Image of Mortar Boards being thrown in the air in celebration

Claire Dove OBE

Oration

Presented by: Professor Frank Sanderson

Liverpool-born Claire Dove is the founder and Chief Executive for the Women's Technology and Education Centre, based for the last 10 years at Liverpool's Blackburne House.  

A graduate of the University of Liverpool, Claire has worked for Plessey Communications and Liverpool City Council, but for the majority of her career, she has worked within the voluntary sector both in the UK and in the United States.

Claire was born in Liverpool in 1952 to Ghanaian father, Barny, and Irish mother, Frances.

She attended Granby Street Infant and Junior School in Toxteth and after failing the iniquitous 11+, transferred to Earl Road Secondary Modern, and then to Lawrence County Girls School. In 1964 her father died and at the earliest opportunity, Claire left school to earn money for the family. But working as a secretary in Liverpool in the 1960s proved problematic because of the widespread racism of the time. 

The rejection she felt inspire her to campaign for an employment agency that would accept black people - she was one of the founders in 1971 of International Personnel, an agency funded by the Martin Luther King and John Moores Foundation which focused solely on an individual's capability, not the colour of their skin.

In the early 1970s, Claire joined Plessey Communications as an Administrative Manager and with the support of an enlightened boss who recognised her talent, she gained fast track promotion to a regional management position. 

Between 1973 and 1981, she worked predominantly in the United States, but returned home permanently in the midst of the Toxteth Riots with a fierce determination to improve the lot of the black community in general and women in particular. 

She was instrumental in establishing the Charles Wooten Centre in Toxteth: initially, helping embed good business practice and, when appointed Director, bringing much-needed stability to the organization. Whilst there, she helped set up black Sisters, an empowerment programme for black women in the community.

In 1983, she established the Women's Technology Centre on Hardman Street, to provide courses for women in non-traditional areas of work. Beginning with 30 students and 7 staff, word got around and business quickly expanded, requiring a move to Blackburne House in 1994 - coincidentally, exactly 100 years after Liverpool Institute High School for Girls (located at Blackburne House) had become the first girls' school in the UK.  

The Blackburne House Group now delivers high quality training, education and consultancy services. It enables women, including many from ethnic minorities, who have not been engaged or had success in traditional education and learning environments to uncover and develop their abilities through the provision of high quality learning opportunities. The high standards and high aspirations promoted at Blackburne House bring out the best in the women trainees, many of whom go on to secure senior jobs in the competitive IT sector. 

Now in its 21st year, the Centre has 1000 students and almost 70 staff - many of them ex-students - with satellite programmes up to degree level around Merseyside. The quality of the programmes has been recognized nationally, and the Centre has received the DTI Award for Social Enterprise.

Despite her role as Chief Executive, Claire found the time and energy to study part-time for a degree in Social Science at the University of Liverpool, graduating with an honours degree in 1995.

Claire Dove's contribution to women's education has been acknowledged at many levels: recently, an annual survey conducted by the influential magazine, Regeneration and Renewal,  described herself as an "exemplary leader" and one of the most admired people in her field.  And in 1992, she received an MBE for her services to local regeneration in general and women's education in particular.

Claire is a former governor of Hope University College, a current governor of Liverpool Community College and a former member of the University of Liverpool Council. 

She is also a Board Member of Career Decisions and Deputy Chair of Merseyside Learning & Skills Council. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.

Although she was only 12 when her father Barny died, she pays him particular credit for her remarkable success in life. It is him, she says, who gave her the confidence to fulfil her potential, recalling his wise words, "Never take no for an answer and never accept second best".

Her enthusiasm and mission to improve the lot of women remains undiminished: she commented recently, "We have helped many thousands of women to move into careers, particularly in non-traditional areas, which has added greatly to the regeneration of the city. Two decades on, the situation is vastly improved but there's still a lot more work to be done".

We are proud to honour Claire for her great contribution to the black community and to women's education. There is no doubt that her father's words will continue to inspire her to make an ever greater contribution to the regeneration of this great city.

Thus I have great pleasure in presenting Claire Dove, MBE, this distinguished daughter of our region for the award of our highest honour of Fellow of this University.