'She has a CV that would make the fattest of fat-cat bosses shudder'
Rita Donaghy kick-started the TUC annual congress this week with an attack on the sexism that hampers women who are beating a path into Britain's boardrooms, and few could be more qualified to deliver such an opening salvo.
The seventh female president of the TUC, Ms Donaghy has a CV that would make the fattest of fat-cat bosses shudder: she is a member of the government's Low Pay Commission and the Equal Opportunities Commission Task Group on Equal Pay; she is on the European TUC executive; she is a member of the executive committee of Unison; and is permanent secretary of the Institute of Education's students' union. Next month she will take over the chair of Acas, the arbitration service that handles three-quarters of a million disputes against employers every year. She even won her OBE in 1998 for "services to industrial relations".
Her rallies against sexism - this week she called for better maternity leave and child care to help women break the glass ceiling - were first prompted by conditions in the higher education sector.
After gaining a degree in English from Durham University in 1967, Ms Donaghy worked as a PA at the National Union of Teachers before joining the Registry of the Institute of Education in 1968 where she rose to the position of assistant registrar. She was appointed permanent secretary to the students' union at the institute in 1984.
From the IoE, she set up the clerical branch of public-sector union Nalgo in 1969 and later went on to become its branch secretary, chair and vice-chair between 1970 and 1985. She has served on the NEC of Nalgo since 1973, including a spell as president in 1989-90, and was a member and chair of the merger working group that led to the formation of Unison in 1993.
Since her days at Nalgo and the IoE she has been a regular contributor to The THES.