"I KNOW it's a cliche but women are good at multi-tasking, it's just a fact of life."

Yes, Caroline Peacock may be serving by royal appointment but she, like many others, has had to juggle work, children, a marriage breakdown, single parenthood and has on a number of occasions politely endured the conversation of men who she says showed no interest in anything other than themselves.

"Women cope with their children, households and elderly parents," she says. "They have to deal with all sorts of issues in the course of a single day – then find time to volunteer on top of that."

By no means is Caroline under the illusion that she has suffered more than others. On the contrary.

Success in both her career and the bringing up of her children were made possible by a support network – namely her parents – and for this she is eternally grateful.

In her late 30s her first marriage broke up due to illness.

"I found myself on my own with three young children (under the age of ten)," says Caroline, of Hamsterley. "I was fortunate because my parents had retired up here in Upper Weardale.

"My father was by then not very fit and they probably had been thinking they wouldn't stay there indefinitely. This made the decision for them.

"They sold their house and moved into the other end of ours.

"I was on my own for seven years but my parents were there as babysitters and childminders. It helped enormously because I could work."

During her varied career Caroline worked as publications officer for the National Book League, and senior editor and publications executive with Discovery Guides Ltd, while she has also been involved in senior roles with a number of health trusts and boards, as well as appeal manager with Macmillan Cancer Relief.

She doesn't believe she would have risen through the ranks and achieved what she has if it wasn't for the help she received.

"It would have been very difficult without my parents," adds Caroline, who has now been married to husband Jonathan for nearly 25 years. "It would have been a different life.

"I was cushioned as many single parents are not. It gives me a special respect for those single parents."

On the surface Durham University graduate Caroline is, and would readily admit, privileged, but her story is much the same as many women.

In her role as High Sheriff, Caroline delivered a rallying speech to crowds in Bishop Auckland at a march celebrating last month's centenary of British women's suffrage.

She spoke of the continued fight for equality – "in the workplace, in pay, in pensions, in benefits, in gender equality and respect" – and while she accepted there had been progress in 100 years, she acknowledged there was still "some way to go".

Since becoming High Sheriff in April last year, Caroline has enjoyed an eye-opening experience and at the march paid tribute to women she had met who devoted their lives to supporting others.

She continues: "I also celebrate the ones who in desperate times hold their families together... I celebrate the many, highly competent women I know, who take hold of the family finances and run their homes with skill and confidence; the ones who prevent their partners blowing the weekly wage on booze or gambling; the ones who multi-task constantly but who still find time to volunteer, to run day centres and lunch clubs, to help at hospices, to fundraise for charities; the ones who devotedly nurse their sick or ageing parents."