To mark International Women’s Day, on March 8, we reveal our list of the 24 most influential women in Lancashire in 2024. Some are household names you will be familiar with, others are less famous, but all of them are doing remarkable work in their chosen field.

Jodie Comer 

Widely regarded as one of the finest actors of her generation, Liverpool-born Jodie Comer has won awards for her work on stage and screen, and more nominations are sure to follow for her most recent role in the environmental disaster film The End We Start From, which she also produced. Comer, who turns 31 this month, joined a weekend drama school as an 11-year-old and won her first acting award in the 2006 Liverpool Performing Arts Festival for a monologue about the Hillsborough disaster. Her first television appearance came two years later, in The Royal Today but she became best known for her role as Villainelle in the hit show Killing Eve. Her performance in the one-woman play Prima Facie received critical acclaim and took her from the West End to Broadway.

Helen Ledwick 

Helen Ledwick is the creator of Why Mums Don’t Jump – dedicated to dismantling the taboo around pelvic floor problems after childbirth. By sharing personal stories and expert knowledge, the former BBC journalist has helped thousands of women access reliable information and support for issues like incontinence, prolapse and pelvic pain. Her ground-breaking book, Why Mums Don't Jump: Ending the Pelvic Floor Taboo, came out last year, and builds on the success of her ARIA-nominated podcast. Inspired by Helen’s own struggle with pelvic organ prolapse, Why Mums Don’t Jump has blossomed into a vibrant Instagram community, where women describe feeling empowered and hopeful. Helen grew up in Accrington and now lives in Manchester with her husband and two children.

Great British Life: Keeley HodgkinsonKeeley Hodgkinson (Image: Matin Rickett/PA)

Keely Hodgkinson 

British record holder, twice World Champion, Commonwealth Games gold medalist, European champion, two-time European indoor champion... reading Keely Hodgkinson’s achievements over 800 metres can take about as long as it takes her to complete the race. And the Wigan-born athlete, who turns 22 this month, is a strong contender to add to the list at this summer’s Olympic Games in Paris. After a glittering junior career, the Leigh Harriers runner burst onto the big stage with some commanding performances that put her among the global best of all time and she’ll be aiming to go one better than the silver medal she brought home from the Olympics in Tokyo in 2021.

Marjorie Hayward

The Coronavirus pandemic exacerbated another national crisis – an epidemic of loneliness which now affects one million more people of all ages than in pre-Covid times. But the Talking Tables project is fighting back. Marjorie Hayward launched Talking Tables in Chorley in 2021 as an attempt to encourage people who had been shielding back out into society. Participating cafes set aside tables at a regular time each week to give people a reason to leave the house, meet others and have a chat. Venues across Lancashire have now been joined by others across the country, and one in Cyprus – and many people have said the scheme has changed their life.

Great British Life: Rhiane Fatinikun on a Lancashire walk at Brockholes in Preston. Rhiane Fatinikun on a Lancashire walk at Brockholes in Preston. (Image: Kirsty Thompson)

Rhiane Fatinikun 

Lancashire is a wonderfully diverse county, but that’s not reflected in the people who go walking in our beautiful countryside. Worsley-born Rhiane Fatinkun is on a mission to address that, though. Since she appeared in Lancashire Life in late 2022, Rhiane, who now lives in Bolton, has started to write a regular column for Waitrose magazine, appeared on television and been awarded an MBE in the King’s New Year’s honours list. She founded Black Girls Hike in 2019 – their first walk was around Hollingworth Lake near Rochdale – and they now have groups across the country, more than 20,000 followers on social media and hundreds more people accessing the countryside. The initiative has received the Royal Geographical Society’s Geographical Award and Rhiane has been named in the top 40 black Britons for her work.

Ranvir Singh

TV presenter Ranvir Singh was born in Preston and went to school at Kirkham Grammar, before graduating from Lancaster University with a degree in English and Philosophy. And she went on to gain a postgraduate qualification in journalism from UCLan. Ranvir is a presenter on ITV’s Good Morning Britain and Lorraine, and has fronted several primetime shows including the most watched factual title on ITV in 2022; Ghislaine, Prince Andrew & the Paedophile. She reached the semi-finals of Strictly Come Dancing in 2020 and also has her own daytime quiz show called Riddiculous. She helped people eat healthily and shop cleverly in the successful series Eat, Shop Save and has also worked on All Around Britain, and ITV’s Real Stories. As if she wasn’t busy enough, Ranvir is currently Honorary Chancellor for UCLan and an ambassador for the charity Refuge.

Charlotte Corrigan

At just 17, Charlotte Corrigan was named one of ten winners in the 2022 ‘Future Leaders’ Project. Charlotte is passionate about sport and is the creator of Girlvanise – an initiative that develops strength and confidence, encouraging girls to stay in sport and build a better body image. According to Women in Sport, only 28 per cent of girls aged 14-16 actually enjoy participating in a physical activity and 70 per cents would rather stop eating to change the way they appear. Girlvanise introduces girls to a range of sports that can be enjoyed into adulthood, aiming to foster the skills to enjoy longevity in sport, and live a healthy lifestyle.

Great British Life: Lord Lieutenant Amanda Parker at Browsholme, her home in the Ribble Valley. Lord Lieutenant Amanda Parker at Browsholme, her home in the Ribble Valley. (Image: Kirsty Thompson)

Amanda Parker

When she took on the role of Lancashire’s Lord Lieutenant last year, Amanda Parker became the first woman to be the monarch’s representative in the county since the position was created almost 500 years ago. She was no stranger to public service, though: she served as a local magistrate in the criminal and family courts for almost 20 years, volunteered with Blackburn Youth Zone and women's centres in the county and is patron of the Blackburn-based charity Nightsafe. She was also Lancashire’s High Sheriff in 2015. Amanda, who grew up in Bashall Eaves and attended Clitheroe Royal Grammar School, has taken to the role with confidence and professionalism. She lives at Browsholme Hall in the Ribble Valley, Lancashire’s oldest family home.

AJ Odudu 

Born to Nigerian parents, AJ Odudu grew up with seven siblings in Blackburn. She has a degree in English and Politics as well as being a qualified personal trainer and sports nutritionist. Thanks to her boundless energy and Lancashire charm, she’s fast becoming one of the nation’s most recognisable broadcasters. AJ reached the final of Strictly Come Dancing 2021 and has co-hosted Big Brother, The Big Breakfast, new interior design show The Big Interiors Battle, and The Greatest Auction. In 2022 AJ was the UK spokesperson at the Eurovision Song Contest, announcing the votes live from Salford. AJ has also written for titles such as Vogue and Grazia, and after buying her first property in 2019, she began documenting her DIY renovations on Instagram as @homewithaj.

Jane Dixon

Once a stay-at-home mum, Jane Dixon founded a grief support charity that is relied upon by many. Jane was still navigating her own grief and trying to support her children through the loss of their father when she had the idea for The Bereavement Cafe. Unsatisfied with the level of support available at school, Jane had begun to research and invest in training to understand how we can better help children through grief. As she delved deeper she discovered further support was needed for adults too. This led to the creation of The Bereavement Café, a space dedicated to providing much needed support for all those dealing with grief. This is not a counselling service, but rather a coffee and a chat. Staff and volunteers are trained in understanding grief, bereavement and loss, which is coupled with their own lived experiences of bereavement.

Claire McColgan

Last year’s Eurovision celebrations cemented Liverpool’s global reputation for major cultural events and was another success for the director of Culture Liverpool, Claire McColgan. She joined the council’s Capital of Culture bid team as Head of Regeneration and delivered European Capital of Culture 2008. She now oversees city halls, parks, culture, arts and the visitor economy, Liverpool Film Office, Cruise Liverpool and Marketing Liverpool, with a budget of £30 million and 200 staff. In 2020, she was appointed by the government as vice chair of the UK City of Culture panel and is a well-respected and sought-after adviser on best practice in culture. Last year she received a CBE for her ground-breaking work as director of Culture Liverpool.

Marcella Turner

When her father was ill with prostate cancer, Marcella Turner identified a lack of culturally-appropriate support for black people and other minority communities affected by the disease. In 2016 – armed with a phone, laptop and a drive to fill that gap – she founded Can-Survive UK from her home in Manchester. And although the charity has its roots in those communities, its services are available to anyone who requires them. Marcella – who won the Community Award at last year’s Inspiring Women Awards – is CEO of the charity which provides an array of services, including men and women’s support groups, yoga, walking groups, creative activities, counselling, workshops and awareness-raising campaigns across Manchester.

Great British Life: Skelmersdale's Jess Gagen uses her profile as Miss England to encourage you people - particularly girls - into careers in aerospace engineeringSkelmersdale's Jess Gagen uses her profile as Miss England to encourage you people - particularly girls - into careers in aerospace engineering (Image: Jess Gagen)

Jess Gagen 

Model, Miss England and... rocket scientist. Jess Gagen from Skelmersdale became the first redhead to be named Miss England in 2022 – a title she will hold until the competition is held in May. She had signed with a modeling agency as a 15-year-old and after her A levels at Wigan’s Winstanley College, she signed with an agency in Milan, working around the world for a couple of years. She then returned home to study physics in Salford for a year before switching to a course in aerospace engineering at Liverpool. Since being crowned the 28-year-old has put her studies on hold and devoted herself to visiting schools and youth groups across the country, inspiring and encouraging children – particularly girls – to explore careers in science, technology and engineering.

Jane Hugo

Blackpool Council’s Cabinet Member for Climate Change and Environment is also CEO of Streetlife, a youth work charity established in 1982 which provides emergency shelter and support to vulnerable and homeless young people aged 16-25 in the resort and the surrounding areas. The night shelter, at St Johns Square, has eight bedrooms and provides emergency overnight accommodation, food and support 365 days a year. The Base, on Buchanan St provides access to the drop-in centre where an empowering community provides emotional and practical support. A former service user described Jane as a ‘tremendous, caring manager that Blackpool should be proud to have’ and ‘a great leader in running/chairing working groups and forums to meet the needs of the third sector community of Blackpool.’

Lauren Higgins and Sasha Phillips

Teachers by day, these cousins are the driving force behind ‘Northern Girls’ Club’ a network dedicated to raising aspirations of Northern women. They share the personal and professional stories of a wide range of northern female role models to show that success lies in the everyday grit, graft and growth of hardworking women. Since its launch, Northern Girls’ Club has – among much more – secured a professional podcast deal, populated an online directory and held five sold-out events. With a healthy dose of humour (check out the noticeboard for the imaginary clubhouse) NCG continues to champion and inspire women from often under-represented areas and demonstrate that whatever your accent or background ‘big dreams can come from small houses’.

Great British Life: Nisha Katona at her Mowgli restaurant LiverpoolNisha Katona at her Mowgli restaurant Liverpool (Image: Nisha Katona)

Nisha Katona MBE 

A former barrister, Nisha is now CEO, executive chef and development chef of Mowgli Street Food restaurants and founder of the Mowgli Trust charity. Founding the business because of her strong desire to build a place that serves the kind of food Indians eat at home and on their streets, ambitious Nisha left her two-decade long legal career – she was Liverpool’s first female Asian barrister – and ploughed her life savings into launching the business. Today, Mowgli has more than 20 restaurants across the country. She has also released several cookery books and regularly appears on television, including as a judge on BBC’s Great British Menu. In the 2019 New Year Honours List Nisha was awarded an MBE for services to the food industry.

Fiona Moss

When she lost her sister at the age of just 26 in 2012, Fiona Moss was determined Natalie would not simply be a statistic, one of the three million deaths caused each year by brain haemorrhages. Fiona and her family launched the Natalie Kate Moss Trust which has raised many tens of thousands of pounds for ground-breaking research, supported students at Manchester University – where Natalie studied – and increased awareness of the lifestyle factors that can lead to a higher risk of haemorrhage. Fiona, who lives at Parbold, previously worked in business coaching but is now the director of the Trust.

Katarina Johnson-Thompson

She is a double World Champion, two-time Commonwealth champion and multiple indoor championship gold medalist, but Olympic medals have so far eluded her. But the heptathlete – one of the most decorated British athletes of all time – will be hoping to put that right at this summer’s Games in Paris. KJT grew up in Liverpool, and was friends at Woolton’s St Julie’s High School with Jodie Comer who also features in this list. She was voted into third place in the BBC’s 2023 Sports Personality of the Year Awards and, if she can stay injury-free, will undoubtedly be one of Team GB’s great medal hopes when the Games begin in late July.

Great British Life: Arabella Lennox-Boyd in her garden at Gresgarth, her home in the Lune ValleyArabella Lennox-Boyd in her garden at Gresgarth, her home in the Lune Valley (Image: Linda Viney)

Arabella Lennox-Boyd

Italian-born Arabella Lennox-Boyd has transformed more than 800 gardens around the world over the last 50 years and her own plot near Caton is a great example of her skills. Arabella has lived at Gresgarth since the late 1970s when she and her husband found the garden neglected, waterlogged and overrun with weeds. She has since created a garden that has become a popular attraction. In her long career, she has created gardens for figures including Sting, Sir Terence Conran, David Gilmour of Pink Floyd and Queen Paola of Belgium. She has also designed six Chelsea Flower Show Gold Medal gardens, and has harvested a host of other awards. Now in her mid-80s, she remains at the helm of the renowned garden design business that carries her name.

Firoza Mohmed

The Blackburn-based charity Humraaz – which means ‘confidante’ – helps and supports women who have been victims of domestic abuse and honour based violence. CEO Firoza Mohmed has been with the organisation for 20 years, in which time it has grown and developed. After spells as a project leader and service manager, the former Billinge High School student became CEO in 2018. She has been instrumental in evolving the charity and giving women educational help, immigration support and psychological assistance as well as providing them with a safe place to grow, integrate into society and find social and economic stability.

Dame Nancy Jane Rothwell

This Tarleton-born scientist was elected Fellow of the Royal Society in 2004 and made Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire the following year, for services to science. She is President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Manchester and her ongoing research in the field of neuroscience has contributed towards major advances in the understanding and treatment of brain damage in stroke and head injury. The former Penwortham Girls High School pupil was the founding President of the Royal Society of Biology and has also served as Co-Chair of the Prime Minister’s Council for Science and Technology, and as a non-executive director of AstraZeneca. She is currently Chair of the Russell Group, a Deputy Lieutenant for Greater Manchester, a Commissioner on the Law Family Commission on Civil Society, and a member of the UK Investment Council, the Oxford Road Corridor Board, the Northern Powerhouse Partnership Board, the UK Biobank Board, the Innovation Greater Manchester Board and the Times Education Commission.

Paige Louise

From a council estate in Droysden to a multi-million cosmetics kingdom; Paige Louise completely transformed her life. This Lancashire-born entrepreneur built an entire beauty empire with a coveted cruelty-free cosmetics range and P.Louise make-up academy. At age 20, with no shortage of ambition, Paige set herself eight goals to achieve within the next ten years. These included setting up the academy, creating a recognisable brand that defined her make-up style, buying a Range Rover, and earning enough money that her mum would no longer have to work. Paige faced challenges when setting out, with finances not stretching as far as she had anticipated but she went on to achieve all the goals she set herself and continues to grow the P.Louise brand.

Sarah Lancashire OBE

Born in Oldham, Sarah Lancashire OBE ‘officially’ began her career here in the North West gaining her equity card by performing with the Manchester Library Theatre Group. She also worked as a much-respected drama tutor at Salford University during this time. Now perhaps best known for her TV work, she has appeared in the likes of Coronation Street, Where the Heart Is, Clocking Off, Last Tango in Halifax, and Happy Valley – which earned her a BAFTA for Best Actress. She was named the highest paid actress in television in 2000. Also a lauded film and theatre actress, she frequently returns to sought-after stage roles and was nominated for a Laurence Olivier Award for Betty Blue Eyes in London’s West End. In 2017 she received an OBE for services to drama, and continues to inspire young performers in Lancashire and beyond with her sterling career stretching back four decades and a continuing record of exceptional performances.

Great British Life: Charity founder Debbie DowieCharity founder Debbie Dowie (Image: Debbie Dowie)

Debbie Dowie

Charity founder Debbie Dowie, wife of former professional footballer Iain Dowie, is on a mission to support women receiving cancer diagnoses and undergoing treatment. Debbie was diagnosed with breast cancer in August 2009 and set up a charity the following year. ‘I was one of the lucky ones, in that my cancer was discovered early and my prognosis was very good but I do realise that for some this is not the case,’ she says. ‘I decided to turn my experience into a positive one and ‘Boot Out Breast Cancer’ was born. Every penny raised is spent supporting new treatments, clinical trials and equipment for breast cancer in our NHS.’ Since 2010 over £1,375,000 has been raised and specialist equipment has been provided to The Royal Bolton NHS hospital, The Nightingale Centre NHS Hospital in South Manchester, Thomas Linacre Breast Centre at Wrightington Wigan and Leigh NHS Hospital and the Paterson Institute next to The