'The Female Leader': The Alice Bacon Lecture 2023

Join Dame Sharon White as she shares her personal journey – reflecting on her background, varied career and leadership – through the lens of female equality.

The Chair of the John Lewis Partnership, Dame Sharon White, is to deliver the 2023 Alice Bacon Lecture at the University of Leeds on Thursday 2nd November. The title of Dame Sharon’s lecture is ‘The Female Leader – Looking to the day that it’s unremarkable’. After the lecture will follow a Q&A session.

From her upbringing as a daughter to parents of the Windrush generation, to her education, to three distinct phases across her career (with the Civil Service, regulation (Ofcom), and most recently the John Lewis Partnership), Dame Sharon will speak to each chapter of her journey, as well as to providing varying levels of control and influence of the ‘rebalancing’ agenda.

Dame Sharon will share her views on how to work towards greater gender equality in the workplace and society, by having a different conversation that brings everyone along in step – men included. 

Dame Sharon has said that,

I am so pleased to be joining the Alice Bacon Lecture series this year. A great opportunity to share experiences and maybe some lessons along the way – all with the aim of helping women to not feel they have to take a backseat.

Dr Richard Hayton, Co-director of the Centre for Democratic Politics, adds that,

We are absolutely delighted to be able to welcome Dame Sharon White to the Univeristy of Leeds. Her distinguished and varied career means that she is ideally placed to speak on the topic of women and leadership and reflect on the battle for gender equality.

The lecture will take place at 18:30 – 19:30 on Thursday 2nd November 2023. Doors will open at 18:00. After the lecture there will be a drinks reception. This is a public event and it is free to attend – please register for a ticket!

About the Lecture Series

The public lecture series is held annually and celebrates the achievements of pioneering women. It is hosted collaboratively by the University of Leeds’ Centre for Democratic Politics and Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves and is named after the Leeds Labour MP who led a crusade to improve the education of working-class girls and boys.

Alice Bacon was elected to represent Leeds North East in 1945 and served her city constituents continuously until her retirement a quarter of a century later, when she took up a seat in the House of Lords as a Baroness. Leeds did not return another woman to the Commons until the election in 2010 of Leeds West MP and Shadow Chancellor, Rachel Reeves, who is also Baroness Bacon’s biographer.

Photograph of Alice Bacon in 1945

Photograph of Alice Bacon in 1945.

The inaugural lecture was given in 2018 by Harriet Harman – the Commons’ longest continuously serving female MP. This was followed in 2019 when the lecture was delivered by Baroness Hale of Richmond, who was the first female president of the Supreme Court and the country’s most senior judge until her retirement from the role in December that year. 

After a break in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the series returned in 2021 with Baroness Doreen Lawrence, who spoke about women in the public eye and her personal journey. Baroness Lawrence came to prominence following the death of her son Stephen, a black British teenager who was murdered in a racist attack in Southeast London in 1993. 

Most recently, in 2022, the lecture was given by renowned scholar Dame Professor Mary Beard. The celebrated professor of Classics lectured on the theme ‘Women in Power’.