Forward Ladies Celebrates the Success of Business Women in Midlands

One of the country’s leading organisations for the promotion of gender diversity and equality in business, Forward Ladies, has announced the winners of the Midlands Awards of its prestigious FL National Awards & Summit for 2019.

The ceremony took place at a celebratory lunch at the Hyatt Regency in Birmingham on Friday 4th October before an inspirational audience of senior and influential business leaders.

Forward Ladies has run its awards programme for over ten years, and the prestigious event has become one of the highest profile and respected accolades for women by recognising their enormous contribution to the business sector, and the positive impact they make on the economy.

Forward Ladies CEO Griselda Togobo said: “It is over a 100 years since women first got the right to vote in the UK, but gender equality remains elusive. Whilst we have clearly made progress over the years, our mission to achieve equality and bring diversity to leadership roles is not yet complete.

“That said, this has been another fantastic year for women and that should be celebrated, and through our National Awards, we are once again delighted to showcase the very best women in business here in the UK.

“The calibre of entries has been increasing year on year, and our regional shortlists are the everyday heroines, trailblazers and role models who have succeeded despite enormous challenges. They deserve recognition.”

“Each year we are inspired by the number of high-calibre entries, and this year has highlighted the exceptionally talented businesswomen we have in the UK. These entrants are the future entrepreneurs of our country and play a critical role in our economy.”

The nine category winners will now take part in a judging day in Sheffield in November, at the Grant Thornton offices, before a distinguished panel of business leaders, where they will join finalists from regional events. The overall national winner will be announced at the Grand Final to be held in Leeds on the 29th November.

The host at the Midlands Awards was Arti Halai, Arti is an experienced television presenter, reporter and producer. She is also a media consultant and trainer both in the UK and abroad.

She has set up a number of successful businesses including a PR agency, creative design agency, consultancy and training business, to help businesses grow through the power of communications.

The keynote speaker at the Midlands Awards was Jessica Okoro. Jessica is an award-winning business consultant. She previously studied Pharmaceutical and Cosmetic Science at University, where she overcame struggles of learning using traditional teaching methods in class, to developing her own learning resources and using informal methods at home to achieving higher than what was expected of her in the final Science and Mathematics exams. Once she managed to get into university to study her degree, she then became very interested in the way STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) was introduced and taught in schools this was her motivation in starting BeScience STEM-an a multi-award winning organisation which gets the whole community engaged in STEM using innovative and creative techniques. Her charity has had over 1000 volunteers and engaged with 10,000+ people in the community. Her work has been endorsed by the likes of the Prime Minister and enabled her to guest talk and share her ideas world-wide. Her most recent project, STEM Social, was held in Sierra Leone, where she had over 3000 young people in a stadium for an educational conference, with the Vice President as the Keynote Speaker.

The Awards are supported by National Sponsors LNER and tastecard. Regional sponsors include Grant Thornton, Envirovent, Durham University Business School, Institute of Directors, LCF Law, Real World Group, BASF, Cohorted.

Supporting partners are: PNE Group, Topic UK, Yorkshire Life, City & Financial Global, Ilkley Literature Festival and Yorkshire Post.

This is the second year that Forward Ladies is also supporting the Young Women’s Trust, an incredible charity that supports young women aged 18-30, especially those struggling to live on low or no pay to find work that is right for them.

Emerging Leader & Category


Lynn Wood, Development Project Manager

Lynn is a Project Manager with a passion for IT and People. Currently working for Next Retail Ltd managing three exciting development teams who work on the UK and International website, she fell into IT 8 years ago by fluke but has grown to love technology, challenges and all.

Corporate Leader Category


Elaine Siew 

Diverse leader and experienced Board Director having qualified as a doctor and chartered accountant. Corporate Finance Partner with Robson Rhodes before joining client as Finance Director in 2004. Now Managing Director and shareholder of gbpartnerships, a property development, management and consultancy business with 65 employees; 58% of which are women.

STEM Leader Category


Elena Rodriguez-Falcon

President at the New Model in Technology and Engineering. Before that Elena was Professor of Engineering at Sheffield University whilst leading various strategic priorities. Elena has received numerous awards for her work on education and diversity and is Principal Fellow at the HEA and Fellow of the IET and CMI.

Start Up Category 


Julie Colan 

Secret Whispers™ is at the forefront of raising pelvic floor awareness. The idea was born in January 2018 after I found that there were no adequate products available to help improve my pelvic floor coupled with a lack of available information. I then developed a 6 step Kegel Exercise Kit.

Young Entrepreneur Category


Roseanna Croft

A jewellery designer and goldsmith by trade, founding Roseanna Croft Jewellery in 2012 and opening the first boutique in 2015. Roseanna currently designs and create bespoke pieces of fine, bespoke jewellery; her latest collection ‘Love, Me’ being the first ring to make a statement about female empowerment and self-love.

Female Entrepreneur Category


Natalie Taylor Herrick

Natalie is the Director of Taylor Herrick Recruitment, a small, bespoke recruitment company for the built environment. She is a management graduate with over 15 years’ experience as a specialist recruiter. She celebrated her 10th successful year as an independent business owner last September.

Charity & Social Enterprise Category


Dr Deborah Outhwaite 

Deborah has just started running the Derby Teaching Schools Alliance (DTSA – a not for profit) that organises CPD for teachers and leaders in education this year. After spending a decade in Higher Education teaching teachers to Masters Level, before that she was a secondary school for 12 years.

Mentor of the Year:


Simona Pillay

Working in the fire industry is not for everyone but Simona relishes it! Having worked for several companies in the sector, including setting up/running her own business, Simona was invited to join Smoke & Fire Curtains in 2015 as Standards & Compliance Manager before being promoted to Managing Director.

Public Sector / Academia / Not For Profit Category


Sarah Hainsworth

Sarah is Pro-Vice-Chancellor and Executive Dean for Engineering and Applied Science at Aston University and a Professor of Materials and Forensic Engineering. Her research interests are in forensic engineering related to stabbing and dismemberment and materials characterization. She was one of the team who investigated the remains of Richard III.