Baroness Shephard read Modern Languages at Oxford before becoming an education officer and then a county councillor in her native county of Norfolk. She lectured for the WEA from 1965 to 1987, and is now a WEA Patron.
She was elected to Parliament as the Conservative MP for South West Norfolk in 1987, and was appointed as Parliamentary Under Secretary at the Department of Social Security two years later. In 1990, when John Major became Prime Minister, she became Minister of State at the Treasury, the first woman to hold that post. In 1992, she entered the Major Cabinet as Secretary of State for Employment and Britain’s first Minister for Women’s Issues. Three more Cabinet posts followed: Agriculture, Education, and Education and Employment. Gillian Shephard became a peer in 2005 and has served as Chairman of the Association of Conservative Peers, on the Lords Reform Select Committee, the Social Care Select Committee, the Mental Capacity Select Committee and the Affordable Child Care Select Committee. She was appointed Deputy Chair of the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission in January 2013. She is a Board Member of the Social Market Foundation and a Trustee of Norwich Cathedral.
Gillian is also a Deputy Lieutenant of Norfolk, and formerly served as Chair of the Council of the Institute of Education in London. She was awarded the Legion d’Honneur in 2009. She holds honorary fellowships at St Hilda’s College, Oxford, Queen Mary University of London and the Royal Veterinary College and is a former President of the Royal Norfolk Agricultural Association. She was appointed a Visiting Professor to the King’s College London Policy Unit in May 2016.
She has written four books, two devoted to politics and two to a social history of her village birth place, written in collaboration with fifty people with whom she was at primary school.