February 17, 2022
Social mobility champions and senior civil servants Carole Lovstrom and Charlotte Bedford

Two social mobility champions have shared their motivational life and career stories with students at University Centre Leeds.

Carole Lovstrom MBE and Charlotte Bedford are senior civil servants who co-chair the Department for Transport’s Social Mobility Network.

They were invited to give a talk to students at the University Centre, as part of its six week Women in Leadership programme, on Thursday 10 February.

Both guests occupy key roles in the Department for Transport where Carole is the Head of Ministerial Briefing, Public Affairs, and Correspondence and Charlotte is the Senior Policy Advisor in the Aviation Decarbonisation Division.

Rising to the top – despite tough starts

Deputy Head of Business at University Centre Leeds, Sarah Cook, said: “Carole and Charlotte were excellent speakers. We loved having them and we ended up having around 50 people turn out to hear them.

“They are both great examples of women who have excelled and gone very far in their careers despite not having the easiest of starts. Our students were quite taken aback when they found out their current salary grades!

“They spoke wonderfully and shared personal stories about their backgrounds. Neither got into the civil service by typical means at all, each had just seen an advert for a job and applied for it.

“Both of them come from council estates and, in Charlotte’s case, from a single parent family with not much money. Despite those challenges, they have both then moved up into the most amazing roles. They talked about what it was like to work in the civil service today, and how the service needs to be filled with ‘ordinary’ people.”

The Women in Leadership programme is designed to empower female students by letting them hear from individuals who have overcome challenges to succeed in high-profile roles.

An empowering message

Sarah believes Charlotte and Carole’s presentation did just that. She added: “Their big message was ‘you can do this’. They went through what the students’ strengths and perceived weaknesses were, and how to look again at what might be considered weaknesses and see opportunities.

“They also talked about moving up the levels in their jobs and the value of networking. And Charlotte spoke about taking up apprenticeships after starting work, as she – though already in an incredibly senior position, at just 22 – is an apprentice now.

“The students loved it and were so engaged, and surrounded both women afterwards to ask them questions.”

Ten University Centre Leeds students, meanwhile, are looking forward to enjoying a trip to the Department for Transport offices in March as part of the programme. The visit will include an overnight stay, tour of the offices and some work experience.

The Women in Leadership campaign continues on Thursday 17 February when there will be a workshop on understanding and tackling imposter syndrome.