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Celebrating International Women’s Day 2023

On International Women’s Day we wanted to take the opportunity to celebrate the achievements of our We Are Staffordshire Place Board members. Pictured left to right:

Hannah Ault – Chair, We Are Staffordshire Place Board and Managing Director, Valentine Clays

Josie Morris MBE, Managing Director, Woolcool

Kirsty Rollings, Head of Corporate Communications and Marketing, Keele University

Mary-ann Astle, Head of Communications, Staffordshire University

  • Where is your favourite Staffordshire place?

Hannah – My Favourite Staffordshire spot has to be Trentham Gardens, I am lucky to have it on my doorstep and have spent many afternoons and evenings walking in the gardens with my bulldog Loki or relaxing reading a good book. I also really enjoy a good browse in the shops and supporting local establishments where I can. The fact that it is dog friendly is also a huge plus for me personally.

Josie – Any of the amazing countryside where I can take my pup out for a walk. We sometimes forget how many green spaces there are in this county.

Kirsty – Staffordshire is steeped in history and beautiful countryside, so a lot to choose from.  Aside from my ultimate favourite place – Vale Park – I enjoy walks along the canal at Endon, great memories of visiting Hanley Forest Park as a child, but my more recent favourite is Saturday morning Parkrun at Trentham Estate.

Mary-ann – There are so many places to choose from! If I had to pick just one, it’d be Middleport Pottery. Not only is it home to Burleigh, which has been making earthenware since 1851 and based at Middleport since 1889, it is also a fantastic heritage site. I often spend a Saturday morning eating oatcakes in the café before having a browse in the factory shop to top up my collection.


  • What makes Staffordshire a great place to work?

Hannah – I can honestly say that I wouldn’t choose any other county to work within. Having spent many years in London and New York I feel so fortunate to live in a county where work and play go hand in hand. With so much greenery on our doorstep, work-life balance is much easier to achieve than in other places, which helps to ensure we are more productive. Connectivity is also important for our county, being centrally placed means accessibility to other cities and counties is easier. Which is one of the reasons why so many organisations relocate to Staffordshire.

Josie – Staffordshire is a great place to work for an array of reasons. Firstly, it has passionate and skilled people, who are kind with a fantastic sense of humour. Its location in the UK means that everywhere is easily accessible, without having to spend hours and hours in travel time. There are so many great opportunities in this area, both in terms of running a business and/or working in one, that I see this county going from strength to strength.

Kirsty – Staffordshire has a long history of innovation with a healthy mix of large international organisations and smaller enterprises.  Working in Staffordshire provides the space for businesses to thrive, as well as encouraging a healthy work-life balance with the countryside to enjoy and the strength of universities and colleges to pave the way for upskilling or collaboration opportunities.

For me, this is epitomised in my experience of working at Keele University – the world-leading research taking place at the University, particularly in health and energy, makes communicating these messages feel very rewarding as well as seeing the impact that the small to medium enterprises who collaborate with Keele are having in the community.

Mary-ann – Here in Staffordshire we have a brilliant mix of heritage and innovation. We respect and embrace our past, taking lessons from industrial pioneers such as Josiah Wedgwood. A creative county at heart we are brimming with talented individuals and forward-thinking businesses who really want to make our county an exceptional place to live, work, visit and invest.


  • Which of your achievements are you most proud of?

Hannah – The achievement I am most proud of is becoming Managing Director of my families business last year and the first female Vice President of the British Ceramics Confederation. My life’s efforts have been focused on these accolades, having worked for many other organisations to try to prove my worth.

I also feel extremely proud to be chair and part of organisations such as We Are Staffordshire with the aim of helping to put our great county on the map.

Josie – Ask me again in 30 years, I’m very much still a work in progress! Although, I am very proud of our team at Woolcool, they have continued to step up to every challenge levelled at them and to excel. They are evidence of how awesome Staffordshire people are!

Kirsty – Changing my career at the age of 30 from teaching into broadcast journalism and later communications and marketing.  It wasn’t straight forward – it involved a lot of volunteering, a drop in wage, weekend work on low pay and additional qualifications in the evenings.  These changes allowed me to take my career in the direction I wanted and over the last 7 years have moved into four promotional job roles alongside completing the Chartered Institute for Marketing Diploma and more recently, MBA.  Weighing it all up, I’m most proud that I’m now much happier working in a communications role!

Mary-ann – Over the course of my career so far there have been many highlights but what I cherish the most are the constant opportunities to champion my city and my county. Whether that’s being involved in campaigns to highlight the state of the NHS in Stoke-on-Trent and North Staffordshire which reached the doors of 10 Downing Street, to helping to bring events such as TEDxStaffordshire University to life which showcased on an international scale the breadth of talent we have here in Staffordshire.


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