The Big Hire: Sophie Walker of the Young Women's Trust

The former leader of the Women's Equality Party has been appointed chief executive and is also an ambassador for the National Autistic Society

Sophie Walker
Sophie Walker

Anyone hoping for a quieter period in the long history of the Young Women’s Trust might be disappointed by the appointment of Sophie Walker as chief executive.

Founded in 1855 as the YWCA England & Wales, the trust has twice changed its name during a turbulent decade, first to Platform 51 in 2010, then to its current name in 2013. Income fell sharply in the financial year ending 31 March 2015 from £2.1m to £1.1m but has since stabilised.

The charity, which supports women aged 18 to 30 on low or no pay, benefits from an £8m permanent endowment and a £6.7m expendable endowment that provides about £550,000 a year. But the £1.1m it generated in the financial year ending 31 March 2018 was more than offset by £3.2m in expenditure. Its decision to withdraw from the Pensions Trust and pay the debt accounts for £1.5m of this. But even after discounting this sum, the charity made an operating loss before investment gains of £568,000.

Walker’s background suggests she is unlikely to shy away from making difficult decisions when in September she takes up the role she describes as a "positive disruption". A journalist and feminist activist, she led the Women’s Equal­ity Party from its foundation in 2015 until January this year and stood as the party’s candidate in the 2016 London mayoral election and in the 2017 general election in Shipley.

She says: "Women and girls have been hard hit by aus­terity and continue to pay the cost of policy-making that does not see them. But they are the solution to our current difficulties and divisions – not the problem."

Walker has written a book about having a daughter with Asperger’s syndrome and is an ambassador for the National Autistic Society. Jo-ann Robertson, chair of the trust, says: "At a time of huge political change and when women’s
issues have never been higher on the agenda, or under more threat, Sophie is the right person to take us on to our next chapter."

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