The annual Inspiring Women Awards has demonstrated how women have responded to the pandemic and lockdowns, to glass ceilings and social unrest.
The 29th ceremony of celebrating women at their best highlighted individuals and businesses who make a true difference in society went online this year – but it lost none of the fun or excitement of previous years.
Undeterred by the Covid pause in 2020 which led to a double awards this year, plus the challenges of moving online, the Awards showed once again why they are a unique way of honouring the achievements of special women, nominated by the public for going that extra mile.
With stories of determination, courage, passion, flair and downright grit, the finalists told their stories via recorded interviews to an enraptured online audience, appearing live to collect their awards.
Jacqueline said: “Yes it was different – not having up to 300 people in a room and not having a stage, lights and action. However, the sheer inspiration of women who had been nominated was undiminished.”
So here are the winners:
To lose a loved one to murder is devastating. To be denied their funeral causes unimaginable suffering. Community Award winner Marie McCourt from Merseyside has endured this for 33 years. Her daughter Helen’s murderer has never disclosed the whereabouts of her body, denying Marie and her family the closure to say goodbye to their daughter. Not wanting other families to suffer in the same way, Marie campaigned government to introduce Helen’s Law. This means that parole can be denied to killers who do not disclose the whereabouts of their victim’s remains. Her commitment and determination were rewarded this year, with the passing of Helen’s law, although too late to stop the release of Helen’s killer. Marie’s story ‘Justice for Helen’ was published earlier this year.
The Inspiring Young Woman Award, for 16-23 year olds, inspires the next generation and encourages young women to reach their potential. Two young women were recognised this year.
Grace Vella, 23, from Liverpool grew up in a ‘red’ house, rebelling against the ‘football isn’t for girls’ mantra by playing for Liverpool and Manchester City football clubs until she was 18 but still felt her gender held her back from full inclusion, be it ill-fitting kit, financial burdens or lack of playing opportunity. This feeling of being disadvantaged inspired her to launch Miss Kick, the UK’s first female football brand. Grace says it is not just a clothing brand but a movement to create positive change for girls and women in football and wider society.
Jade Kilduff is an extraordinary young woman with a huge heart. She may be familiar to those who watched her become the runner-up in the 2020 Britain’s Got Talent final. She taught herself to sign at 14 in order to help her little brother Christian learn to sign so that he would be able to interact with the world, to prevent his Cerebral Palsy isolating him. Jade is caring, patient and resourceful using music to teach signing. She set up Sign Along With Us, a choir with acceptance and inclusion at its heart and campaigns for signing to be taught in all schools.
Here Come The Girls recognises women or organisations, who challenge systems, support colleagues and businesses. There are 2 winners: DCI Allison Woods and Maggie Oliver.
Throughout her career, Detective Chief Inspector Allison Woods has worked in traditionally male bastions, such as public disorder, surveillance, organised crime, slavery and human trafficking. Her career path illustrates how she has broken down barriers and stereotypes – she was the first female Merseyside police officer to gain national firearms accreditation, was promoted to Detective Inspector in 2015, then in 2019 became one of the force’s first female DCIs within the Operational Support Division for OCG. She is a role model and devotes time to mentoring female officers and young women through The Girls Network.
Maggie Oliver is a ‘detective turned whistleblower’. In 2012 she resigned from Greater Manchester Police to expose the Rochdale Grooming Scandal. Her honesty and integrity were compromised throughout the scandal and she felt she had little choice but to leave the force to expose the truth of the investigation. In doing so, she lost her career, her home and her health. The BBC highlighted the Rochdale Grooming Scandal with the award winning film, Three Girls, bringing the issues into the public arena. She continues to fight for the victims of child grooming and justice in Rochdale, setting up the Maggie Oliver Foundation to help survivors.
There are two winners of the prestigious Business award.
Karen Campbell-Williams is a high profile woman in the finance world, regionally and nationally, based in Manchester. She was appointed UK Head of Tax at accounting/business advisers Grant Thornton in 2019 and a member of the strategic leadership team. As well as leading the UK business she also has responsibility for social mobility, a topic close to her heart, given her working class roots and some of the challenges she has faced moving into the business world. Karen is an active Prince’s Trust Ambassador, raising the profile and funds for this important organisation.
As CEO and Director of Everton Football Club, Professor Denise Barratt-Baxendale (MBE, DL) has made her mark in a male-dominated sector with a strong strategic vision, including action against gender bias and championing Everton Women. She has also spearheaded the transformation of the club’s official charity into an internationally acclaimed organisation, Everton in the Community, showing her commitment to a local social cause, and was the visionary behind Everton receiving government approval to open a free school.
From the many nominations for the Entrepreneur award, the two winners aptly demonstrate the resourcefulness and creativity of women in the North West.
Growing up under the influence of her beekeeper father, Emma Buckley established Buckley’s Bees in Crewe. Not content with just ‘keeping bees’ and selling honey, she diversified the business and also runs beekeeping courses, rents managed beehives and encourages people to learn and get up-close to bees by her observational hive. She is passionate about educating people about the importance of pollinators to our eco-system and protecting endangered species.
An extended hospital stay and a bar of soap were the catalyst for Sarwat Jaleel to set up Kushboo Soaps. The little gift from home not only helped her own recovery but she wanted it to help others. The smell and the feeling of cleanliness meant a great deal when lying in a hospital bed. Based in the Ribble Valley, Kushboo Soaps is inspired by India’s exotic culture with its 100% natural, sustainable, homemade products. Sarwat believes soap is a form of dignity and should be available to everyone, so for every bar of soap sold, she gives one to a local homeless charity. When Covid struck, she immediately donated all the soap ready for shows and orders to frontline NHS staff.
The Manchester Bee award recognises those women who work to make Manchester a great City. Winner Claire-Marie Boggiano epitomises the hard work ethic, the hive of activity and sense of unity which the bee denotes. After gaining an engineering degree from the University of Manchester (the only girl in a 100-strong class), Claire-Marie worked in corporate life, focusing on leadership, and set up her own change management and people development business, specialising in female entrepreneurship. For the last two decades she has successfully promoted women in so many diverse areas of Manchester: establishing the Women Directors Forum within the Institute of Directors North West; creating a Manchester celebration of International Women’s Day and helping to set up (free) Queen Bee coaching via The Pankhurst Centre. In 2016 Claire-Marie led in securing Manchester as the base for the WIN (Women’s International Network) annual UK conference.
The Extraordinary People in Extraordinary Times award is new for 2021 to reflect the challenges of the pandemic. Lucy Danger has successfully driven social enterprise group EMERGE, which includes food recycling charity, FareShare Greater Manchester, since 1996 but the pandemic and lockdown put unparalleled pressure on the food redistribution charity network. Lucy’s response to the challenge was exceptional – using her leadership and management skills, working alongside her team in 12 hour days and recruiting 65 volunteers to ensure that food reached those most in need. FareShare GM has received over 1,400 tonnes of food and supplied the equivalent of 3,118,203 meal portions to 50,000 people in the past year.
Jacqueline said: “There are truly inspiring women all around us, many of whom go unrecognised and without realising how important a role model they are for others. The Inspiring Women Awards continue to shine a light on these women and their achievements.”
The Inspiring Women awards will be celebrating 30 years in 2022. Nominations are now open and close 31.12.2021. Winners will be announced at the Inspiring Women Awards ceremony on 20.05.2022