Choose to Challenge – Five minutes with Chief Executive Jane Featherstone on IWD2021

We talk to Chief Executive Jane Featherstone about her 15 year career at our charity, her top tips to getting your voice heard and the challenges faced in the workplace for International Women's Day. Watch our video and read the full article here

Monday 8 March marks International Women’s Day – a key moment in the calendar to celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women.

This year’s theme is Choose to Challenge and here you can read about our Chief Executive Jane Featherstone and the steps she’s taken in her career to get here, plus:

If you’re strapped for time, meet Jane in our one-minute #IWD2021 film

Starting out

“At 16 years old, I really had no idea what career path I wanted to take, and I was grateful that all my parents wanted was for me to be happy.

“I had considered a career in physiotherapy but when I realised that I was quite squeamish I knew that this was perhaps not the right thing for me! From there I thought that if I could get into a large company it would give me the opportunity to work in lots of different areas to help me decide what I wanted to do.

“I never thought I’d end up being the Chief Executive of a charity all those years ago. In fact, I never considered a career in charity until I was returning to work after a career break to have children. I thought I would end up working in some capacity for a large financial institution, which for many years I did.

“2004 marked the start of my career working in the charity sector – and I have never looked back.  I stumbled upon a job working as a sole fundraiser for a small local charity. I didn’t expect to get the job as I didn’t have fundraising experience but I was offered the role which was focused heavily on lottery fundraising and writing applications to trusts for funding. I worked two days a week and needed to raise about £350k per annum.

“A couple of years later I saw a job advert for a part-time Trust Fundraiser for The Sick Children’s Trust covering maternity leave for one year. I hadn’t heard of the charity, but the cause resonated with me and I knew this was something I could feel passionate about. The role was part time working from home which fitted in with having two young children.

“15 years on I lead a team of over 50 people who all strive to keep families with a seriously ill child in hospital together by offering them a place to stay.

“It’s not always been easy, but every day is rewarding .”

The challenges women face in the workplace

“Whilst in the charitable sector women are not underrepresented, in leadership positions in the work place generally this is not the case and women face many challenges which at the core lies inequality.

“Throughout my career I have heard the accounts of many women who have come up against the preconception that they will have children and need to take time out. In turn it limits opportunities and they can often be overlooked for promotion because of this.

“For those women who do want a career and a family, juggling these commitments can become very difficult as many companies do not offer flexible working. This can lead to feelings of guilt for missing things like sports days, school plays and parent’s evenings because of work commitments.

“One challenge that continues to prevail is unequal pay. Women are often still paid less than men for doing the same job and women are often not given the same opportunities as men.  Women are expected to have demonstrated their abilities and achievements prior to being considered for a leadership role and men are more likely to be given the opportunities without having to do this.”


My biggest challenge 

“Looking back over my career, the biggest challenge I have faced has been managing our operations throughout the pandemic. Different challenges presented on a daily basis and there were so many issues to consider. As the Senior Management Team, we worked closely to discuss and consider the issues, with the focus always being on the health and safety and wellbeing of staff and families. Feedback from our House Managers was key in helping us to make decisions. We also sought advice and guidance from our hospital partners particularly infection control teams.  We reacted very quickly to the situation and all the changes that were .”

Getting your voice heard

My tips for women looking to assert themselves in the workplace:

  • Believe in yourself
  • Always go into a meeting prepared for any eventuality – do your homework
  • Treat others as you would want to be treated
  • Value everyone you work with as you are all equally important and you cannot do your job well without your colleagues doing their job well
  • Do not be afraid to ask questions and challenge ideas
  • Look after yourself and make sure that you get the right balance of work/home

Spearheading change to enable staff

Returning from a period of illness made me re-evaluate a lot of things in my life. One of those was the work/home life balance and how we, as a team, can be much more productive at work if we look after ourselves and get the balance right. Staff wellbeing is a prime focus for The Sick Children’s Trust and over the last couple of years we have introduced a number of measures to enable our staff team:

  • Reducing the full-time working week from 37.5 hours to 35 hours alongside introducing flexible hours has made a big difference
  • Continued focus on wellbeing, we introduced a wellbeing committee and regular wellbeing communications to all staff
  • We introduced leave for staff to look after dependants
  • Increased focus on training and cross team working. We want to encourage staff to develop and learn and whilst as a charity we need to keep an eye on costs there are a lot of free training opportunities and we have introduced lunch and learn sessions to help share the knowledge within the staff team

Since the first lockdown all our Head Office staff have been working from home. Being flexible means that staff can take time out for themselves for hobbies and activities and for family commitments, particularly important for those who are home schooling. We want to enable our staff to set and achieve their key objectives whilst working flexibly and balancing their home and work life.

Many of the staff working in our ‘Homes from Home’ have children and we have been flexible to fit around family commitments.  For some staff this has meant a change in time they work or a reduction in hours. As we are not able to have as many rooms in our ‘Homes from Home’ open during the pandemic, the furlough scheme has allowed us to flexibly furlough staff so they are only working the hours when there is work to be done. This also helps us to comply with social distancing guidance and keep our staff safe.

At The Sick Children’s Trust we try to encourage open communication with employees and we want staff to be able to speak to their managers and the senior management team about any issues and concerns.  We welcome feedback and ideas from all employees and look for the best in every member of staff and openly celebrate employee’s differences.

Choose to challenge

Watch our one-minute film about Jane’s career and her advice to anyone aspiring to leadership.


Related content

Email Newsletter

Every year we help families by giving them somewhere to stay near their seriously ill child’s hospital bedside. Sign up to receive our email newsletters to stay up to date with how your support is helping to keep families together.