First woman director for Royal Society

The Royal Society of Arts has appointed the first woman director in its 243-year history. Penny Egan, currently the RSA's programme development director, will take over next January, following the retirement of the current acting director, James Sanderson.

Mrs Egan, 46, joined the RSA 11 years ago as lecture secretary in charge of developing the Society's annual lecture programme.

"I am very grateful to the Society for originally employing me on a part- time basis when my children were young. I was able to be a mother and hold down a career at the same time. I have proved it is possible to do both jobs at once, and be successful," she said yesterday.

Since graduating from Leicester University, Mrs Egan has worked in arts administration and publicity at the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Crafts Council.

In 1992 she took on responsibity for the Society's arts programme and initiated the its advocacy programme, "The Arts Matter". In 1996 she administrated the development of RSA projects including the current "Redefining Work" Programme.

Mrs Egan is proud of the RSA's continuous commitment to women's issues. "There have been women Fellows in the society since 1754 and the RSA has always recognised that we have a major role to play in the arts and business. Until now, no one was ready to see women as figures of authority and women were not coming through to these positions."

"The RSA is a unique organisation: independent, apolitical, multidisciplinary and with a Fellowship of over 21,000 it has the capacity to wield huge influence.My mission as Director will be to tell people what the RSA is and what we do."

Rachel Woollett