Head of Profession: Stephanie Howarth

Large version of the profile picture for Stephanie Howarth, the Government Statistical Service (GSS) Head of Profession (HoP) at Welsh Government.

Stephanie Howarth is the Government Statistical Service (GSS) Head of Profession (HoP) at Welsh Government.

My biggest work-related accomplishment

I’m incredibly proud of the way statisticians across the Welsh Government and our partner organisations worked together to provide evidence to support government decision making during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. This showed very clearly how analysts can help with the most difficult, fast-paced challenges.

As Co-Director I must mention the success of Administrative Data Research (ADR) Wales acquiring public sector data, linking this to other sources, and using this to inform the Programme for Government in Wales. I’m really pleased the value of this partnership between government and higher education is being recognised and has been awarded more funding for the next four years.

Using the pandemic as an example, the team linked school workforce data to COVID-19 vaccination records to understand vaccine uptake in school staff. This not only saved staff time and the costs of undertaking a survey, but also provided more reliable evidence to inform policy decisions around on school.

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If I could only produce one piece of work next year

It’s difficult to choose one thing because my remit is very wide. But my first priority is to ensure all staff have the very best working environment and conditions so they can remain resilient and keep responding to new challenges as well as they have been. I see my role as creating the conditions for people to keep doing this.

Why I chose a career in statistics

I’ve always felt incredibly passionate about the opportunity to make a difference. I did a Psychology degree and always enjoyed the statistics elements of it, so I was interested in government statistics for the opportunity to help improve government decision-making. Ultimately it can make a huge difference to people’s lives.

The breadth of opportunity appealed to me too. I’ve worked for the Office for National Statistics (ONS), Welsh Treasury, BBC News, Senedd Cymru and covered a wide spectrum of topics. A career in statistics gives you so many opportunities.

The best skills I bring to the job

I genuinely care about people. I want our staff to enjoy their roles and feel valued, as I do. I try and encourage high levels of enthusiasm for the important work we do, to help people face their day with a positive frame of mind. I encourage all staff to regularly give feedback to others and celebrate high quality analysis.

I want everyone to feel they can bring their full self to work. I have used tools like the Analysis Function diversity and inclusion toolkit to raise awareness, encourage discussion and communicate the culture and working environment we want to create. It’s helped me think about the type of leader I aspire to be too.

One thing I wish I knew before I joined the Civil Service

I think a lot of people have a limited understanding of the breadth of Civil Service roles and responsibilities, and the huge effect our work can have both at home and across the world. People cannot always see the efforts of civil servants from outside.

I hope to dispel a few myths about working in analysis in the Civil Service by doing wider outreach work. I really enjoyed going to a school in Wales recently to talk to pupils about the 2021 Census and the importance of statistics. I hope we inspired at least one future statistician among them.

The biggest influence on my approach to work

I have had a few reverse mentors over my career who have been fantastic at making me see things from a different perspective. They have really helped to drive my focus on equality, diversity and inclusion.

I was also lucky enough to work in the National Statistician’s Office when Dame Jil Matheson was the National Statistician. I try to replicate her very approachable style to leadership.

The biggest misconception people have about my role

People think that I spend most my time in spreadsheets. But being a senior statistical leader demands softer skills most of the time, like communicating, influencing and motivating teams. I spend most of my time speaking to people, which I do enjoy.