2020 has drastically changed people’s lives. Amidst zoom quizzes, home schooling and NHS clapping, lockdown also enabled a period of reflection; a re-evaluation of what it is that we truly miss and don’t miss when the building blocks of our routines are disassembled and rearranged into a new and unfamiliar pattern. Northern Power Women have been utilising this period to collaborate, organise, and draw up a detailed plan, and their Levelling Up by Powering On report ensures that positive and progressive change is made to prevent widening inequality.
Between April and June of this year, 150 cross-sector female industry leaders across the north met up via a series of virtual Power Circles, with a view to establish goals for the future. The product of these Power Circles was the Levelling Up by Powering On report, which quantifies the change that the 60,000 strong Northern Power Women are determined to see come to fruition. The report centres around three integral asks. Firstly, that women and Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities be invited to sit at every table where decisions are being made. Secondly, that investment be made in female and black, Asian and minority ethnic led-businesses. And finally, to recognise the potential and strength that resides within upcoming talent. Not just in younger generations, but in all those who have been recently furloughed, made redundant, and thus are unable to contribute their professional skills to our struggling economy.
On 30th of September, the report was officially launched by Northern Power Women founder, Simone Roche MBE. Roche was joined virtually by Andy Burnham, Metro Mayor for Greater Manchester Combined Authority. Burnham echoed many of the sentiments described in the report, stating that “one of the effects of Covid is to accentuate the inequalities that already exist”, and he implored that we make the most of the blank slate that the pandemic has provided us with: “if we’re ever going to change things, surely now is the moment to change”.
Member of Northern Power Women’s Yorkshire Power Circle, Dame Julie Kenny DBE DL, wrote the foreword for the report, and similarly offered her endorsement during its launch. “Don’t just re-build, re-imagine”, she urged launch viewers and report readers. “We all have it within our power to make a difference”, and that difference comes in the form of this once in a generation opportunity to re-imagine our definitions of normal.
Throughout the launch and the report, the word ‘pivot’ was used to describe how we have all had to adapt throughout the pandemic. The report documents how the women in Northern Power Women’s Network have pivoted throughout lockdown. For example, the creation of the Northern Power Futures podcast, hosted by Eleanor Keegan, and the start of the #BeHeard campaign, providing a wider and more representative cross-section of society for media producers to draw upon for radio and television discussion segments. The more I think about the use of this word, I realise it perfectly describes the spirit of this report. A pivot is an explosive and elective act of adaptation, and is something we have seen personified in essential workers, small businesses owners, students and industry leaders throughout this global pandemic. Rather than becoming victims of our own circumstances, we have taken ownership over the directions of our lives, and chosen to pivot towards a fairer and equal society.
What struck me about the Levelling Up by Powering On report was its clarity. It has been all too easy to become lost in the loose semantics and lofty expectations of wide-scale change. The ‘Menu cards’ included at the end of the report provide digestible and practical advice to ensure that positive change is maintained across all levels of our lives. For example, the Wellbeing card lays out strategies for keeping centred and healthy within ourselves despite this “corona-coaster”, whilst the Culture card reminds us of the things we should be demanding from our education and policy makers.
The sentiment behind the report’s title “Levelling Up by Powering On” perfectly underpins Northern Power Women’s ethos. Alternatively referred to as ‘Northern Grit’, it is this resilience and strength to simply get out of bed every day and keep going despite extraordinary and constantly changing demands that truly makes a Northern Power Woman. We have all received countless emails and marketing ads using the phrases “unforeseen circumstances” and “unprecedented times” to describe the last few months. The Northern Power Women Levelling Up by Powering On report is here to set the precedent.