Working as the Chair of Leeds Teaching Hospitals gives Linda Pollard plenty of opportunity to see what the region has to offer – and she is confident that Leeds – and its surrounding area is about to witness some great developments.
'I'm very excited because of what we have in Leeds. I have a post chairing the biggest teaching hospitals in Europe with 15,000 members of staff and a billion pound turnover. This city also has the university, where Sir Alan Langlands, a former CEO of the NHS, is joining as Vice Chancellor.Tom Riordan is the new chief of the City Council so there is a real triangulation. I think we're at the cusp of something huge which will be driven by the right group of people being in the right place all together. It's exciting for me, it's linking the hospitals to the other partnerships which is part of a long but exciting journey for the future.'
On a personal level, Linda – who was born in Saltaire – is also passionate about the county that she calls home: 'Yorkshire has always been my base. Don't get me wrong, I have worked right across Europe and in London, and still do, but Yorkshire is definitely my base. I once had an MD who was based in Maidenhead saying to me, "Why is your office in Bradford?" And I would tell him that it was in the middle of the country and handy for Glasgow and London. Meanwhile, Maidenhead wasn't exactly the centre of the universe!'
One of Linda's other commitments is as the chair of Inspirational Journey; an organisation which was launched in Yorkshire to help stem the tide of women leaving the workplace. Even though she is now chair of the organisation nationally, Linda is aware that more needs to be done to keep Yorkshire's women on the career ladder. 'Remaining in Yorkshire has always been hugely important to me. There is so much potential, but women perhaps haven't been able to gain ground here. I hate to say it but there are a lot of male-dominated business in Yorkshire. We have some way to go, and even as Inspirational Journey expands, Yorkshire still has to battle.'
Linda, who spends much of her time mentoring younger women, believes that while women still have ground to make up in boardrooms and head offices everywhere, situations have improved immeasurably for females in the workplace. In my generation it was very different. The reason I became an entrepreneur was because I realised I could do this myself. Getting into a market was incredibly difficult because there were set roles for girls to go into from school. I didn't go to university because it wasn't expected. Consequently, there weren't any great role models. You were a secretary or a teacher or nurse – it was accepted you would follow these disciplines. I didn't really have any women to look up to.'
The obvious dearth of inspiring women around as Linda grew up has galvanised her efforts for Yorkshire's Two Per Cent Club: an organisation which campaigns for better gender balance in business. Since its conception, which was a collaboration between Linda and the Yorkshire chair Heather Jackson, the Two Per Cent Club has gone global and Linda is now turning her thoughts towards an international conference. Clearly, the scheme has taken off in a huge way but Linda puts that down to ambition and attitude. She explains, 'We're fairly driven, we have a lot of ambition. It's the can-do attitude. Heather is younger than me and really I just monitor her ambition and steer the ship. It's having that attitude but also making sure we handle our corporate sponsorship correctly.'
Clearly, confidence has played a huge part in getting Linda to where she is today. She believes this self-belief stemmed from her childhood and says, 'I was an only child with a hugely supportive grandfather who was a union leader and what he saw in me was an independence and self-confidence. That self -confidence is what I try to instil in the ladies I talk to. I don't believe that there is a glass ceiling: it's in your head. You can achieve anything you set out to do – particularly because education is now wide open to everyone. The number of female graduates emerging now exceeds males, but what happens after that? Women imagine, for whatever reason, that a male colleague is better than they are. It is vital to have confidence in your own worth; not just in terms of money, it's the next promotion, job title and where you want to be.'
Published September 2013