International Women’s Day – Interview with our Head of Sexual Assault Services
For International Women's Day, we interviewed our Head of Sexual Assault Services, Sarah Thomas. We asked her about her journey to becoming a senior manager, why IWD is important, and which woman has inspired her most!
See her answers below.
Can you tell us a little bit about your role at New Pathways?
As Head of Sexual Assault Services I manage six Sexual Assault Referral Centres (SARCs) and a large team of Independent Sexual Violence Advisors (ISVAs). My role includes supporting the ongoing development and governance of the services we offer clients, both within the SARC teams and the wider services offered by New Pathways. I sit at both operational and strategic meetings within the VAWDASV sector, working with partners to ensure we can prevent, protect and support people living in Wales from all forms of Sexual Violence. In every part of my work, keeping the voices of the people that we are here to support at the heart of everything is an absolute priority.
What was your journey to a senior management position and how did New Pathways support you on this journey?
After some time living overseas I returned to Wales and went to University as a mature student. Whilst studying, research led me to New Pathways and a friend that knew of the organisation encouraged me to get in touch. Not only did this support my work, but opened up the opportunity to successfully apply to become a Crisis Worker at the Merthyr SARC, our head office and the first SARC ever to be established in Wales. From there, I became an ISVA and held that post for over 3 years. I was part of the first cohort of ISVAs in the UK to achieve the Lime Culture ISVA qualification. I thoroughly enjoyed both roles and am immensely proud of the work my teams do every day working in these posts. Frustrated by some of the processes in place and seeing opportunities for better collaboration and partnerships I started to want more of a challenge to support and influence change, challenge thinking, including my own, to improve the experiences of people with lived experience of sexual violence. The very thing I continue to do today.
New Pathways gave me these opportunities by nurturing the passion and the dedication I have always had, and by giving me the time to learn and develop the required skill sets as you move into more senior roles. I have always been supported both professionally and personally at New Pathways; it is a place where people celebrate my successes and professionally challenge me when needed.
What advice would you give to other women who want to become senior managers in a charity?
Find your passion. It’s the passion that helps carry you, especially when times can be difficult. Be with people that share this passion and collectively you will make a difference.
Tell us about a woman who inspires you as a role model.
My mum. Her ability to put the needs of others as a priority is admirable. Her strength of character has always amazed me. When life has thrown her a curve ball, and there have been many, by taking one day at a time she has shown me how to weather the storm.
What does 'equity' mean to you?
In simple terms, fairness. We have to acknowledge that peoples experiences are not all the same and collectively we have to make changes to address and improve this.
Why is International Women's Day important?
It gives us the opportunity to celebrate all the wonderful women in our lives and across the world who have achieved, and are achieving, great things. Some of those achievements may only be known by family members or friends, some will be known on the world stage, but all are equally important. Demonstrating the tenacity, the commitment the love and strength that women have to make our world a better place. There is nothing more powerful than women empowering each other.