From taking on a football club secretary role that was only supposed to take up a “few hours a week” to becoming the only female football association chair in England, Denise Richmond shared her inspirational journey into leadership with three different groups during March.
Two weeks ago, the Kent FA chair, who became the first woman to hold the role when she was elected in 2020, took part in a question-and-answer session with managers and team leaders from the Kent FA’s community investment partners BAE Systems.
After hearing Denise’s story, the group taking part in a leadership development course discussed navigating challenges, how to pick your battles and ways Denise would handle different situations as a leader.
Lee Penford, Operations Director at BAE Systems in Rochester, said: 'It was interesting for the future leaders of our business to hear from someone like Denise who has had such a varied and progressive career. She has had to overcome many obstacles, and her insights provided the team with a different perspective of how leaders develop their skills and support those around them.'
Growing up as the eldest of five children meant Denise was born into a natural role of responsibility and her first position in football was as secretary of Greenwich Borough Football Club.
She told the BAE Systems leaders about the allies she developed at the club and the importance of having their support, which then led to her being actively encouraged to step forward for other roles within football, including Chair of the Southern Counties East Football League (SCEFL) and Steps ⅚ Representative on the FA Council.
As part of its partnership with the Kent FA, aerospace and defence technology company BAE Systems supports kickabout sessions for 15-18-year-old boys and girls run by Anchorians Football Club in Gillingham.
These organised kickabouts enable young people who may not be able to commit to a club for practical or financial reasons to enjoy football in a safe and fun environment.
Denise said: “It’s really important that organisations like BAE Systems can put back into the communities in which they live and work, but also it allows the Kent FA to develop these kinds of programmes.”
March was a busy month for Denise, who also took part in panels at the Kent FA Female Volunteer Forum and the Women in Football Be Inspired conference at Wembley Stadium, where she was part of a discussion about working and volunteering in grassroots football.
She has enjoyed using her experiences to assure audiences there can be ways of working around the challenges they may face.
She said: “I don’t think I realised until now how important it is to share it because, for me, it’s just who I am and this is what I do.
“March really highlighted it for me because of those three events - one personal to Kent, the national one and then the local one working in partnership, so it’s been quite a nice journey.”