In a new series to celebrate 100 years since women won the right to vote, the Gazette is speaking to high profile women in North Devon to find out more about the challenges and triumphs of being a woman in 2018...
North Devon’s Chief Inspector Alison Lander started in the police service in 2001 as a neighbourhood beat manager for Forches and Whiddon Valley.
She worked her way up through the ranks, in areas from child protection to managing major incidents, before being promoted last year to her current role as the operational policing lead for North and West Devon.
Who was your inspiration to enter into your chosen career?
I think I have to start with my family; I was fortunate to be brought up in North Devon surrounded by a large family.
They all, especially my mum, supported and encouraged me to challenge myself to be the best I can.
The influence of my mum, who is a strong, resilient and caring women, has been a key influence throughout my life and continues to be.
What challenges have you faced both professionally and personally?
We all face personal challenges throughout our lives; I have always tried to move on from them, take the learning and try and focus on the positives.
I, along with anyone in the police service, have dealt with incidents and crimes that have had a profound impact emotionally, especially in a child protection environment.
Are there as many opportunities for women as men, and has this changed since you first entered into your profession?
I think there is wider recognition now then there has ever been around under representation, not only in relation to gender but also other under-represented groups.
People are all different and need differing levels of support and encouragement in order to reach for their goals or recognise their own talent.
From a personal perspective, I have never felt gender has been an issue in my career, but for others I know this has been a factor and I work hard to support and hopefully inspire other women to realise their potential.
Is there a gender pay gap?
Police officers are paid the same regardless of gender.
Do you use your right to vote, and why/why not?
I do. Not only in recognition of the brave fight by women in order that we can but also I feel it is key to our democracy which is something other cultures don’t have the privilege of.
What do you think about what the suffrage movement did for women’s rights 100 years ago?
Perhaps the most famous account of the force feeding was written by Sylvia Pankhurst:
“My gums, when they prised them open, were always sore and bleeding, with bits of loose, jagged flesh... sometimes the tube was coughed up three or four times before they finally got it down.
“Sometimes, but not often – I was generally too much agitated by then – I felt the tube go right down into the stomach; a sickening, terrifying sensation, especially when it reached the breast.
“My shoulders were bruised, my back ached during the night... Infinitely worse than the pain was the sense of degradation.”
When you look at the courage and bravery of these women and all they were willing to sacrifice for what we all now accept as normal its profound and truly inspiring.
These women really did start to challenge and shape a culture that works towards true equality where everyone can be recognised for their talent and ability not their gender.
What’s the best thing about being a woman in 2018?
I think the best thing about being a woman in 2018 is the recognition of talent and ability.
Also, more opportunities – and mostly the support women provide each other professionally and personally.