Power Q&A: Sally Penni Barrister at Law, CEO and founder of Women in the Law and Business UK


How is NPW different from other groups that promote gender equality?
I’ve been a judge on the NPW awards panel for a few years and see all the applications that come in – and the difference is, the difference that the nominees really make.

And it’s the momentum, especially now Simone’s doing more of the Power Circle conversations, about how and where we can start to accelerate more. It’s really gained momentum.

The awards are good because they showcase the best in the north, and not just from the big corporates but also the SMEs who are trying to make a wave.

How do you accelerate gender diversity in your everyday practice?
I sit on lots on boards such as The Royal Exchange, and Code Think – a coding company that programs cars. So one of the ways that I promote women is by employing women coders. There are very few women coders in the tech world, so where I have a woman who has kids and the school run and the usual childcare responsibilities, I just give them flexible working. As long as they’re coding, who cares they’re not keeping a nine-to-five and, quite frankly, I don’t need to see them. I’ve just been encouraging that.

And on the boards I sit on, I look at the dynamics and ask whether we need more women – or if we need more men, actually – and what skill sets we’re lacking? I’m quite vocal as a board member and I’m quite happy to do that.

In the law, I call out poor practices because, if making money is the bottom line, you can do that by recruiting a whole load of women who can multi-task rather well, by giving them agile working rather than losing them, losing senior women from senior positions.

There aren’t enough female managing partners in the north, there aren’t enough female judges, there aren’t enough equity partners. It’s improving, but actually we need the visibility of role models. Not just in the areas where the kids do OK, but particularly in the areas that are deprived, that are low economic status. Girls who think the highest they can achieve is to marry a footballer or go on X Factor need to see these role models – because they’re much more talented than they think!

I also speak in schools, further education colleges and universities because I think visible role models are so important. So I’m delighted that NPW has these visible role models. You can just go on the website and see these women doing brilliant things.

You can’t replicate what you don’t see.

by Carolyn Howgego

Carolyn Howgego is a PR consultant, media relations specialist and content creator powered by Northern Power Women.


Sally Penni is a member of our NPW Power List. Read more about Sally here

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