishburn, 77 Kingsway, WC2B 6SR

We were delighted with the outstanding turnout and quality of speakers (not to mention the delicious wine and snacks!) at our latest summer event at the offices of Fishburn on 16 July. Fishburn CEO Ali Gee urged women to consider their work-life balance, support and encourage others and lead by example as she addressed the 70 women gathered at her company’s headquarters on Kingsway for the Women in Public Affairs (WiPA) summer event.  Ali was followed by Conservative MP for Stourbridge and former businesswoman Margot James, who shared her experiences of setting up her own business and of being an MP. Both were refreshingly honest about the challenges faced by women in business and politics, and their advice was welcomed by attendees.

The Network’s next event will be announced shortly so keep an eye out. For more information on the Network or to join the mailing list and find out about future events, email womeninpa@hotmail.com



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