International Women's Day 2021

Blog Header Image

To mark International Women's Day 2021, we are celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women around the world and within Suffolk. You will find below a list of six inspirational women from, living or working in Suffolk. 

Dr Karen Hester, Chief Operating Officer at Adnams plc

"My name is Dr Karen Hester and I am the Chief Operating Officer at Adnams plc. Immediately after leaving school I joined the Army where I obtained Best Recruit in my first year and was the youngest woman in the UK to pass their LGV test at the age of 16.

Unfortunately, back in the 1980s, pregnant women were forced to leave the Army. In 1991, I was one of the first women to challenge this discrimination through the courts.

My case ended up in the High Court of London and after five long years I won, opening the doors for women to have the right to work in Her Majesty’s Service and be a mother. 

In 1988, I joined Adnams as a part-time cleaner. Today, as Chief Operating Officer, I am responsible for over 500 employees (either directly or indirectly), ensuring the smooth running of all day-to-day operations at the brewery, hotels, pubs and stores.

I won East of England Business Woman of the Year in 2008 and First Women Business of the Year in 2013. In 2015, I became the first woman to be appointed to the Adnams Board as an Executive Director. In the same year, I was awarded an Honorary Doctorate by University Campus Suffolk (UCS). In 2005, I became a Justice of the Peace in Suffolk.

I am a Non-Executive Chair of Independence Matters & Home Support Matters, a Norfolk based company that provides a wide range of support services for adults with learning and physical disabilities, young people in transition and older people with dementia, and their families.

Most recently, I became a Member of The Ashley School Academy Trust based in Suffolk.

International Women’s Day is important not only to recognise how far women have come but to encourage women to challenge bias in whichever form that appears. Glass ceilings are there to be smashed!


Franstine Jones, CEO of Binspyred.

"When l left school, l went to college to study to be a Nursery Nurse. After l qualified, I tried to find work as a Nursery Nurse but we were in a recession, so when Tesco offered me a full-time job as a sales assistant, l accepted. I was working as a part-time cashier whilst l was at college. I always thought the job would be a stop gap until I found a nursery nursing job. In fact, l went on to become the first Black supervisor at the Ipswich store. I was there for 10 years until l had my first child.

My greatest achievement was when I was elected in 2013 as the woman to become the President of the National Black Police Association. Among the men l beat were senior officers from the large urban police forces.

The #ChooseToChallenge theme for International Women's Day 2021 means to me that we must never give up challenging the gender bias, inequality and prejudice that women all over the world face. In particular, the intersectionality that Black women face which unfortunately, is my lived experience.

I think it is important to celebrate International Women's Day so that the inequality is kept on the agenda when fighting for our rights. My mother experienced it, I experience it on a regular basis, I don’t want my granddaughters to have the same journey.

To support International Women’s Day, we must stand up for those who are not heard or listened to and challenge inequality against all women. “On Voice Strength In Unity”."

Dayle Bayliss, Owner of Dayle Bayliss Ltd.

"I studied A Levels and then went on to a degree and my masters. All of my post A Level study was part-time whilst I worked - this would be more like a degree apprenticeship if I was to do them now. This approach meant that I was building up my experience alongside my qualifications, which increased my earning potential and the projects I was exposed to.

What I became aware of very early on is that A Levels may not have been the best route for me and that I should have recognised my own learning needs. This has certainly been the driver for me to challenge our skills and education system and having choice for young people and learners that suits them and broadens horizons.

I have been fortunate to be exposed to some great projects and this has really shaped some of my achievements. Working for myself for 10 years has enabled me to balance work with my personal values. This has led to me being recognised on the Suffolk 100 Most Inspirational Women and Economic Influencer lists. I’m really proud of chairing the panel for the new T Level Construction: Design, Surveying and Planning, to shape technical education at government level, and presenting alongside Secretary’s of State for Education and Skills Ministers is something that I never thought I would do.

For me, International Women’s Day is a day that is about making people stop and think and draw attention to some of the issues faced. Much of what I experience is subtle and unconscious and being able to partake in events like this highlights these experiences. It isn’t about shaming its about giving time to stop, think and challenging thoughts and behaviours. This is why this year’s theme of Choose to Challenge is particularly important. Talking about the issues and raising awareness is something we can all do, let’s not be afraid to talk about the challenges and how we can work to overcome these or widen peoples thinking about gender and equality."

Vanessa Burton, Sizewell C Engineer 

Vanessa studied Civil Engineering (MEng Hons) at the University of Surrey and secured the University of Surrey ICE Scholarship scheme, working each summer, and her industrial placement year with Mott McDonald as an Intern throughout her university. She says this was an important step into her career: “Working as an intern in the construction industry gave me the real life experience of the job I was hoping to do when I graduated.”

Fast-forward a decade, from her start at university, and Vanessa is currently working on the Sizewell C project, getting the site ready from her desk! Sizewell C is the proposed new power station in Suffolk and if it gets planning consent, thousands of local people will be needed to help build it.

Vanessa’s day to day job of being an engineer at SZC is a varied role looking from managing the design, ensuring constructability and health and safety is at the heart of the project. The project has used innovation to push forward the industry for the Site Establishment as a 4D model that shows the scope of the work involved, methodology and the time it will take to construct. Vanessa’s work at the desk helps ensure a successful project on site and for her colleagues working on the site in the future.

Vanessa says she loves the construction sector: “I’ve worked on some incredible major projects, such as Doha Metro, London Underground’s Northern line extension, Thames Tideway and now Sizewell C. The construction industry is varied, with innovation and improvements every day. It’s pretty amazing seeing the construction and final product of something you worked on from the design process."

Rochelle Grimmer, Chemistry Technician at Sizewell B

Rochelle first came to Sizewell on work experience at the age of 13. The experience left a lasting impression.  It shaped her decision to study science A Levels and ultimately to apply for an apprenticeship in Chemistry at Sizewell B.

“The apprenticeship provided me with on-the-job training in Chemistry but also involved studying for a HNC with Greenwich University”.

Rochelle is now a fully qualified chemistry technician having completed the two-year apprenticeship programme. She’s also keen to encourage more girls to think about a career in the energy sector and has been an ambassador for the company at career fairs. “Science doesn’t just have to be a boys job” she says.

Poppy Able, Apprentice at Sizewell B

Hear from Poppy Able, one of Sizewell’s apprentices who also worked on the film of Sizewell B so students in the area get to see inside the station where she works.

 “I’m a degree apprentice in the Sizewell B Engineering department, where I will then become a system engineer – looking after specific systems in terms of maintenance, amongst other areas. I went to Thomas Mills High School in Framlingham, and then stayed there for Sixth Form too.

There were a variety of factors that made me consider a career at Sizewell B; my A-Level choices, not ‘fancying’ the university environment, encouragement during my work experience placement, the benefits of an apprenticeship!

I definitely think that young people should consider nuclear. Despite Sizewell B being on my doorstep, I never really considered what went on behind the scenes but there really is something for everyone, and the safety culture is second to none. Nuclear is needed in our energy mix, and someone has to produce it!”