When anyone asks me if life is quieter now I am no longer Sheriff I refer them to my blogs online. Life is excitingly busy as I pursue my work for Dowgate Ward, the City and its businesses and work to create a more responsible society.
I have written separately in a blog about International Women’s Day and the importance of celebrating diversity in the City Women to the front (alisongowman.org). I will write also about Whittington600 at length but here are some highlights of my last 5 weeks.
I never fail to be proud of my Ward of Dowgate. No less than 5 businesses were in the short listings for the Clean City Awards where Cannon Place won in both the Plastic Free City and Clean Streets Partnership Awards and Cannon Bridge House scooped the Chairman’s Award for overall excellence in FM. The end of March saw the annual Ward Mote for voters and we had a stellar turn out at Innholders’ Hall. Our Ward Police Officers attended to answer questions. Just as well since rough sleeping, anti-social behaviour and waste issues were raised by those present. These meetings tend to focus on local problems but I was keen to let the audience know about the Lord Mayor’s and my work on promoting financial and professional services since the majority of the attendees all work in FS.
My work for the Livery Climate Action Group Home - Livery Climate Action Group (liverycag.org.uk) is a regular commitment of time and events. We held an in-person seminar about Almshouses and how to meet net zero. We calculated about 14 Liveries still have almshouses which date from all centuries and with a variety of issues. The Master Chartered Architect, Chris Dyson, masterminded an array of professionals to speak about this complex area to much acclaim. This helped the Liveries and other attendees consider the future of their important social housing. Maybe at the other end of the scale the City hosted the Transition Path Taskforce in a very full Guildhall. TPT are driving businesses to create, publish and stick to verifiable plans to meet net zero commitments rather than just talk about it. Led by Amanda Blanc, CEO of Aviva and Minister Baroness JoJo Penn. A lesson to us all.
I was honoured to be made a Fellow of the Institute of Couriers at a ceremony at the House of Lords. The IoC represents the logistics industry and last mile express delivery service. In the last 12 months they delivered 60 billion packages in the UK. They have set up a new road safety committee and, with my interest in this area, I was delighted to join the Commissioner of Transport for London, Andy Lord, as an Hon Fellow. Covid showed how important this sector is to our economy and personal lifestyles. Safety alongside reducing emissions and air quality are key factors as they also promote skills, training and efficiency.
The month also gave me some out of City events. The Plaisterers Livery, where I am a Past Master, has a strong link with the RAF and are affiliated with the 282 Air Cadets in Newham. We were given the great privilege to go up in a Voyager Airbus from Brize Norton to experience the refuelling of a variety of fighter jets. It was an unforgettable experience to see the expertise of the pilots as they lined up the nozzle and the hose to take on board in-flight fuel. The Airbus flew over the North Sea roughly near to Newcastle upon Tyne as we looked for the thirsty jets. We did not have to wait long as we witnessed Saudi, Finnish and UK jets line up and refuel. On board we had great RAF expertise to explain the issues and the dangers. The air cadets were thrilled and showed their own fantastic training and expertise in viewing the amazing scene. Back down on terra firma I walked the path of the proposed Camden Highline https://www.camdenhighline.com/ This is a new park in the sky linking Kings Cross and Camden and creating a high level green space for exercise, fresh air and fun. It has planning permission and now needs to raise the funds. I enjoyed a pleasant walk with the Master Gardener John Gilbert and Consort Lynn Berry. One final enjoyable experience was a visit to the Guildhall Art Gallery and the exhibition The Big City – well worth a visit. It is literally an exhibition of gigantic sized paintings depicting the ceremonial side of City life and of the buildings and infrastructure. https://www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/events/the-big-city
Did I mention I slept for the Lord Mayor's Appeal? You can still sponsor me Alison Gowman is fundraising for The Lord Mayor's Appeal (justgiving.com).
Rarely do I write just about gender diversity and now is not the moment to start. But events over the last couple of weeks mean that I do want to shout out for the courage and tenacity of women in the City of London (and elsewhere) who have forged a difficult path or struck out alone to break down barriers or crash ceilings. On Thursday I attended a lunch to celebrate 50 years since the London Stock Exchange admitted women to the floor of the Exchange. Six women from that vanguard were at the lunch and they were given a standing ovation as the giants on whose shoulders we all stand. Well done to Julia Hoggett and the London Stock Exchange to celebrate this moment. History shows it was not as radical as it sounds as it was rather forced on London as they merged with the regional UK exchanges where women were already traders. Nevertheless, the steps were taken and the business adapted and, indeed, improved due to that initiative. You have to take every ball thrown at you to succeed.
That was 1973 just five years before I started as an articled clerk (trainee) with solicitors Alsop Stevens (now DLA Piper). I did have fellow female articled clerks and solicitors in the firm, but 7 years’ later I became the first female partner. The women at LSEG did not see themselves as giants and nor do I but younger colleagues often remark on that success and wonder what it was like. The lawyers, unlike the traders were relatively polite and ribald jokes were not the usual banter in a City law firm. I was known by the nickname of “boy” by one colleague even when I was by then a full partner with him!
Financial services have not been able to diversify their workforces as effectively as the professional firms (and some of them need to do a lot more). Whilst the 30% Club has had success in the number of women on Boards in the FTSE350 – meeting their target, the non-executive positions are largely below 30%. Fintech seems to be where most progress is needed, according to the marvellous article by the FT about the women in the LSEG and they report the data from HM Treasury.
Last week I also attended the IBDE annual meeting where I sit on its Advisory Board for EDI – looking at the much wider picture than just gender. We have just completed a survey amongst businesses about how EDI intersects with business development, trade, cross border discussions and ESG. Looking at EDI through the prism of such direct business engagement is a very powerful way to see how much more we need to do in the business community generally. The results of the survey will be published fully in due course.
On International Women’s Day I hosted the annual gathering in Guildhall to celebrate the role of women with an audience drawn widely from across the City and associated organisations. The event has been running for over 15 years and has raised the profile of women in the City whilst raising over £300,000 for the charity Refuge. We have embraced male contributors, heard from domestic abuse survivors, military and police as well as education, sport, charity and the arts. Women everyone want to #EmbraceEquity (the 2023 UN theme for International Women’s Day).
We still need giants from all parts of the business with varied backgrounds and experiences to keep up the momentum. To embrace all comers in order to create better businesses that reflect our society, our customers and our world is a good yardstick.
How often do we get a chance to listen to what “Young People “ think? Not just as individuals but by way of a reasoned and creditable survey? I was pleased that the excellent charity, Partnership for Young London collaborated with the Museum of London to hear from GenZ about their concerns and how they would impact the Museum as it plans its future - and shapes our London of the future. The report is here on the Museum of London website.https://www.museumoflondon.org.uk/collections/about-our-collections/enhancing-our-collections/curating-london/calling-change-young-londoners-views-sustainable-future-their-city
As a Governor of the Museum I am interested in how we present ourselves on our new Museum site in West Smithfield. We want it to be a Museum for London and for Londoners and so we cannot afford to miss the generation bubbling up with ideas on our doorstep. The survey is part of a wider engagement but this element focussed on creating a sustainable London. The results showed that this group do not consider London is yet a sustainable City. They want more pedestrianisation with fewer cars and more cycling infrastructure and better air quality. Whilst they view the main movers with responsibility as Government (national and local ) and business; they want to get involved directly. There are barriers to their involvement around time and money, but I was most struck by the answer that there is a fear of repercussions by others on their views and activity. A big gap for many young people is the lack of formal education on topics around climate and the environment. Left to glean this from social media and the internet may lead to the wrong or biased information being provided. Young people want to have sustainable employment but there is a lack of clarity around the type of employment that they might be able to get. From the Museum’s point of view it was good to hear that the participants felt that the arts and cultural spaces have a role to play and a responsibility to educate on environmental issues in the widest sense. Gen Z want the Museum to call on them to co-produce programmes to meet these needs; to offer more hands-on learning and truly represent their views and values.
Let’s hope not only the Museum, but also the rest of society, can start to address the wider points raised by GenZ as to a proper educational programme that can help us all address these pressing issues; weighing up the consequences and providing a location and passion for discourse as well as providing our next generation with employment that will address the needs of our net zero future.
I was duly honoured last week to be made an Honorary Fellow of the Institute of Couriers in a formal ceremony at the House of Lords. The new President Lord ( Peter) Hendy installed me with a Fellow’s hood of the Institute of Couriers. This organisation may not have a high public profile but it is a key part of the logistics infrastructure of the UK and during the Covid pandemic revealed how the connections and deliveries its members make were vital to our health and economy. That continues as the sector delivered 60 billion packages in 2022. The vision of the Institute is to be “A UK courier sector which is ethical and professional and which is understood and valued by governments, businesses and the public.” The members share knowledge, commit to training and competence skills in the sector and work to deliver excellence. Its many activities include developing policies and practices that enhance the sector and the standards it provides to its customers. It has achieved great recognition in the way that the express e-retail service has grown and the Institute provides engagement at all levels from Government to local government, military and police. The Institute promotes education and training and works with FE colleges Universities and other organisations to provide a fully trained workforce. Some of the many strands of work include improving air quality and road safety. It is that latter area of work that drew me to understand how key the Institute members are to keeping our roads safe. A new road safety committee has been set up and this will drive even higher standards.
Individuals are honoured by the Institute to become Fellows – nominated by their organisation for their expertise and loyalty.
My Honorary Fellowship is an exceptional honour that has been awarded on only a few occasions. I was given the honour alongside Andy Lord the Transport for London Commissioner. Other Honorary fellows are Sarah Bell, the Traffic Commissioner, Prof Peter John CBE Vice Chancellor of the University of West London and Leon Daniels OBE former TfL Commissioner.
I will use this role alongside my position as Chair of the London Road Safety Council to enhance and promote road danger reduction across London.