The Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games set a brand new precedent, with more women competing for Team England than men for the first time ever.

But for the past 20 years behind the scenes, there has also been a shift in leadership.

Manchester 2002 saw Team England appoint a female Chef de Mission for the first time, with Ann Hogbin taking the helm.

Glasgow 2014 saw Jan Paterson follow and four years later Sarah Winckless was in charge on the Gold Coast before Francesca Carter-Kelly led the team at the 2023 Trinbago Commonwealth Youth Games and was named as Chef for the 2026 Games. 

Meaning, one thing is for certain: Team England are paving the way in the progression of gender parity at multi-sport Games.

Ann Hogbin

Someone always has to be the first, and for Team England, that was Ann Hogbin.

Hogbin became Team England's first female Chef de Mission for Manchester 2002, where she led the team into a first Games hosted in England since 1934.

Her role as Chef de Mission was just part of the trail she blazed across over two decades at Team England, also including becoming team manager in 1994, the first woman to take the role.

Hogbin was also heavily involved in preparations for Kuala Lumpur 1998, where she worked against some attitudes that were not used to seeing women in positions of leadership.

"The ­Organising Committee wasn't used to dealing with women in positions of responsibility," she said.

"But once they did get to know me, we had good relationships."

Hogbin was honoured with a CBE in 2008 for Services to Sport, and later worked as Deputy Chef de Mission for ParalympicsGB for the London 2012 Games.

Jan Paterson

Jan Paterson was Commonwealth Games England's Chef de Mission during Glasgow 2014, and was one of the first-ever women in history to take charge of a major multi-sport event.

She first joined the team as press officer at Manchester 2002 before turning to HQ manager at Melbourne 2006, whilst having also worked as part of the British team at five Universiades.

One of the most powerful and inspirational women in sport over the past few decades - Paterson opened the gates for Winckless and Carter-Kelly to take the helm years later.

"I was asked to be Chef de Mission by Team England leadership, and it was both a privilege and honour to be asked to do so," she said. "I had worked with some incredible chefs in my time, across from multiple nations, and I hoped to live up to that.  

"I felt very much as though I was standing on the shoulders of those giants and aimed to continue the momentum.

"It was such an extraordinary experience full stop, one of the top highlights of my career. The Glaswegians and all those involved in the delivery of those Games should be very proud of what they achieved.

"I had a hugely talented leadership team including some inspirational team leaders.  I’m not sure there is enough room to list the standout moments as there were so many."

Paterson paved the way for future generations of female chefs de mission, and hopes Team England can continue to lead the way.

"Diverse leadership in any industry is important.  It gives depth and breadth to thinking, planning and implementation and therefore overall success," she added.

"I hope that female leadership continues to grow and bring positive impact and inspiration to the whole sporting ecosystem from grass roots through to high performance."

Sarah Winckless

In 2015, Lou Mackie, Commonwealth Games England's Operations Director, led Team England at the Youth Games in Samoa.

Former rower Sarah Winckless then became the third woman to take on the role at a senior Commonwealth Games for Team England in 2018, leading the team to staggering success on the Gold Coast.

A year earlier, Winckless had been the Chef at the 2017 Youth Commonwealth Games in Nassau so was well versed in what it took.

As Chef de Mission, or translated from French: 'Head of mission', Winckless was the spokesperson for the team whilst also a mentor, supporter, and cheerleader.

But one moment on the plane to Nassau still stands out in her mind of just what it means to be a team leader.

She said: "When I got on the plane, someone was asking all the athletes, who were in their kit, what they were doing, and then they looked at me, and went: ‘what does she do?’

"One of the athletes went ‘she's the boss’, and I sat there thinking, ‘my goodness, I am the boss!’ The Chef de Mission isn't the boss as you'd see at work, but they are in charge of the decision-making for the team.

"They have done a lot of thinking about the environment that an athlete and the support staff are going into, and we'll look at the resources we have available to us and intend to create the best platform for athletes to perform."

Francesca Carter-Kelly

Birmingham 2022 Deputy Chef de Mission Francesca Carter-Kelly is Team England's most recent name in the books since being announced as Chef de Mission for the 2026 Commonwealth Games. 

Birmingham saw Team England represented by 52.4 per cent female and 47.6 per cent male athletes, with Carter-Kelly behind the scenes in a sector that has been male dominated since its inception.

The Cambridge-native went on to lead Team England as Chef at the recent Trinidad and Tobago 2023 Youth Games, where the team accrued a staggering 49 medals.

Inspired herself by the workings of previous female leaders, Carter-Kelly was filled with pride at her role in Birmingham as the composition of the leadership team was made up of equal numbers men and women.

"Representation in leadership is extremely important," she said.

"Looking back to our most recent Games in Birmingham, 50 per cent of our leadership team were female which was fantastic in terms of having different opinions.

"But when we think about the team we are representing, about 52 per cent of our athletes in Birmingham were women so it was the first time ever that we had more female than male athletes competing and competing well.

"It's not just about what people see on the field of play but creating that dynamic behind the scenes as well.

"We're in a much better position as a sector now than we were previously but there's still so much more to be done.

"I've been really fortunate in the roles and organisations that I've worked in, to have some really inspirational, strong-willed and supportive female leaders.

"Support is really important. We can often get drawn into debates where we are put up against each other as females but when people work together and support each other that's when we can create the change we want to see."

Carter-Kelly is continuing on the path of female leadership in sport through at both Team England, where she was announced as Chef de Mission for the 2026 Games, and Team GB ahead of the 2024 Paris Olympics, where she will serve as Deputy Chef de Mission.