A woman from Worthing has been appointed an Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the Queen’s New Year honours list.
Alwen Lyons, the former company secretary of the Post Office, has been recognised for services to the Post Office and to equality and diversity.
The 59-year-old, of Forest Road in Broadwater, said: “It’s been amazing to get recognition. It was such a surprise.
“I was doing something I really believed in.”
Mrs Lyons spent 33 years at the Post Office, starting as a graduate entrant in 1984 and working her way up to senior level in various roles, which included leading the project to separate the Post Office Limited from the Royal Mail Group in 2011.
She said: “The Post Office I started in was very different to the Post Office I left.
“There were no women on the board. It felt like we needed to do something for equality in the business.”
Mrs Lyons set up a senior women’s action network as well as a coaching and mentoring system aimed at helping women achieve their full potential.
She then went on to set up an LGBT network called Prism and a group for people with disabilities.
She said: “When you looked around the business, there was all this talent that wasn’t coming forward and needed a bit of support.
“I was lucky enough to be in a position and have the opportunity to help women.
“I couldn’t imagine not treating people equally and businesses should do the same.
“I just think it’s the right thing to do.”
As a result of initiatives like these, the Post Office has twice been included in the The Times top 50 employers for women.
The Post Office had been ‘very receptive’ to her ideas to increase diversity, Mrs Lyons said.
“When I said – we need to change things – they listened,” she said.
“It’s a fantastic organisation to have worked for. There are so many different jobs you can do and opportunities.
“I liked the people I worked with, all the teams I worked with and for.”
But though changes have taken place over the years in the Post Office and other businesses, Mrs Lyons warned against complacency.
“We still have to check that we are doing the right thing for all people,” she said.
“I think it sometimes feels like it is getting tougher.”
Since retiring in September, Mrs Lyons, who enjoys horseriding on the South Downs every Sunday, has been volunteering with Riding for the Disabled Association in Arundel and also plans to start volunteering with Worthing Churches Homeless Project in January.
She has also been enjoying swimming, walking in the Downs and spending time with her family – which includes her husband Steve, who used to work at Worthing High School, and her two daughters, a teacher and social worker.
Mrs Lyons is looking forward to being invited to Buckingham Palace to be awarded her medal and said: “That will be fantastic.”
To honour her achievements, the Post Office has introduced the annual Alwen Lyons award, which will recognise colleagues who have gone ‘above and beyond for diversity and inclusion’. The prize will be a trip for two to New York City.
A statement on the Post Office website described Mrs Lyons as ‘a tireless champion for diversity and inclusion’ who helped the Post Office to ‘take huge steps forward as a business’.