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Northern stars: Celebrating diversity and inclusion role models across the Northern Powerhouse – Northern Power Women Awards Founder, Simone Roche

Northern Power Women

Simone Roche is managing director at events curation company Events 1st and founder of the Northern Power Women campaign. She joined the Royal Navy at 17 as a radio operator, scaling the ranks up to Lieutenant, before roles including looking after sponsors for London 2012 as a client services manager, events and sales management roles at Blackpool Pleasure Beach and Aintree Racecourse, eventually becoming deputy general manager of operations for the build of the new Echo Arena in Liverpool. Simone is passionate about talent and stepped into gender diversity at People 1st, the workforce development charity for skills in the visitor economy.

Simone Roche
Simone Roche

“…I’d thought we’d get about 150-200 nominations… WE GOT 680!.. It would be fair to say that I was gobsmacked and blown away at the response!..”

Background to the Northern Power Women Campaign and Awards

The campaign is something that I launched just a year ago. It’s about changing shifting the conversation to a different geography. Having spent many years working in London around gender equality, I thought, “We’ve got amazing people, talent, businesses up here,” so why can’t the change be driven from the North of England?

I launched with a conference and as last year was an election year I wanted to leverage the political agenda, so we had MPs, Chief Executives, leaders, influencers and a great youth panel. There was brilliant learning and insight, and what became apparent is that there are so many incredible role models and businesses doing very innovative things. I thought that the more we could recognise and showcase those role models, the better. That would only help with peer to peer learning and supporting talent. Northern Power Women is all about the ‘pay it forward’ mentality.

The awards recognise, showcase and celebrate role models, and by making these role models more visible the more we can grow and support the wider talent pool. People realise, “I can do that,” or “I want to support others.” I wanted to create a community with the amazing raft of talent we have across our Northern Powerhouse.

Response to the awards

The response has been overwhelming. I’ve organised and curated awards before, but never up here and never with such a totally overwhelming sense of pride from the nominators about the people who they’re nominating.

I’d thought we’d get about 150-200 nominations… WE GOT 680! I have personally read every single one four times. The nominations process has been very rigorous so we can get very good information about the nominees. To guarantee rigour and avoid any conflict of interest we’ve sent them out to 27 different judges across different categories. When got the judges together in different judging sessions I’m sure there was a bit of arm wrestling going on as the discussions progressed!

I’m chuffed to bits with the quality, the diversity and just the passion that we have amongst our women and men. It was very important to me that these awards were open to men as well because this is about the whole spectrum of talent.

It would be fair to say that I was gobsmacked and blown away at the response!

Aligning with the Northern Powerhouse agenda

The Northern Powerhouse agenda has been around for nearly two years now, and when I created Northern Power Northern Power WomenWomen it was to support that. You can’t have an effective Northern Powerhouse campaign if you’re not taking a holistic approach. I like to think that alongside every Northern Powerhouse there is a Northern Power Woman!

I’m now an official supporter of the Northern Powerhouse. It’s wonderful to be officially recognised because anything that can add weight, kudos and credibility to what we’re trying to do with Northern Power Women, the more we can make change and impact.

Getting (and staying) involved

We’ve created a real community and the thing I love about that is people recognising each other’s success. That’s been what’s inspired and motivated me. So I’d say it’s about the need to keep doing what you’re doing.

The awards are taking place on the 3rd of March, but it’s also about what we do after they’ve taken place too. We’re going to have a huge celebration to recognise the amazing people shortlisted, but I don’t want to forget about everyone else who has already engaged with the campaign.

Post the event we’re creating a real connection bringing business into education and education into business. We want to tell stories and showcase the talent we’ve got in the region. By highlighting these role models it gives our future talent, pipeline talent and returners a real and visible demonstration of role models. I want to tell all their stories, whether it’s through this kind of events or through thought leadership articles, that’s all part of the campaign. We want to be able to signpost people to the immense talent and resource we have up here. Let’s use it.

We’ve now got the backing of the Women’s Minister, Caroline Dinenage. Also, Britain’s First Astronaut, Helen Sharman has offered her support, as has the Vice President of Facebook in the Europe, the Middle East and Africa – Nicola Mendelsohn, who’s from Manchester.

Womanthology readers can follow our progress through our newsletter, the website and social media. I always say that, “Diversity is for life, it isn’t just for Christmas!” so keep celebrating and keep pushing forward.





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