On a beautifully sunny evening in Manchester, on 5 June 2018, 120 successful and powerful business people from the north of England gathered on the terrace of KPMG Manchester offices, to celebrate their collective achievements at the Northern Power Women Annual Celebration Event.
They had been brought together for this annual event by Simone Roche, Founder and CEO of Northern Power Women (NPW), a campaign that accelerates gender diversity from the north of England.
In the last three years, since the launch of the campaign in 2015, it has built up an unstoppable momentum, but Simone says she is most proud of creating “visible northern role models”. “Shining a light on these normal, northern folk doing quite extraordinary things has captured the imagination of so many other people. The support we have on social media is amazing. We’ve grown to nearly 13,000 followers organically. That has blown me away.”
That support was evident at KPMG, who had offered to host the event for the second year. Adrian Adair, global operations manager of the Morson Group, commented: “What Simone’s done better than any leader of any type of activity like this is really get everyone together – it’s collective thought creating collective power… it’s getting lots of people to make small impacts, to make a big difference.”
As guests arrived, stepping in from the sunshine, they were met by an even warmer reception from the tight-knit Northern Power Women team, greeted like old friends. Simone explained with genuine affection: “Everyone starts off as a colleague, an introduction, and ends up being a friend.”
Sam White, Pukka Insurance CEO, commented: “It’s fresh, it’s proactive. Simone has definitely caught the imagination of women in a way that a lot of these groups haven’t. I’ve been to a lot of female networking groups and they feel a bit stale and awkward, but this doesn’t… Simone has found a way to get women to celebrate women, which is really important.”
This event celebrated NPW’s Power List and Future List Award Winners from 2015-2018, amounting to nearly 300, largely female, extraordinary business people. Helen Tse MBE, Partner at Clark Willmott, remarked: “The Power List is just a roster of Who’s Who really, isn’t it!”
Cara Williams, deputy CIO of the Greater Manchester Combined Authority, added: “I like the idea of celebrating what women are doing, and making note of that, because it’s actually quietly happening and it’s so nice to celebrate it. We don’t spend time doing that because I think women can be a bit quiet about what they achieve sometimes. So, seeing women celebrating and being proud of what they do is really important.”
The evening comprised a welcome from Nicola Quayle, senior partner KMPG and notably the first female senior partner at KPMG Manchester (which was loudly applauded). Nicola said: “The energy and passion Simone brings to the agenda is refreshing. She has a desire to get women together not to just talk about the diversity or inclusion issue but to talk about business.”
Simone then welcomed all her guests and detailed the achievements of the campaign over the last year, which included her highlight: “We beat Bake Off!” in reference to the 10 million impressions NPW social media achieved of the third annual NPW Awards Ceremony in March this year.
However, Simone was keen to point out that this evening was not about her in any way. “This is your event. Every single one of you here – it belongs to you,” she said. “This is a campaign around celebrating role models… We all love that quotation ‘You can’t be what you can’t see’ and this is the drive that keeps me going. For me, it’s about how we share your stories, your successes, your failures, what you do better, what you do best, what you give back.” She asked: “How do we shout really loud and proud about being kick-ass in the North?”
Although NPW is already shouting about its role models, the campaign continues to grow. Among its many events, talks, awards, download sessions, Power Circles, Future Sessions and festivals, the campaign also produces a podcast, one episode of which was recorded live from this celebration event. A podcast that, since its first episode one year ago, has achieved a very healthy 5,000 downloads. This success is born out of a genuine passion to amplify voices and spread news about what is happening in the north of England.
Simone’s welcome on the night was received with whoops, laughter, applause and cheers. The respect and warmth she generated filled the room, but she closed by saying: “I want to celebrate what you have enabled to happen. What you have motivated and inspired me to do. What you have fed to me, what you continue to do. I want to raise a glass and ask you to keep it coming,” she continued: “Recruit people who don’t look like you. Bring other people into the conversation.
“You are all part of it. And you are all really welcome. Thank you all for being amazing Northern Power Women.”
by Carolyn Howgego
Carolyn Howgego is a PR consultant, media relations specialist and content creator powered by Northern Power Women.