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An interview with Jocelyn Hillman, Founder and CEO of Working Chance


“The top 30% of women breaking the glass ceiling should be developing and supporting the bottom 30%.”


This charity is supported by the Coutts Foundation, an independent corporate foundation supported by Coutts.

Jocelyn Hillman, OBE

Founder and CEO of Working Chance

Before establishing Working Chance in 2007, Jocelyn had a business career as a senior manager, entrepreneur and communication specialist in Toronto, Paris and London. After recovering from breast cancer in 2003, she committed herself to charity leadership and was appointed chief executive of a local charity before founding Working Chance.


What inspired you to start Working Chance?

I set up a second-hand shop in HMP Holloway (GladRagz) where the women could buy affordable clothes. While doing this I met many inspirational women, one of whom said “the real punishment starts when you leave prison and no one will give you a job”.

I thought prohibiting these women from working and supporting their families was a terrible waste of human life and potential, not to mention an unnecessary cost to tax payers. The potential to transform lives and change society inspired me to set up Working Chance.

What are the key issues your organisation is tackling?

  • Recognition and realisation of the potential of women leaving the criminal justice and care systems 
  • Supporting families; breaking the intergenerational cycle of offending and poverty passed from mother to child, and addressing the scandalous care-to-prison pipeline for young women leaving care
  • Educating employers and breaking down the prejudice and preconceptions they have toward women with convictions
  • Homelessness for women leaving prison. 40% of our candidates have no fixed abode to go to on release from custody

What achievement are you most proud of? 

Having helped more than 1,400 women with criminal convictions into paid work, starting their journey toward financial independence.


What are the ambitions for the coming year?

We have three key ambitions for the coming year:

  1. Engage and deepen relationships with the corporate world in the firm belief that we can’t solve society’s issues – social or economic – without engaging business and working in partnership with them
  2. Speak out more about the barriers that women leaving the criminal justice and care systems face
  3. Increase the in-work support and career progression we provide our candidates through our counselling, coaching and mentoring programmes


Given the spotlight that has been shone on gender equality, what in your view are the key challenges or opportunities currently faced by women and girls in the UK?

Mutual support is an opportunity. The top 30% of women breaking the glass ceiling should be developing and supporting the bottom 30% trying to break through the cement basement floor.

Key facts about Working Chance:

Mission/purpose: To enable women leaving the criminal justice and care systems to become financially and emotionally autonomous through employment; to move marginalised women and their children across the social divide from lives of exclusion to lives of contribution. We do this in collaboration with corporate partners and individual supporters.

Geographic reach: Greater London, South East, Manchester and the Midlands.

Average number of people supported: Since our launch we have placed more than 1,400 women into work.

Year established: 2007. Registered as a charity in 2009.

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