Winners & Commended: #NPWAwards 2022

Outstanding leaders and businesses based in the North of England were recognised in Manchester last night at the Northern Power Women Awards 2022, sponsored by EY.

The Awards celebrate both individuals and businesses who are pushing boundaries and leading the way to accelerate gender equality and social mobility from the North of England.  

With 11 categories in this year’s Awards and a strong field of competitors, the individual award winners represent all regions in the North and are: 

Four organisations were also recognised: 

As evidence of the tough competition in this year’s awards and the outstanding talent present across the North, the Awards’ judges also commended four shortlisted individuals: 

and one organisation: 

Alison Kay, Managing Partner for Client Service at headline sponsor, EY UK and Ireland, said her organisation was delighted to sponsor the event: 

“There was a lot of tough competition on the shortlist and the winners – both individuals and organisations – offer outstanding examples of how we can drive real change and use influence and power for the benefit of many. It was a pleasure to support these awards and to showcase these outstanding leaders.” 

Simone Roche MBE, Founder and CEO of Northern Power Women, commented: 

“This year’s Award winners once again represent the outstanding leaders and role models present in and from the North.  They are creating change and using their power and influence to benefit a huge number of people and are embodying the Northern Power Women ethos of inspiring people to use their PoWEr for good and advancing gender equality.”  

While the Awards ceremony plays an important role in recognising role models, Northern Power Women delivers a range of reports, webinars, mentoring programmes, podcasts, and networking events throughout the year to continue the campaign towards gender equality. 

For more information visit 

About the winners

Individual Winners

  1. Ali McGrath – Winner, Mentor of the Year 

Ali McGrath has more than 20 years’ experience working in finance and is a specialist mentor working for The Women’s Organisation in Liverpool and acting as entrepreneur in residence at the Business Clinic in Liverpool. She has helped more than 2500 aspiring entrepreneurs and is always available to offer help and advice, even outside business hours. Ali has also established an informal ‘Friday club’ in Liverpool to invest in women who feel isolated and set up volunteer mentor clinics to support businesses during lockdown. 

  1. Alison Madgin – Winner, Person with Purpose 

Alison Madgin established Samantha’s Legacy after her daughter was murdered in a knife attack at the age of 18 and has dedicated herself to raising awareness about the dangers of knife-related crime. Alison was instrumental in the North East hosting the Knife Angel sculpture, which is made from more than 100,000 surrendered knives, and during its visit she delivered more than 1500 education sessions to 12-18-year olds, after which the region reported in a decrease in knife-related crime. 

  1. Debbie Rogers – Winner, One to Watch 

Debbie Rogers established Sean’s Place, which offers mental health and wellbeing services to men in Liverpool and Sefton, after losing her brother to suicide in 2019. With no previous experience in the field, Debbie launched Sean’s Place with £200, a laptop and some volunteer mentors. She now works with a vast network of mental health professionals to support more than 100 men to manage their anxiety and depression through a range of services. Debbie has developed her own skills to become a true leader and advocate for men’s mental health and is an Influencer for the National Suicide Prevention Alliance. She has also generated more than £250,000 in funding and is about to move Sean’s Place into larger premises. 

  1. Laura Wood – Winner, Agent of Change 

Laura Wood is co-founder of Invisible Creations, a business that offers attractive and inclusive home adaptations for older and disabled people. Taking inspiration from her grandmother, who didn’t want to install existing grab-rail products because they looked too clinical, she’s now transforming people’s lives and supporting their independence with designer adaptations that are stylish and blend with other decorations in the home. With support from three housing associations, Johnnie Johnson Housing, Karbon Homes and Anchor Hanover, Laura is now helping make homes safer and more stylish for older and disabled people. 

  1. Liz Ashall-Payne – Winner, Outstanding Entrepreneur 

Liz Ashall-Payne founded ORCHA in 2016 from her kitchen and now operates in 11 countries. ORCHA itself assesses and distributes quality assured digital health solutions that health and care professionals, service users and developers can access to enable people to look after their health and wellbeing. Liz champions diversity, gives women and people of colour a platform, and collaborates with the University of Liverpool to help the next generation of app developers find graduate internships. Through all of this she is demonstrating strong female leadership in the traditionally male technology sector. 

  1. Nazir Afzal OBE – Winner, Disruptor for Good 

A former Chief Prosecutor for the NW of England, throughout his career Nazir Afzal prosecuted some of the most high-profile cases in the country. Key among his significant achievements were changing the landscape on child protection and the law around forced marriage. Nazir’s expertise has led him to become a national advisor on gender-based violence and he is also an independent Chair on safeguarding for the Catholic church for victims of clerical abuse. 

  1. Steph Edusei – Winner, Transformational Leader 

Steph Edusei joined St Oswald’s Hospice as Chief Executive Officer in 2020 and has encouraged a culture of embracing change and taking calculated risks. With a passion for civil rights and social action, Steph leads the way in promoting equal rights, ensuring the voices of BME women are heard nationally and strategically. She also holds a number of non-executive and voluntary roles, including the position of Vice Chair at the Angelou Centre, a black led women’s organisation based in Newcastle, which ensures a range of holistic services are offered to BME women across the North East.  

Organisation Winners

  1. Women in Social Housing North East – Winner, Innovation 

Women in Social Housing North East (WISH NE) was established  to create a gender equal social housing sector, highlighting the barriers women face when working in the sector. It offers a range of events where women can raise issues they are facing, find support and turn ideas and learnings into action that make a difference. As with many areas, innovation has been key to making changes and since its formation, the board of 13 dedicated volunteers has delivered transformative change for women working in the sector across the North East. 

  1. Rugby Football League – Winner, Small Organisation 

As the governing body for rugby league, the organisation has made huge strides in inclusivity, with women playing key roles at all levels, from grass roots to professional. The organisation also works with women and girls in deprived communities, inspiring them to take up the sport, changing their lives and futures through the sport. Rugby Football League has also been instrumental in exponentially growing women’s and girls’ participation in the game during the last three years, despite the COVID-19 pandemic. 

  1. ANS – Winner, Medium Organisation 

ANS has shown its dedication to making technology a more diverse and inclusive environment for everyone and women in technology is part of its overall ethos, whether it is engaging with clients and partners or conversations in the office. The organisation is recognised as delivering best practice when it comes to building a culture of gender diversity and has created Women in Tech Ambassador roles to help make an impact on the broader tech industry. It also partners with Tech Returners and DigitalHER to encourage more women into the sector and has successfully offered dedicated support to women to grow careers, with one third of its female workforce at managerial level. 

  1. Grant Thornton LLP – Winner, Large Organisation 

Grant Thornton LLP has taken significant steps towards gender equality, including developing dedicated Equality, Diversity and Inclusion and People teams. Taking a strong data and insight approach, they have created three programmes designed to promote gender equality and link their own plan back to targets and representation. The organisation actively encourages employees to join, support, and host groups or events that accelerate gender equality. As an advisory business, they also share their own inclusion and diversity policy to help other organisations improve their gender inclusion. 

Commended Individuals

  1. Claudia Bartholomew – Commended, One to Watch 

Claudia first travelled to Ghana as an outreach worker when she was 18 and while there, established a school for children with additional needs aimed at preparing them for work where possible. Working with family and friends in the UK, she raised funds to buy sewing machines, beads, braiding kits and mannequin heads, and developed a sensory wall and stocked the cupboards with school materials. By age 21, Claudia had raised enough funds for a purpose-built school, which has now been completed, and has also provided fresh drinking water for those attending the school. 

  1. Collette Devlin Smith – Commended, Person with Purpose 

Collette Devlin Smith set up her own charity in 2018 to support young people in Northumberland and Tyne & Wear who are involved in serious youth violence, child criminal exploitation, and County Lines. Under her leadership, Collette’s relentless desire to support vulnerable young people has delivered transformational change in how the police, local authorities, the education sector, and youth services work in the local landscape. 

  1. Dianne Richardson – Commended, Agent of Change 

Dianne Richardson is the CEO of Britain’s Energy Coast Business Cluster, a position she uses to help drive diversity and inclusion. She actively promotes women in business at every opportunity and acts as a positive mentor and friend to those she works with. Dianne is also driving work that will ensure other women in the North West of England gain equal opportunities to those of their male counterparts, particularly in the nuclear sector. 

  1. Sharon Davies – Commended, Transformational Leader 

After personally experiencing the powerful, life changing impact youth workers can have, Sharon built a 30-year career in the field. She is now the CEO of Young Enterprise (YE), a national financial and enterprise education charity operating across England and Wales. Having led the 85-strong team on a transformation journey, Sharon has helped the organisation adapt and respond to young people’s and educators’ changing needs. Even with a significant impact due to COVID, Sharon led her team to deliver financial and enterprise education opportunities to more than 265,500 young people in 2020-2021 alone. 

Commended Organisations

  1. Girls in Charge – Commended, Innovation 

Girls in Charge uses gamified workshops to help young women build confidence, and intrapreneurial and entrepreneurial skills. The games create a relaxed atmosphere and provide hands-on experience to help participants gain entrepreneurial skills effortlessly while building meaningful relationships. In 2021, they hosted more than 30 events on three continents, upskilling and boosting the confidence of thousands of young women. The founders’ goal is to encourage and empower young women to become entrepreneurs and apply for top jobs, leading to their slogan “My favourite position is CEO”.