We are delighted to announce Alex Skailes, Senior Academic at Bayes Business School (formerly Cass) and Director at the Centre for Charity Effectiveness (CCE) has been appointed incoming Chair of the Global Women’s Leadership Programme, starting from the 1st August 2022.
Alex succeeds Alison Maitland, author, leadership coach, Senior Visiting Fellow at Bayes and former Financial Times journalist.
“I am delighted that Alex will be overseeing the exciting next phase of the Programme as Chair of the Executive Board,” Alison said. “I have hugely enjoyed my time working both with Dr Canan Kocabasoglu-Hillmer and now Dr Janina Steinmetz as Directors, and with the exceptional young women scholars, and being involved in the Programme’s highly successful evolution since its launch five years ago.”
A multidisciplinary and cross sector career
Alex Skailes has always had a multidisciplinary approach to her work.
As an undergraduate student, she read geography at University College London (UCL). Her fledging interests in business and society developed and she chose to study a combination of social geography and development economics modules, aligning her interests in economics, geography and social impact.
After her studies, she joined PwC (then Price Waterhouse) as a graduate trainee, qualifying as a Chartered Accountant and spent the next ten years working in the London financial sector in advisory and regulatory roles. Alex is a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (FCA).
Alex’s interest in social impact continued. During her career break to spend time with a young family, she took on her first Board roles bringing her financial expertise to the nonprofit boardroom and taking on a variety of pro bono advisory assignments with nonprofits. In 2007, she was introduced to Bayes Centre for Charity Effectiveness (CCE), going on to study for Bayes’ MSc in Voluntary Sector Management and being awarded the ICAEW Post Graduate Diploma in Charity Accounting (DChA). The programme was a insight in how to blend management best practice with the passion, culture and social purpose of nonprofits. She subsequently built a portfolio career, founding the financial and management consultancy partnership robertandskailes and working with CCE’s consulting arm as a principal consultant.
Chairing a nonprofit and working with CCE
Throughout this time, Alex’s interest in charity governance continued and in 2011, the opportunity came up to chair the Ipswich Community and Voluntary Organisation, now part of Community Action Suffolk (CAS). CAS is an Ipswich-based nonprofit aimed at coordinating the efforts of multiple voluntary, community and social enterprise organisations in the region.
“Previously, I hadn’t truly explored my home county. Looking at it through a different lens, I saw the rural challenges and how organisations were trying to address it. Several of us began asking questions about the impact of the many local charities and saw an opportunity to combine skillsets from various organisations to provide a more aligned approach to supporting the local community,” she said.
Building on this she was elected to chair the merger of ten Suffolk charities to create CAS in 2013. She said this experience taught her so much; how to be an active listener, to recognise the different leadership styles, behaviours and communications that are required at different times and to learn how to transcribe learning from one sector to another for enhanced sustainability.
Working with CCE
In 2016, the role of Director and CEO of the Centre came up and Alex jumped at the opportunity to apply and was subsequently appointed.
“Working with clients has always been a big part of my career,” she said. “To be able to continue this and lead a team as Director, while being given the opportunity to share my learning with Bayes students and be part of the wider academic community, truly appeals to me.
“I get so much learning and fulfilment from both client and student interaction—it really is a two-way learning process, and it keeps my knowledge topical and up-to-date.
“I’m interested in seeing what makes an organisation tick, where it can be strengthened, the different dynamics of leadership teams and what makes boards and executives come together to deliver great results. I’ve always led teams within large and complex organisations—and CCE is a great example of that, being part of Bayes Business School which in turn is one piece of City, University of London.”
“The value CCE can bring Bayes and City as a whole is significant; not just by working with the nonprofit sector but working alongside corporates with their growing emphasis on the social element of their ESG agendas.”
In addition to her role at CCE, Alex is studying towards an Executive PhD exploring how enhanced social value can be created through nonprofit mergers and acquisitions.
Supporting women and being a mentor
Throughout her career, Alex has mentored others. She is a member of UK arm of the International Women's Forum , an organisation which is dedicated to enhancing leadership across all sectors and supporting women leaders of today and tomorrow. She was invited to join by Lynne Berry CBE, former Executive Chair of the GWLP and Honorary Visiting Professor at Bayes, who she considers as an informal mentor and sage sounding board.
Alex describes IWF UK as a stimulating, supportive and friendly environment. “It’s a great group of inspirational women sharing their knowledge and experiences in a safe environment, with lots of learning opportunities.”
For Alex, good leadership is about being accessible, adaptable and ambitious. With no team, there is nothing to lead, so it’s about working to create a common purpose, bringing together a really talented group of people and enabling them to deliver in their areas of expertise; encouraging them to be the best they can, and to build their own careers while supporting the overall organisational goals.
The future of GWLP
GWLP coordinates scholarships for female students, organises skills-based workshops, speaker and panel events, networking opportunities and disseminates research on gender-balanced leadership.
Looking forward to her tenure as Chair of the GWLP Executive Board, Alex is not surprisingly interested in exploring new sectors – including government and nonprofit – as well as the intersection between sustainability and leadership and the role women can play.
She looks forward to learning more about the programme from the Board. “In the short term, I will be listening and learning, to hear what’s already working well within the programme. I aim to strengthen the Programme’s core offering and to create a heightened awareness of GWLP’s impact throughout Bayes and beyond.”
“In the midterm, I’ll be working with the Director and Board to refresh the strategy and to explore where the greatest impact can be made. After the Business School was renamed to Bayes, its focus on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) was made a larger part of its overall strategy. GWLP has been recognised as a key part of our DEI strategy and I want to strengthen that position.
“In the longer term, my ambition is for GWLP to contribute to enhancing gender balanced leadership across all sectors. At Bayes, we have postgraduate students coming to study with us from so many backgrounds — not just the corporate world, but also government, public sector, social enterprises and charities.”
Byline: Eve Lacroix, Marketing Executive and Global Women's Leadership Programme Executive Board Member, Bayes Business School