Jenny Watson has been appointed as chair of the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC), it was announced today.
Ms Watson, formerly deputy and acting chair of the equality body, said it was both "a privilege" and "a great responsibility".
She has more than 20 years experience working with equality groups, including senior roles with campaigners Fawcett, Victim Support and Charter88.
Announcing the news, trade and industry secretary Alan Johnson said: "I am confident that under Jenny's leadership the commission will continue to be an influential force."
Ms Watson added: "On the 30th anniversary of the Sex Discrimination Act, the need to keep sex equality at the top of the political agenda is as pressing as ever before."
She said she hoped to "continue our dialogue with government, employers and individual men and women throughout Britain".