Throughout March, we are celebrating International Women’s Day by sharing the stories of inspiring women that we have worked with over the last few years.

Donna Talbot was appointed CEO of Emmaus Cambridge in September 2023. After completing her studies in hospitality and working in conferencing and events at Newmarket Racecourses and Ipswich Town Football Club, Donna broadened her expertise to include marketing before moving to the third sector.

She joined Arthur Rank Hospice Charity as Fundraising and Marketing Manager in 2012 and, over the next decade, led on a £12.5million fundraising appeal as a Director while also studying for her Master’s in Charity Sector Leadership at Cass Business School.

What is the most noticeable win for gender equality you’ve witnessed throughout your career?

Having worked in a football club, I have loved seeing the Lionesses receive growing recognition, and the opportunity to play football on the same stages as men. I have witnessed people underplay the significance of this, yet when we begin talking about behaviours, these can be challenged and together we can drive change. The next generation of women will be in a stronger position and men will have a greater understanding of the value of women in the workplace as a result.

What advice would you give to other women aspiring to leadership roles in the third sector?

Go for it! You’ll never know if you can until you try. Many individuals, including me, live with imposter syndrome. We are not alone and we’re not the first.

It is always worth reaching out to a trusted ally or sponsor. People with lived experience want to help you achieve your dreams. I embarked on my hospitality studies in the late nineties and at that time, I would not have believed that I would become a Director in my thirties and a CEO at the age of 44. Lots of people have played a part in my journey.

How do you use decision-making power to foster a culture of inclusivity?

Good decisions can only be made with the input of many. Some people are naturally forthcoming, some are quieter and more reserved, yet everyone’s views are important. Inclusivity is built on diversity of life experience and knowledge. At Emmaus Cambridge everyone helps shape the services we provide, and we encourage feedback through a host of mechanisms. We welcome challenging discussions and ensure that each person has the opportunity to be heard.

Do you advocate for gender equality and inclusivity outside of your professional role?

Having worked in the third sector and particularly in healthcare, I have been in an unusual situation perhaps, where many senior roles were held by women. Yet, I recognise people’s experiences in other industries may differ greatly.

It is refreshing to see how active male-dominated professions are becoming in leading change, sponsoring women through Women in Leadership programmes and also getting involved in International Women’s Day.

Did you have any role models or mentors who have helped you on your professional journey?

Throughout my career I have met many inspirational male and female role models and mentors. I have benefitted from the support of several male allies; people who have helped me see my potential and provided crucial encouragement. Being kind to others and importantly to yourself is the greatest gift you can benefit from or give.

After all, as we say at Emmaus Cambridge, by helping others you help yourself.


James Hunt is our Head of Not for Profit Appointments, a senior executive search recruitment specialist supporting the not for profit sector since 2005. With a love for finding passionate and talented people, matchmaking leaders, experts and teams in executive appointments. You can connect with James on LinkedIn, or email him at james@peridotpartners.co.uk to start an informal chat about your career or recruitment needs.