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Celebrating International Women's Day

International Women's Day graphic

International Women's Day is a global awareness day to celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women and highlight the importance of work to achieve gender equality.

This year's theme is #EachforEqual where an equal world is an enabled world.

"Individually, we're all responsible for our own thoughts and actions - all day, every day.

We can actively choose to challenge stereotypes, fight bias, broaden perceptions, improve situations and celebrate women's achievements.

Collectively, each one of us can help create a gender equal world.

Let's all be #EachforEqual."

At Social Security Scotland, we are committed to doing things differently. Women are playing a vital role in shaping our organisation and we caught up with some of our colleagues to find out more about them.

Miriam Craven

Miriam Craven

I took up the post of Deputy Director for Strategy and Client Experience in September. I was involved in setting up our organisation long before that though as part of the Agency Implementation team under the Scottish Government Social Security Directorate. In total, I've been working on social security for three years.

Reflecting on International Women's Day, I am proud that we have so many hard working and inspirational female colleagues across the organisation in various roles and at different levels. It's an exciting time to be at Social Security Scotland and I look forward to welcoming more people to our organisation.

My advice to women and all colleagues at Social Security Scotland is to remember to take time for yourself to think about what is important for you and what you want to achieve. Whether that's finding yourself a mentor, signing up to a course or taking on a new challenge, it's important to invest in ourselves and look after our own wellbeing.

Mandy Loughlin

Mandy Loughlin, Head of Local Delivery

I joined Social Security Scotland as Head of Local Delivery in October 2019. I work with a great team who are building our Local Delivery service in all of Scotland’s 32 local authority areas, as we prepare to launch our face-to-face service later this year.

My Civil Service career started at the tender age of 16 (just a few years ago!) as a casual AA (A1 equivalent). I had only planned to stay for 6 months as I wanted to join the Royal Navy as a Meteorologist Officer. In those days there were height restrictions as part of joining the Royal Navy and despite my best attempts I never managed to reach the lofty height requirement of 5ft 2.

My advice, however, to all women out there is stand tall, weather any storm together and stay equal!

Kate Ferguson

Kate Ferguson, Creative Communications Executive

I work in the Creative Communications team, which is part of the wider Strategic Communications branch.

I love my role here. It’s really varied and I get to do a lot of interesting things like making lovely social media posts and videos, and going on visits across Scotland.

Before I joined Social Security Scotland, I worked at Transport Scotland in a similar creative role but my background is in marketing and communications. I’ve also worked in healthcare and in the third sector.

I’m a mum of two boys and a former carer. My role now allows me to have a really good work life balance, which is not always easy. I am currently writing this on my phone in the nursery cloakroom after helping out at World Book Day!

I do still struggle with letting go of the mental load at times but I make sure that everyone in the household takes responsibility for their own tasks, and that they don’t expect their mum or wife to do everything for them!

Anne Mackie

Anne Mackie, Head of Change

I joined in July 2018 - the day we moved into our High Street office. Although this seemed like a giant personal leap after 35 years in UK government, I knew instantly that I had made the right move. The warmth of welcome and the kindness I received were second to none.

Previously, I’ve worked in a wide range of roles including Operational Management, Departmental Security and Business Continuity, and HR Operations before moving into the world of change, firstly as a Project Manager and then as a Continuous Improvement Practitioner. Jack of all trades, master of none!

I changed roles in December 2018 and now head up our Change functions. The role is challenging, fast paced and full of variety. Every day is a school day and there is always something new to learn and ways to grow both personally and professionally.

My advice for women (and men) is be true to yourself and find your passion. Work life is much easier and more fun when you are doing something that you are truly committed to and enjoy.

Hannah Stonehouse

Hannah Stonehouse, Business Support Administrative Assistant

I joined in January 2019 through a Modern Apprenticeship. Not being from a civil service background, the apprenticeship gave me a fantastic stepping stone into a successful career and more opportunities than I ever knew were available! It gave me a crash course on how Scottish Government works and taught me to aim further.

I work in the Business Support Office, supporting the organisation and our Chief Executive. It’s fast paced and extremely rewarding.

I have a wide range of responsibilities, including creating an organisation wide ‘organogram’ which we are often asked for. We haven’t had one before, so I have had control of every stage of its creation. It’s challenging as we are such a vast, changing organisation – information is quickly outdated! I have collaborated with colleagues to create an interactive and accurate picture of Social Security Scotland. Once completed, will remain a living document for us all.

From my experience in Social Security Scotland, I would advise everyone to make the most of opportunities, and not to limit yourself to what you know.

Shahida Ahmed

Shahida Ahmed, Travel and Transport Lead

I have been a civil servant for over 20 years working at the Department for Work and Pensions. I have been in my current role as Travel and Transport Lead for almost a year now. Prior to this I was Social Security Scotland’s Set Up Project Lead and was here when we launched in September 2018. My role is to lead the function ensuring appropriate and flexible travel arrangements and that provision and policies are in place to deliver a service that supports the organisation to achieve its business objectives.

The thing I like about working here is everyone’s positive ‘can do’ approach and enthusiasm in what we are collectively trying to achieve for the people of Scotland - makes me proud to be Scottish!

Make your impossible, possible.

Rhona Paterson

Rhona Paterson, National Engagement Intern

I joined Social Security Scotland on six month internship through Inclusion Scotland, which was extended to a year. I have been Miriam Craven and Mandy Loughlin’s Personal Assistants and now work in the National Engagement team doing diary management, event management and I’m involved in our inclusive communications group.

I’m a qualified occupational therapist and practiced for 20 years before being made redundant in 2017. Since starting my internship here, my confidence has really grown. I use JAWS software as I’m visually impaired. I also work on different access technologies at Social Security Scotland.

My advice on International Women’s Day is to keep going, keep applying for this and use every opportunity to learn. Experience counts and you’re never too old!

Kirsty Craig

Kirsty Craig, Head of Operations

As Head of Operations, I'm responsible for teams across Dundee and Glasgow who deliver our benefits to our clients. I also have responsibility for preparing Operations for Job Start Payment and Scottish Child Payment as well as Business Continuity development across the organisation.

I joined in April 2018 and was the first person in Operations in Dundee! My biggest achievement has been setting up our telephony and processing services, recruiting a diverse and engaged workforce and working with our people to continually learn, develop and improve what we do. I am very proud of what we do and how we do it!

I previously worked for 20 years in face to face Jobcentre services predominantly working with employers, stakeholders and staff to help and support citizens to find and remain in employment as well as a couple of years on secondment with NHS Tayside as the Project Manager for a Vocational Rehabilitation Pilot, funded by Scottish Government.

Nicola Bennett

Nicola Bennett, Head of Finance

I joined just over two years ago – before we even existed as an Agency! At that time there were only a few of us in finance - now we have around 45 people!

I was born in London and grew up in Kent. I left school and went to college to do my A levels. I found that it was hard to concentrate. I wasn't really interested in studying so my grades weren't great. I had this notion that I wanted to be a lawyer but that wasn't going to happen ( to be honest having studied law as part of my degree, I am definitely not a lawyer!). Someone advised me to do accountancy and I applied to Portsmouth University. I worked really hard and got a 2:1.

When I was at University I worked at a Young Offenders Centre. After graduating, I joined Stoy Hayward and qualified as a chartered accountant.

I met my now husband, Nick, while I was there and we moved up to Scotland following his round the world trip. I still can't believe that I decided to come up when I had never been to Scotland!

I worked at an accountants and later, at St John's Hospital in Livingston. I spent 16 years as Director of Finance at Scottish Courts Service. In this time I had my two beautiful daughters and was able to work part time to look after them. I have Lucy who is 20 and Ella who is 17.

I spend my spare time going to choir, running (at the gym!), cycling, working on the allotment, looking after bees (we have an apiary at the allotment) and I am a trustee of a charity called Garvald Edinburgh which provides services to people with learning disabilities.

Natasha Wood

Natasha Wood, Finance Intern

I joined on a fixed term basis as part of the Care Leaver Intern scheme. I work in the Operations Finance team.

I think the scheme is a great idea - it opens doors that have been closed on care leavers as the recruitment process is really fair towards everyone.

I am really enjoying work with Social Security Scotland. It will give me the chance to develop my skills and gain new insights into what the world of work is really like.

Antonia Powell

Antonia Powell, Learning Support Officer

I joined as a Modern Apprentice, which has given me the opportunity to gain an SVQ qualification whilst working.

Before joining, I studied Childcare at Gardyne Campus in Dundee and was thinking of going onto study teaching. While studying I had a part time job in a taxi office, which always kept me busy over the evenings and weekends.

My role is very varied as a Learning Support Officer. It involves admin support to the team, personal assistant support to our Learning and Development Senior Manager and making sure our facilitators are prepped with all the handouts and paperwork to go into training. I also provide classroom support and sometimes facilitate modules and our charter sessions.

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