Play Video

Lights, Camera, Action!


10:30Registration and Networking 
11:20Call into the venue
11:30Host’s welcome 
11:40Keynote address – TBC
11:55Panel 1 – TBC
12:50Category winners announced
14:05Dessert and coffee
14:25Panel 2: TBC
14:50Business Woman of the Year 2023 
Emma Wright – Partner, Harbottle & Lewis, Head of Tech, Data & Digital
15:05Winner announced – Business Woman of the Year 2024
15:15Closing remarks – Griselda Togobo, CEO, Novi
15:25Charity raffle prizes & photographs of winners
15:30 onwardsNetworking and post awards drinks


Joanna Jensen

Founder & Executive Chairman

Childs Farm

Joanna Jensen is the Founder & Executive Chairman of the UK’s number one baby and children’s toiletry brand, Childs Farm. In July 2020, she also launched an adult brand Farmologie following huge demand from women and parents.

As well as being an entrepreneur, Joanna is a mother of two, Mimi and Bella.  They were the inspiration behind the launch of Childs Farm and the products she created, as they both had sensitive skin and nothing on the market worked

Sheridan Ash

Founder & Co-CEO

Tech She Can

Sheridan, 2022 Forward Ladies Business Woman Of The Year, is a leader in Technology Innovation at PwC, and Founder and Co-CEO of charity Tech She Can. Sheridan set up the charity to improve career opportunities in technology for children and women. She’s a thought-leader on technological innovation and its contribution to productivity in the UKO.

Professor Nigel Lockett

BSc, MSc, PhD

University of Strathclyde

Professor Nigel Lockett is a senior academic, experienced mentor, serial entrepreneur and community leader. Currently an Emeritus Professor of Entrepreneurship at the University of Strathclyde, mentor to founders of innovative startups in the TwinklHive business accelerator and contributor to the Qualitas GP Pathway to Partnership programme. Nigel is also a Fellow and past President of the Institute for Small Business and Entrepreneurship and to raise awareness he blogs as The Dyslexic Professor. He also has more than 30 years’ experience as a company director, with a track record in managing start-up, joint venture and social enterprises.

Rachel Hannan

Angel Investor

Rachel has gained experience in the corporate world, as founder of her own businesses, and as an Angel Investor. Co-founding a public sector executive search and leadership development company, she grew this into a £multi-million leader in its field before she successfully exited to go on to become one of the most active women Angel Investors in the North. She has invested in companies across a range of sectors including technology, SaaS, educational robotics, medical devices, food manufacturing, recruitment, leadership research & development, as well as social enterprises, and will shortly announce her latest investment.

She is also currently Chair of Real World Group Ltd, Faerfield Ltd, and Deputy Chair of Bolton University, as well having previously chaired Leeds Community Foundation. She also advises a range of high growth companies and runs BHP Chartered Accountant’s ‘Business Leadership Academy’ for senior managers in ambitious SME’s. She is passionate about enterprise, business growth, inclusion, job creation and supporting people to create opportunities for themselves and others. Her portfolio of roles covers organisations employing over 1,500 people and she has invested well over 7 figures over the last 10 years into SMEs and building affordable homes.

Debra White

Rt. Customer Experience Director

Small Business Banking, HSBC

Recently retired Customer Experience Director, Small Business Banking, HSBC UK Debra White has been a Retail and Commercial Banker with HSBC Group for the last 40 years and in September 2016 took on the national role of Customer Experience Director for Business Banking Small Business. Previously Debra was the Regional Director for Small Business in the North region.

Debra spent three years as a Retail Area Manager developing a team of twenty Branch Managers in West Yorkshire and leading the Premier and Wealth proposition. Following this Debra was a Retail Branch Manager at key flagship branches in Huddersfield, York and then became a Branch Director in Leeds City delivering strategy and leading a customer service ethos. In her retirement Debra is now the secretary and volunteer at a local foodbank and NHS Responder.

Ali Gayward

UK Country Manager


Ali has over thirty years’ experience in the travel industry working with British Airways, American Express Travel, Sabre, American Airlines, ASM, AG Consultancy and now easyJet.

Ali is easyJet’s UK Country Manager, responsible for enabling easyJet to create the winning environment in the UK and overseas. Responsibilities include being the ‘face and voice’ of easyJet, building and maintaining active external relationships with local government, regulatory bodies, media/press, airports and tourism bodies. Ali is responsible for the revenue, profit contribution and route performance of flights operating both from the UK and also in some overseas markets.

Ali has direct responsibility for 58 aircraft, contributing to easyJet’s £1.01 billion worth of revenues each year in the UK.

Lara Oresanya

Group General Counsel, Company Secretary, And C-Suite Executive


Group General Counsel, Company Secretary, and C-Suite Executive at WorldRemit, a digital payments service that provides international money transfer and remittance services in more than 130 countries and over 70 currencies.

An experienced solicitor with a demonstrated history of working in Fintech, the financial services sector that is skilled in regulatory, payments, enterprise risk management, consumer protection, small medium enterprise, offshore, and commercial banking. Co-opted Member, Committee on Benefactions External and Legal Affairs (CBELA), University of Cambridge. A Non-Executive Director, Plan International UK, Shaw Trust, and PensionBee Group plc. A Contributing Editor, LexisNexis Encyclopaedia of Banking Law and a Member of the Consulting Editorial Board, LexisPSL©.

A Fellow of The RSA and ‘Business Woman of the Year’ & ‘Corporate Leader’, 2018 FL National Awards. Ranked in The Lawyer Hot 100 2021. 2022 ‘Woman in Legal’ winner of the Women4Africa Award. Formerly, General Counsel and Chief Risk Officer, Contis, legal director at Klarna, senior legal counsel at Barclays and BAE Systems, a divisional counsel at RAC, a legal director at HBOS (Lloyds Banking Group), and Group Head of Legal at Lex (Lex Autolease).

Also a barrister of the Supreme Court of Nigeria and a law graduate (LL.B Hons)  of the University of Lagos with an LL.M in Comparative Company Law.

Lisa Kelly

Head of BTC UK & Ireland

BTC UK & Ireland

Lisa assumed the role of Head of BTC UK & Ireland in January 2016. She is also a member of the BASF Plc Leadership team. Having a strong passion for diversity & inclusion, Lisa represents BASF with WISE (Women in Science and Engineering). She also currently Chairs the Executive Committee for BACS (British Association for Chemical Specialities)

Her working career started as a Laboratory Technician at Magnesium Elektron (part of British Alcan) and then as a Sales Correspondent at Degussa Ltd.

Having joined the Fine Chemical Sales business at BASF plc in 1989, Lisa was delegated to Switzerland between 2001-2004 where she was North Europe Aroma Chemicals Manager. On her return to the UK she became Head of Sales Detergents & Formulators for BTC UK, BASF’s in-house chemical distribution company.

Professor George Lodorfos

Dean of Leeds Business School

Leeds Beckett University

Professor George Lodorfos is Dean of Leeds Business School at Leeds Beckett University.
He is an electrical and electronic engineer by first degree, he holds Masters degrees in Automation and Control as well as in Innovation and Technology Management, and a PhD in Strategic Management of Research and Development. In addition, he has supervised to completion and he has examined many PhDs both in the UK and Europe and is an external examiner for two UK universities.

He has extensive practical and academic experience in the field of Strategic Management, R&D and Adoption of New Technologies and Innovation. In addition, he has done extensive research and enterprise work in the areas of buyer behaviour with particular interest in online purchasing and the use of technology to enable the sustainable growth of businesses.

Sahar Hashemi


Coffee Republic

In 1995 Sahar Hashemi founded Coffee Republic, and built it into one of the UK’s most recognised high street brands with a turnover of £30m. Giving up a job as a lawyer in London, she staked everything on a dream – and made Coffee Republic one of the main players in the ‘coffee revolution’ that transformed a nation of tea drinkers into one obsessed with ‘triple half-caf lattes’.

Ajaz Ahmed



Ajaz Ahmed is best known for being the founder of Freeserve, which was once the UK’s largest ISP and is now known as Orange broadband. He came up with the idea when he bought a computer and nobody in the store could tell him how to get into the internet, the rest, as they say, is history. He persuaded Dixons to launch Freeserve and it was eventually sold by Dixons to France Telecom for £1.6bn.

Emma Davies


Grant Thornton

Emma is a partner at Grant Thornton, one of the UK’s largest professional services firms. She is Practice Leader of the Sheffield office and a partner in their national Financial Accounting Advisory Services (FAAS) team. Emma’s passion is helping finance directors and their teams navigate change and periods of intense activity, by providing practical and pragmatic solutions based on her prior experience of working in senior finance roles in a variety of companies.

FAAS supports clients who need to strengthen their finance teams with our high-quality interim solution or need additional financial reporting expertise. She works with a wide range of businesses, from international listed groups to privately-owned, fast-growing dynamic companies. She is passionate about her role, takes pride in developing people and building long term relationships with clients and the wider business community. She believes in a strong network and that collaboration and working together is the key to success. She is involved in the D&I agenda and has a particular interest in coaching and mentoring other women who want to progress in their careers.

Outside of work, Emma’s family keep her very busy, and she loves cooking, her garden and the great outdoors.

Julianne Antrobus

Nuclear Energy Specialist

Julianne is a nuclear energy specialist with over 20 years experience of working in the sector in strategic, commercial and operational roles. She describes herself as “a passionate leader who works with an exceptional team and delivers success by building high performing teams and creating an environment of empowerment, inclusivity, respect, trust and most importantly fun”.

She encourages the next generation through being an active Mentor on the 30% Club Mentoring Programme, Partner sponsor of PA Women’s Network and Senior Advisor to Women in Nuclear Executive. She is a passionate and award winning STEM ambassador who proactively seeks out opportunities to give as many young people access to a career in STEM.

In 2019, Julianne won the Forward Ladies STEM Leader of the Year award, and is now sitting on the other side of the table as a judge.

Hannah Duraid

CEO & Founder

Gameshow All-Stars

Hannah Duraid is a Multi-Award-Winning young entrepreneur behind the escape room attraction, The Great Escape Game. A fully immersive experience where customers enter into a themed, Crystal-maze style adventure and must solve a series of puzzles to escape before their time runs out.

Launched in 2015, today the business has developed across three sites, boasting bars and kitchens, 17 escape room experiences, as well as being proud to be home to Yorkshire’s only 18+ escape game, that was featured on channel 4’s “Don’t Tell the Bride”.

As well as this Hannah consults for a femtech company, Hyivy Health.

Gillian Hosier

Head of Philanthropy

The Open University

Gillian is Head of Philanthropy for The Open University and brings over 11 years’ experience in fundraising for the higher education sector, working with a diverse range of trusts and foundations, corporate organisations and private indivdiuals. Gillian grew up near Milton Keynes in Buckinghamshire and is passionate about supporting the local area, having served as trustee to a local youth mental health charity, as a school governor and editor of her villages parish magazine. She lives in a small village near the city, with her partner and Kira the dog.






Griselda Togobo



Griselda began her career as an electrical engineer, she then veered into business having been influenced by the challenges and successes that her parents experienced as entrepreneurs. She trained and qualified as a chartered accountant with one of the BIG 4 professional services firms but now runs her own businesses, Novi included. Griselda is a mother of two beautiful children. She is extremely passionate about positively impacting the future of women and girls in the workforce. Griselda joined Novi as a member and was hooked.

Emma Byrne

Journalist / Robot Scientist

Emma is an honest-to-goodness robot scientist who, when she’s not developing intelligent systems, writes for Forbes, the FT and the Guardian. She frequently appears on Sky News and the BBC talking about the future of artificial intelligence and robotics. She has spoken to audiences as diverse as the Women in Journalism network and parliamentary special interest groups on the topic of AI.

Her interest in neuroscience led to her first popular science book: Swearing is Good for You: The Amazing Science of Bad Language.

Her most recent book, How to Build a Human is a smart, funny, humane look at what science knows about childhood.

Sheridan Ash

Founder & Co-CEO

Tech She Can

Sheridan, 2022 Forward Ladies Business Woman Of The Year, is a leader in Technology Innovation at PwC, and Founder and Co-CEO of charity Tech She Can. Sheridan set up the charity to improve career opportunities in technology for children and women. She’s a thought-leader on technological innovation and its contribution to productivity in the UKO.

Genelle Aldred

BSc, MSc, PhD

Genelle Aldred is an Author, Broadcaster and Consultant for all things communication. She is currently Deputy Chair of Women in Journalism. Genelle also provides social and political commentry for Sky News, BBC Radio London and Canadian News. She previously enjoyed a successful career as a journalist and newsreader for over 15 years. Since 2007 Genelle has worked for organisations including ITN, ITV, the BBC, ITN Productions, News UK and CBC. Other prominent roles of Genelle’s include Head of Digital Strategy for an International NGO and a Channel Manager of a Freeview TV Channel.

Genelle runs training for organisations trying to get better at tough cultural conversations and consulting on cutting-edge media, presentation and brand editorial narratives. Solving complex communication puzzles is her sweet spot as she is a passionate advocate for honest discussions around social cohesion, diversity and inclusion. Her book Communicate for Change: Creating Justice in a world of Bias was published in the autumn of 2021 with critical acclaim from best-selling authors Emma Gannon, Matt Haig and Dr Sophie Mort.

Genelle is an internationally sought-after public speaker and panellist as she smashes through glass ceilings as an empowering woman. She is also an Ambassador of Sands – the Stillbirth and Neonatal Death charity, raising awareness of women’s health and ending the stigma surrounding baby and infant loss. Genelle is a very keen golfer and can be found on a golf course in all her spare time.

Anna Gray

Head of Marketing & Communications

Severfield plc

Anna Gray is Head of Marketing & Communications at Severfield plc, the UK’s market leader in structural steel where she has worked for over seven years. Prior to this she worked in a range of communications roles for Nestlé, the Science Museum Group and the NHS, and is a passionate communicator and advocate for inclusivity in the workplace, as well as for women working in the construction industry. In 2019 Anna successfully completed the Forward Ladies Inspired Leadership Programme.

Bonita Norris

British Mountaineer

Bonita Norris was the youngest person ever to reach both the summit of Everest and the North Pole. She has been on five Himalayan expeditions and has reached the summit of some of the world’s highest mountains.

In 2017 her memoir, The Girl Who Climbed Everest was released, and topped the mountaineering books chart.

In her talks, she shares the rollercoaster journey of how she went from a beginner climber aged 20 to standing on the summit of Everest only two years later, aged 22. It was that journey of becoming a mountaineer that tested her to her limits, both in the mountains, and on her journey to them as a beginner climber.

Bonita speaks about the attitude and mindset she honed on her journey to Everest and on the mountain itself- of learning to trust the process- to have passion, purpose and above all else, patience. She also speaks fondly of how great team-ship was fundamental to her success, and how we can all support and elevate team mates to realise their potential.

Dr Khadija Owusu

Award-winning Leader, International Speaker & Junior Doctor

Dr Khadija Owusu is an award-winning Leader, International Speaker and Junior Doctor. She is the Founder of AKAYA, Director of Programmes at Melanin Medics, Equality and Diversity Board Member at Elizabeth Garrett Anderson School, Ambassador at GUBA-Enterprise and Trustee for the charity Raising Futures Kenya.

Khadija is a change agent, a voice for thousands of Black and Ethnic minority aspiring medics, medical students and doctors as she works to tackle issues on equality, diversity, and inclusion. She also has special interests in female empowerment and global health; impacting the lives of thousands of young girls across Ghana, Africa.

She has been a guest of Michelle Obama at the White House; won the Women in STEM Award by HRH Princess Ann. In addition to this, she is a TEDx Speaker, has spoken at various national and international conferences, is selected as a 2021 Diana Award Recipient, Top 5 UK Black Student, 2020 Rising Star in Healthcare, and has been featured on BBC, ITV, Channel 5 News and more.

Simone Robinson

Dynamic Speaker, Writer & Thought Leader

Simone is a dynamic speaker, published writer and thought leader committed to dismantling barriers and creating positive change in the workplace and beyond. As Global Diversity, Inclusion & Belonging Manager, Simone has played a pivotal role in driving diversity initiatives within GKN Aerospace, implementing strategies that go beyond mere representation to create a culture of belonging.

Simone’s ability to connect with audiences on both an intellectual and emotional level is just one of the many reasons she was voted as a Top 10 Future Leader.


Claire Paxman

Brand Ambassador & Director of Global Training

Paxman Scalp Cooling

Yulia Manyutina

Climate & ESG Associate Director

RBS International

Emma Black

CEO & Co-Founder

Cascade Cash Management

Jenny Garrett OBE

Managing Director

JReflexion Associates Limited t/a Jenny Garrett Global

Usha Kong

Careers & Social Mobility Manager

Tower Hamlets Council

Emma Armstrong

Managing Director

Empro Business Group

Carol Marsh

Head of Digital Systems

Celestia UK

Louise Hardy

Non Executive Director

Severfield Plc

Megan Scaddan


The Nottingham Doughnut Co

Yoselin Benitez-Alfonso

Associate Professor

University of Leeds/ Black in Plant Sciences


Business Woman of The Year

Emma Wright, Partner, Co-founder, Harbottle & Lewis, Playfinder.

Disruptor / Innovator of the Year

Claire Paxman, Brand Ambassador & Director of Global Training, Paxman Scalp Cooling.

Education / Academic Leader of the Year

Yoselin Benitez-Alfonso, Associate Professor, University of Leeds/ Black in Plant Sciences.

Emerging Leader of the Year

Julianne Ponan MBE, Owner/CEO, Creative Nature;

Yulia Manyutina, Climate & ESG Associate Director, RBS International.

Female Entrepreneur of the Year

Emma Black, CEO & Co-Founder, Cascade Cash Management;

Yana Lapitskaya, Co-founder & Managing Director, Yardster.

Inspiring Mentor of the Year

Jenny Garrett OBE, Managing Director, JReflexion Associates Limited t/a Jenny Garrett Global.

Public / Third Sector Leader of the Year

Usha Kong, Careers & Social Mobility Manager, Tower Hamlets Council.

Rising Star of the Year

Samrudhi Inamdar, Project Engineer, Alten Ltd.

Social Impact of the Year

Jane Kenyon, CEO, Girls Out Loud.

Start Up of the Year

Emma Armstrong, Managing Director, Empro Business Group.

STEM Leader of the Year

Carol Marsh, Head of Digital Systems, Celestia UK.

Transformational Leader of the Year

Emma Wright, Partner, Co-founder, Harbottle & Lewis, Playfinder.

Women on Boards

Louise Hardy, Non Executive Director, Severfield Plc.

Young Entrepreneur of the Year

Megan Scaddan, Director, The Nottingham Doughnut Co.

Awards Categories

Entrepreneur Categories

These categories celebrate entrepreneurs. They are the women who founded or run businesses and maintain control and interest in their business.

Start Up of the Year

This award is for women who have started a new business and is within the first 5 years of trading.

Female Entrepreneur of the Year

This award is for women who own or run a business. The must been trading for more than 5 years with demonstrable growth.

Disruptor / Innovator of the Year

Recognises an individual who demonstrates creative, innovative, or unique approaches to solving problems or product innovation.

Young Entrepreneur of the Year

This award is for women under 30 who own or run their own business. The applicant should ideally be able to demonstrate their current involvement in the successful business venture.

Corporate Categories

These categories celebrate female leaders and rising stars

Transformational Leader of the Year

This award is for women who are working in a leadership role. These women will have had 15+ years of experience of leadership and evidence they have driven the business forward with exceptional results. They will also have evidence of mentoring people along with examples of community engagement.

Emerging Leader of the Year

This category is for women working less than 15 years within an organisation large or small. They should demonstrate personal and business progression, demonstrating leadership potential.

Rising Star of the Year

The Rising Star Award is about celebrating and recognising the achievements of those at the beginning of their career or new in an industry.

STEM Leader of the Year

This award is for women in a senior position working within the male dominated sectors such as Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. They should be able to demonstrate the positive impact of their role to the industry in which they work and show examples of how they have encouraged other women to join the sector.

Women on Boards

This category is dedicated to women in Non-Executive and trustee roles on boards. The Award will provide much-needed visibility to women across industries in both private and public sectors. This award will recognise and celebrate women on boards to inspire the next generation of women aspiring to board roles

Joint Categories

These categories are open to both entrepreneurs and established career women

Inspiring Mentor of the Year

This award is for women who have a track record in mentoring and developing future leaders.

Education / Academic Leader of the Year

This award celebrates women working within academia or the education sector.

Social Impact of the Year

This award is open to any woman who is creating or delivering digital products, programmes, or services for positive social impact.

Public / Third Sector Leader of the Year

This award is for women who either run or who are employed to work or who volunteer a significant amount of their time working within public sector or charity organisations.

Special Awards

Business Woman of The Year

This award will be presented to the woman who scored most highly across the judging criteria and will be announced at the National Grand Final.

One to Watch

Ones to Watch is a special status awarded to an individual showing promise and potential for the future who the judges want to acknowledge.