Sheenagh Baxter is the co-founder and managing director of LEAD: Leadership for Equality and Diversity. She is a successful publisher who has produced magazines, websites and events in three countries. Here she tells us about the motivations for LEAD and what she hopes to achieve.
I have a rather unusual upbringing. Both my parents are Irish; my father is from Londonderry and my mother from Tipperary. They were a very adventurous couple for their time, and when my father was offered the opportunity to manage a project in Africa as a newly qualified engineer, my parents jumped at the chance. From there, they embarked on a fantastic adventure bringing up a family of six children, all born in different locations across Africa, Pakistan and the Middle-East. I thus was born in Sierra Leone. I spent my childhood attending the village schools and playing in the dusty hot streets with local children, and believing that was the way the world was. It was such a rich experience and one that has stayed with me all my life. In retrospect, it is no surprise that I, alongside my esteemed partner, I am launching LEAD: Leadership for Equality and Diversity as it is a realisation of what I have always believed in.
Being a people person, I was initially drawn to nursing as a career and found myself working in an Irish hospital in Baghdad. There I met and fell in love with a Frenchman and after two glorious years in the Middle East, we moved to France to get married and to start a family. Whilst there, I decided to change my career path and studied marketing, which led to a successful career in publishing. I’ve worked in Ireland, France and England, writing, editing and publishing magazines, relaunching titles and creating tourism websites.
Latterly, this involved building a very dedicated, diverse and successful team at Dods, specialising in the public sector. We organised many events for and with government, re-launched the title CSW and created the communications portal online for senior government officials. My team and I also organised a plethora of events such as the Women into Leadership in London and Scotland, roundtables helping private sector engage with government, an awards ceremony in Buckingham Palace and re-launched a political title in Parliament, which I found particularly exciting. We also won an award for the best sales team at the London Media Awards.
As a women in business and often the only female in the boardroom it was a constant frustration that my opinions were given less consideration and often I literally had to shout to be heard, and so shout I did! I was once asked by an editor I worked with, how I managed to secure such a senior position as an older woman.
I’ve been overlooked for management on several occasions because I was just a woman and “too soft” on my team. And I have been bullied, browbeaten and belittled by men in the workplace too often to remember. However, it never stopped me, it only made me more determined to succeed and to succeed my way.
As a businesswoman, I am a staunch supporter of women in the workplace. I wanted to turn this interest into positive action. In my previous role as MD of a political publishing company, I had explored the possibility of publishing a title dedicated to women. I then bumped into Becky Slack at the Conservative party conference in 2016. We had previously worked together successfully in Dods. We immediately commenced discussing a potential collaboration, which grew over time, taking over our day jobs, and becoming an all-inclusive publication dedicated to equality and diversity. One year on and here we are – we have created Baxter Publishing and have now launched LEAD: Leadership for Equality and Diversity.
I have a vision of a world where everyone can have the opportunity to excel and to be the best version of themselves, no matter who they are or where they are from. I want LEAD to champion that change.
If you have a story you want to share about diversity and inclusion in the workplace, see here for how to contribute to LEAD.