A brand new series celebrating some of the fantastic female professionals who’ve undertaken courses with MOL, ‘Women making great strides’ is set to showcase the on-going successes of five of our former students. In this first piece, Eddie Sheehy talks to Sally Chandler, Programme Manager for Manchester City Council’s Age Friendly Manchester programme, and finds out how she came to realise her passion for management.
There’s certainly a long way to go before equality is finally achieved for Britain’s female workforce. But things are getting better. The number of women working in managerial roles is higher than the EU average. Employment for women over the age of 40 is rising whereas it’s falling for men in the same bracket. And, in the case of Sally Chandler, a former-Registered General Nurse who joined Manchester City Council’s Valuing Older People (VOP) programme in 2004, neither breast cancer nor the subsequent let-down of a rejected emigration application to Canada could stop her from taking her career to stratospheric heights.
‘I left the NHS when my children were young,’ says Sally, ‘as the hours back then weren’t so family-friendly. During my subsequent career working with older people across the statutory and third sectors, I undertook a wide range of training courses but did nothing that led to a formally recognised qualification. Then, my husband told me about the Professional Diploma in Management Studies programme at MOL and the rest, as they say, is history.’
Sally’s husband Paul had accepted a three-year contract at an engineering firm in Canada and had already moved out there with a plan of bringing the rest of the family over once Sally had completed her studies. ‘I thought that having a formally recognised management qualification would be important in finding work once we moved abroad,’ she says. Sally also believed that it would stand her in better stead than a more narrowly focused course.
‘Colleagues around me were undertaking courses in social gerontology [the study of the impacts of ageing], but I wanted something that was more generic and transferable and strengthened the parts of my role that I particularly enjoyed – organisational development, change management and communications in particular. The programme offered just what I was looking for and was manageable even though I had a busy full-time job and two children. Plus, its content was comprehensive and would be really valuable to my performance in my role.’
Sally completed the programme with flying colours and was all set to make the big move to Canada. But an unexpected fork in the road meant that it wasn’t to be. After a year spent overseas, Sally’s husband Paul was forced to return home when Sally was diagnosed with breast cancer. ‘Canadian immigration wouldn’t let me register for a working visa after that,’ she says. A realignment of goals was in order. Paul took a role as Head of Transport for the London Borough of Brent, the family moved down to London in order that they could stay together and Sally began commuting to her beloved job in Manchester.
‘It’s Canada’s loss!’ says Sally, unruffled. ‘I’m now 18 months clear and found the whole treatment – chemo, surgery and radiotherapy – not nearly as bad as I’d feared. I managed to work right through the chemo and radiotherapy and just took two weeks off after a mastectomy so am really proud to have only had 14 days sick in 2012. Everyone is different, of course, and I consider myself incredibly lucky.’
Triumphant in her defeat of The Big C, Sally put to use everything she’d learned on the programme in pursuit of some serious career development. She went on to become a Member of the Chartered Management Institute and, under the strong leadership of Paul McGarry, helped to develop the VOP programme beyond recognition into what is now called the Age-friendly Manchester programme. She took the lead on a wide range of work initiatives and a number of national programmes as well as notably developing the UK Network of Age-Friendly Cities, which has been recognised by the World Health Organisation. Thanks to Sally and her team, Manchester is now one of 12 cities across the UK sharing learning through a programme of enquiry visits and seminars.
‘As Programme Manager, I take a strategic lead on programmes of work that seek to tackle the most enduring challenges of growing older in disadvantaged urban neighbourhoods. And I draw on my learning from MOL on a regular basis. I rarely plan development days or pieces of work without referring to it, whether that’s through re-reading assignments, referencing course literature or seeking new tools to facilitate the achievement of objectives.’
It is of course, humbling for an organisation like MOL to hear such high praise, especially when it comes from someone as brilliant as Sally. But, it’s only people with her level of drive, determination, raw talent and sheer grit who do as well as she has done. Our management courses prepare professional men and women alike for the kinds of tasks that Sally undertakes daily – developing and managing emergent strategies and operational plans; securing new local and national strategic relationships and partnership agreements; identifying and bidding for new funding and other resources; the list goes on… What our programmes don’t prepare anyone for are the circumstances under which Sally found herself undertaking these tasks. For that, we can only sit back in awe and praise her.