The PoWEr of Role Models: In conversation with Hilary Heap and Suzanne Robinson 

EY are the headline sponsors of this year’s Northern Power Women Awards, an event dedicated to spotlighting and celebrating the role model individuals and organisations from across the North.

To find out more about the qualities of a role model, the impact they can have on a career, as well as why it’s so important for us to create and amplify role models, we spoke to Hilary Heap, EY Partner and Head of North Strategy and Transactions, and Suzanne Robinson, EY’s Yorkshire and Humberside managing Partner. 

We all have people we look up to, but what are some of the defining features of the people who inspire us to be our best selves? According to Suzanne, an effective role model is “honest and open and true to themselves. It’s someone that you can relate to and build trust with.” Hilary, who has featured within this year’s Power List, echoed the idea that role models must be genuine, multifaceted people: “being a role model means being vulnerable. We’re all juggling different things, and it doesn’t always go to plan. Role models are not people who get it right all the time, they are people who achieve things in a way that you can relate to”. Both Hilary and Suzanne highlighted the importance of a role model being invested in the path they carve behind them, allowing others from various backgrounds and experiences to access the same opportunities that they have: “A role model is interested in bringing people through behind them”, said Suzanne. 

Seeing someone who inspires you doing amazing things can have a huge impact on not only an individual’s career but also their personal life. That visibility is so important. Summarising the power of role models and the legacy they create, Hilary said that “if you can see someone doing what you might aspire to do, despite all the challenges, that’s inspirational”. Speaking of her own experience of the impact role models have had on her career trajectory, Suzanne reaffirmed the idea that “being able to see a variety of styles and approaches is what’s really important”.

Suzanne said, “My role model was a male Partner, who was someone I could completely relate to – his style resonated with me and seeing him, a very senior, highly respected leader, who embodied ‘quiet leadership’ really inspired me to believe I could be a successful Partner.”   

The Northern Power Women Awards enables role models from all sectors, regions and genders to be amplified, their stories shared to inspire the next generation of change makers. Hilary spoke of the importance of this spotlighting, saying how the awards “broaden the reach and impact of these role models beyond their immediate circle”. EY’s headline support of the awards goes hand in hand with their championing of a diverse and inclusive workplace, encouraging everyone bring their whole self to work. “Having a positive impact, within EY and beyond, is really at the core of our purpose at EY”, said Hilary.

Suzanne spoke of how we find ourselves at a point where, “if we keep the momentum up, the next generation will be able to continue to benefit from our efforts. Hilary and I have both benefitted from some pretty assertive women in the past paving a way for female leaders, but now we’re fortunate enough that different leadership styles are valued and recognised.  I’m sure the next generation of leaders be different again and will be all the more fabulous for it.”