In Conversation with Ben Marsh and Sarah Kerr

I’m Ben, the Women in Defence UK lead on the Women in Defence Charter.


I am one of two civil servants who have taken over from Kiah, the previous Women in Defence UK chief of staff. Sarah, who you will be able to find more about below, and I are on six-month secondments as part of the civil service fast stream. That makes us the fourth and fifth fast streamers to have worked at Women in Defence UK with Kiah, George and Adam coming before us.


I am in the second year of the fast stream and previously worked for a year on Brexit at the department of business. I was incredibly lucky to be posted to the heart of the department’s Brexit programme at such a historic time. Through my role, I witnessed the brilliance of the civil service at first hand. Despite the pressure on everyone, every civil servant I met demonstrated and respected the four civil service’s four key values – impartiality, objectivity, honesty and integrity which was incredibly impressive and inspiring.


When I received my posting details for Women in Defence UK, I was thrilled as I would be working in defence and security, a subject area that I am hugely interested in. Before joining the civil service, I studied a Masters in War Studies at King’s College London and then went on to intern at the Royal United Services Institute.


Already three months in, my role in Women in Defence UK has lived up to my expectations. I have received endless invaluable insights into the defence sector and I am inspired to trumpet the importance of diversity and inclusion in defence and the wider economy at each step of my future career. I am also fortunate to engage with a broad range of incredible people, from civilian to military, with representatives from small and medium sized companies to major defence primes.


Anyway, over to Sarah.


I’m Sarah, the Women in Defence UK Chief of Staff.


I am in my third year of the Civil Service Fast Stream, and have worked in roles in government ranging from Brexit to education and climate change. I am delighted to be working at Women in Defence UK, where I am getting a great insight into working in a small and growing organisation as well as into the fascinating world of defence and security.


I am also passionate about improving diversity in government and industry. For individual organisations, it makes plain sense to broaden the pool of people from which an organisation recruits and to reduce the likelihood of ‘groupthink’. More broadly, diversity within individual organisations has a significant knock-on effect in reducing broader societal inequality.


The defence enterprise is a particularly hard nut to crack, so I am excited to see how much progress has been made and to see how lessons learnt from the defence industry could be applied elsewhere. Equally, there’s still a long way to go and I will continue to advocate for women in defence throughout my career!


I started my 6 month stint at Women in Defence focussed on the Women in Defence Awards Dinner 2019 – a truly inspiring (and exhausting!) start to the placement. We’re now into planning for the 2020 Awards, with nominations opening on 26th February. So please get thinking about the fantastic women and men you know who deserve a nomination!



In the meantime, we have fantastic programme of events coming up. Alice Bromage is coming to talk about the world’s first all-female anti-poaching unit on 5th February. We have a series of masterclasses to help women in defence maximise their impact delivered by RADA (next one is on 12th February). And we are interviewing the Chief of Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Mike Wigston, on 11th March, and jointly hosting a panel event with Leidos and Tech UK on 25th March on improving gender diversity. Check out our events page to find out more!