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Dame Julie Mellor

Julie Mellor

Areas of Interest


Honorary Award

Honorary Doctor of Philosophy, 2003


Julie Mellor is Chair of the Parliamentary and Health Ombudsman Service which adjudicates on complaints about health services in England, UK central government departments and other public bodies. A former Chair of the Equal Opportunities Commission and former Partner of PricewaterhouseCoopers (pwc) she graduated from Oxford with a degree in Psychology and Physiology and gained her Masters in Industrial Relations from Cornell in 1981. Her professional career began as Employee Relations Adviser with Shell and she spent the next 12 years working within the Human Resource departments of both public and private sector organisations, culminating in 1992 with her appointment as Corporate HR Director of British Gas. She left British Gas in 1996 to set up her own consultancy company. In 1999 she was appointed Chair of the Equal Opportunities Commission where she served until 2005. Throughout her career she has worked for equality and social justice. She has served on the Employers' Forum on Disability, the Commission for Racial Equality and the National Consumer Council.


"The Senate of Anglia Polytechnic University is pleased to confer the award of Honorary Doctor of Philosophy on Julie Mellor for her service to the cause of Equal Opportunities at national and organisational levels, and her contributions to enlightened human resource management in private and public sector organisations.

When the history of the development of the equal opportunities movement in this country is written, it is predictable that a special place will be accorded to the work of Julie Mellor. Events in her earlier years speak to the nature of things to come. She was born of an RAF family and attended 11 schools before she was 11 years old, which must have provided rich perspectives and a gift for lateral thinking. Whilst her father was studying for an OU degree, she borrowed his textbooks and determined to study Neuro-physiology, only to be given advice by her school (Winchester County High) that ladies good at science only studied to be doctors. Happily, she disregarded this advice, but the episode alerted her to the underlying serious equal opportunity issues pervading society and the importance of providing means by which individuals, of whatever gender or ethnic group, could fulfil their life's potential.

Accordingly, she obtained her first degree at Oxford in 1979 in Physiology & Neurophysiology and a Masters at Cornell University in 1981 in Industrial Relations, as Eleanor Emerson Research Fellow. Her operating philosophy of HR management as a profession, and the centrality of equal opportunities in this, swiftly evolved and developed through a series of appointments with Shell (as Employee Relations Adviser 1981-83); London Borough of Islington 1983-84 (as Economic Development Officer); with Greater London Council, Inner London Education Authority 1984-89 (as Senior Employment Policy Adviser and Deputy Head of Contract Compliance/Equal Opportunities Unit); with Trustee Savings Bank 1989-91 (as HR Manager); and with British Gas 1992-96 (as Corporate HR Director). The essence of this operating philosophy contained elements which, though new at the time, are now regarded as standard good practice. These include the following: that equal opportunities is at the heart of effective HR policy; that equal opportunities is thus not a ?bolt-on?, but an essential part of genuine organisational development; that it is in employers' interests to ensure that each individual has a proper balance of work and family interests; and that organisational productivity is seriously jeopardised if the full potential of women is not utilised, and they, for family reasons, are forced to work below their skill levels, or subject to uncongenial work patterns.

When British Gas exhibited manifestations of flouting the basis of the philosophy in her own particular case, she left in 1996 and set up her own consultancy company.

This career move presented a different challenge - of functioning as an external, rather than an internal consultant, and this began to offer a much wider canvas for influencing a wider range of public and private sector organisations in a somewhat different crusading role (including Xerox, DfEE, Motorola, NHS Executive).

In 1996 she was both headhunted for, and sought, the Chair's position at the Equal Opportunities Commission, a dream occurrence which consummated an ambition of 25 years' standing. This provided her with precisely what she wanted at that stage in her career and family development: a national platform for the evolution of her vision; enormous scope for effecting significant public policy and organisational change; a part-time flexible position and a massive challenge since at that time, the Commission was perceived to be a "failing public body. It was perceived to have rather lost its way in terms of its general isolation and its concentration on mechanistic procedures rather than genuine cultural shift in organisations and its neglect of exciting visions." Her instruments for effecting the sea-change in the work and impact of the Commission are too numerous to explore in detail. However, essentially they comprise the following: new dimensions of engaging with employers and unions, especially in regard to Board commitment; evidence based research as a fundamental of policy development; the use of evaluation and enforcement tools as catalysts of internal culture changes within organisations. There also emerged a focused set of agendas within the broad field of equal opportunities (such as equal pay; sexual harassment at work; pregnancy related discrimination; occupational gender segregation; the position of fathers and developing the confidence of men to seek different work patterns; the rights of carers etc.). Her tenancy in the Chair of the Commission is widely perceived to be a classic case of 'organisational turnaround'.

In addition to her position within the Commission, she has sought or been sought for non executive roles on, inter alia, the National Consumer Council, the Employers Forum on Disability, the Commission for Racial Equality, Youth at Risk and Race for Opportunity and others too numerous to mention - but all closely associated with her life's crusade, equal opportunities.

Julie Mellor has 15 months left as Chair of the Commission and her priorities for the period are to ensure substantial progress is made in policy agendas such as commitment to universal childcare; flexibility at work for carers; means of moving away from the British fetish of long working hours; race and disability; working in multi-cultural environments and the equal opportunity issues evident in the government's student loan proposals - a formidable shopping list.

What of life after the Equal Opportunities Commission? It is hard to believe that Julie Mellor will stop here. A likely future is in broader public policy activities especially enhancing the perspective of women therein. A significant international role at international level would seem a logical evolution, especially in the field of conflict resolution and equal opportunities.

The mission of Anglia Polytechnic University is very much founded on a policy of inclusiveness, access and widening participation and the philosophy of equal opportunities clearly underpins this. It is therefore fitting, Chairman, I request you to confer upon Julie Mellor the Honorary Degree of Philosophy of this University."