Introducing Lee Webster, our first ever Deputy CEO! Lee is a welcome addition to the Respect team, joining at a time when the organisation is going through a period of growth and change. She brings with her an abundance of non-profit leadership experience, as well as a personal commitment to our goal: ending domestic abuse. We caught up with Lee for a chat.
What was it about working at Respect that appealed to you?
Having always worked in gender equality, I had known about Respect for a long time, and already really admired the work and good reputation of the organisation. When I worked at Womankind we were in the same office block near Old Street and I would sometimes come across Respect staff members and stop for a chat. After quite a long time working in international development, I made a decision this year to shift my career back to UK equality and social justice work, and also felt that doing interim leadership roles would allow me to contribute to a variety of organisations and issues I care about. When I saw the role come up at Respect, it definitely fit the bill on both those counts, and excitingly I got the job!
What are you most excited about in this new role?
I’m excited to be coming in at a time when the organisation has really grown, and we have an opportunity to really build on our strengths and heritage, and garner the expertise of our staff, trustees, members and partners, in order to really face the future with confidence and purpose. It’s amazing to get to play a small part in helping that happen.
What do you see as your biggest challenge in the role?
Time! I can already see how hard everyone at Respect works, and how busy my new colleagues are. We need to make the most of the next few months to really discuss and agree our future direction, and we need to do that in ways that still enable us all to have work-life balance and switch off in an evening! I’m determined though to help us find good ways to do that, and I have excellent colleagues on the senior leadership team who are committed to helping figure that out.
You’ve spent a lot of your career fighting violence against women and girls: is that something you’re passionate about?
I’ve always to some extent worked on VAWG as part of my previous roles – which have mainly been in policy and programmes with a focus on women’s and girls’ rights, in the international development sector. One of the things that gets me out of bed in the morning is the terrible fact that violence against women, mostly at the hands of a partner or family member, is still one of the most widespread human rights abuses in the world. And for me, whether my work on that has been to help bring in funds to support girls standing up against FGM in East Africa, or volunteering with local activists to advocate for better domestic abuse services in my local community in Croydon, it’s the same motivation: to see a world where we can live free from fear of violence. So for me, coming to Respect is a progression of that, it really means a lot to me to be here.
How do you relax after a heavy day?
Well, my son Zac is 7 and the best fun ever. He has an endless stream of Knock-Knock jokes, and also keeps me busy with a football! I’m a sociable person and love hanging out with my buddies, walking in the countryside, and an occasional dip in the sea. I’ve also just taken up knitting and knitted my first ever blanket. Oh and I love my balcony garden and houseplants! Not sure if any of this makes me sound very cool, ha ha, but I do like to think I’m quite good fun!