An Interview with ICE-P Founder Carole Barron

Carole is a Senior Manager at the University of Kent with responsibility for the strategic development of innovation and enterprise. She has been the driving force behind developing the Inspire, Challenge, Excel Programme.

What inspired you to launch the Inspire, Challenge, Excel Programme (ICE-P)?

Personal experience, but also the Women in Enterprise conference we ran two years ago. There was such demand afterwards for more of that kind of support for women; for role models who can talk about how they worked through difficult circumstances, how they set up their business, or how they got onto the senior leadership team. But it’s not as simple as just knowing how someone else did it; people also recognised that they needed real, practical help.

The true inspiration was probably what Amanda Cottrell said at the conference. She really challenged you to think; what are you doing?

Not everybody wants to be a leader or set up a business. You can be happy doing your job, whatever that might be, but you want to be the best that you can at it. Sometimes barriers stop you from developing in your role, such as struggling to find your voice in a meeting. So we want to empower people so that they are able to excel at whatever it is they want to achieve.

What does success for this programme look like to you?

That in the future we don’t need it. Perhaps it might still exist, but if it did then Inspire, Challenge, Excel would be for everyone whatever their gender.

I’ll love it when, as a woman, you’re asked to talk at a leadership event that’s not specifically aimed at women. I think our society has already made a lot of progress towards this, and if you look at boards they are beginning to move towards more women, so success in the future is that you don’t need to focus on women; equality will just be the norm.

So what’s the one piece of advice you always pass on?

I don’t accept no. Somebody once told me I would never get on in my job because people remembered me starting as a temp, and there was a pre-judgment about why I was temping. I was doing it because my son was sick a lot as a child, so the view that you’ll never get on because people remember you a certain way or have formed certain opinions about you I’m not going to accept. There will be obstacles and barriers you’ll need to overcome in your life and career so the bit of advice I always give is to network. Network as much as you can, because in doing so you gain confidence, meet some amazing people, and sometimes those people can help to remove those obstacles.

Who do you look up to?

Stella Rimmington, the first female Q in MI5. I heard her talk about how she got into the role, and the hurdles she overcame. When it was announced, the media focused on her being this “housewife spy”, and not on why she was really chosen. Her story inspired me, and I’d highly recommend her autobiography which was an inspiring read.

The other person I look up to is my daughter. She holds a senior executive position on a board in the UK, and championing women in that sector, and also an amazing mother. She’s a bit of a role model to me, although she wouldn’t admit that. She’s incredible, and has achieved so much, so young.

Earlier this year the university reported a significant rise in female professorships. What other developments in equality have you seen during your time at the University? And what do you hope to see over the next few years?

The introduction of ATHENA SWAN and the AURORA leadership training. The huge numbers of women that come through who want to be leaders within their universities is amazing, but the University of Kent has absolutely embraced these programmes.

What do I hope to see? I don’t want there to be a need to run these things. I want good leaders. If the best leader for this university was a man, that’s what you want. In leadership roles you want the best leaders regardless. And I just want it to be the norm that we don’t have to talk about women in leadership.

With ICE-P I just want to try and make a difference. But it’s not about me, it’s about all the people out there that we want to help and support. Like my children, and my grandchildren; at home we all talk about my granddaughter Maggie becoming PM! I’m hoping, in the long run, that the world for Maggie will be a different place; one where there are no barriers for her, and she can be successful at whatever she chooses.