Winners at the Women in Defence Awards 2021

This year’s Women in Defence Awards have taken place, with the Army taking home two prizes that honoured the contributions and achievements of women across the Defence sector.

Brigadier Alison McCourt OBE was the very worthy winner of the Outstanding Contribution Award for her involvement with the pandemic response. Brigadier McCourt deployed with two hours’ notice to the NHS to assist with leading the joint NHS and military team charged with establishing seven Nightingale hospitals in extremely challenging circumstances.

Once she had led the team to success after a three-month deployment, she volunteered to stay at NHS Headquarters on placement to ensure she could remain at the front line of the response at a pivotal point for the NHS and the UK.

Brigadier McCourt has a record of leading the way in emergency health responses - she commanded the first hospital that deployed to Sierra Leone in response to the Ebola crisis. She has also been the Army's Chief Nurse for 3 years during which time she has worked to transform the profile of her QARANC cap badge.

Things are changing for women in the Armed Forces, and there is no longer a requirement to sacrifice the breastfeeding journey in order to have a successful career. LCpl Natasha Day

And the Defence Breastfeeding Network won the Equality of Opportunity Award in recognition of the group’s work to create a supportive environment for servicewomen through their breastfeeding journey. Lance Corporal Natasha Day, who was also nominated for the Unsung Heroine Award, set up the Network after returning to work when her son was six months old and struggling to find any policy or support on how she could continue to breastfeed.

She decided to start the Army Breastfeeding Network (now the Defence Breastfeeding Network), which created a safe area for mothers and partners to come together in a way that ensures that the wider Defence community is able to understand and support them.

The Network provides guidance on health issues, maternity leave, returning to work and how to overcome barriers in the workplace. It also advocates for equality in the workplace for breastfeeding mothers to ensure they don’t fall behind on promotions, deployments and courses and offers guidance for the chain of command on how to maximise the potential of breastfeeding servicewomen.

Natasha explained why the award was so important, “The Defence Breastfeeding Network was fortunate enough to receive the Equality of Opportunity Award at the Women in Defence Awards. This is dedicated to all service families who have ever struggled to return to work and continue to breastfeed. Things are changing for women in the Armed Forces, and there is no longer a requirement to sacrifice the breastfeeding journey in order to have a successful career.”