2014 Inspiring Women Awards at Manchester’s Midland Hotel

Awards Founder and Organiser, Jacqueline Hughes-Lundy with The 2014 Inspiring Women Award Winners; J

Awards Founder and Organiser, Jacqueline Hughes-Lundy with The 2014 Inspiring Women Award Winners; Joanne Lee (Inspiring Young Woman Award), Lorna Havercroft from Laing O'Rourke (Nurturing Female Talent), Dr Sheila Kanani (Technology Award), Jean Sant (Community Award) and Sarah Gallacher (Entrepreneur Award) - Credit: Archant

Courage, passion and enterprise...it’s all in a day’s work for the exceptional women rewarded at this year’s Inspiring Women Awards.

Louise Minchin and Laurence Llewelyn Bowen

Louise Minchin and Laurence Llewelyn Bowen - Credit: Archant

Standing ovations, laughter and tears greeted the finalists of this year’s Inspiring Women Awards as their personal stories of achievement were coaxed out of them at a celebration lunch at the Midland Hotel, Manchester.

Now in its 22nd year, the Inspiring Women Awards recognises the efforts of exceptional women around Lancashire, Greater Manchester and Cheshire. Over 300 guests attended the 2014 event, sponsored once again by Lancashire Life and Cheshire Life magazines.

Television celebrities presented the awards, including interior design expert Laurence Llewelyn Bowen, BBC Breakfast’s Louise Minchin, Dr Dawn Harper from Embarrassing Bodies, ex-Apprentice Neil Clough and Commonwealth Games Gold Medal winner Diane Modahl. Radio and TV presenter Andy Crane hosted the occasion.

The Awards, founded and organised by Manchester businesswoman Jacqueline Hughes-Lundy, raises funds for the Inspiring Young Women Foundation which seeks to encourage the next generation to reach their potential. This year’s winner, Joanne Lee, is a Sefton Young Advisor. She works tirelessly for young children in care and advises on how to support the most vulnerable of children and young people. She was presented with her award by Cheshire Life editor, Louise Allen-Taylor.

Business Award Winner, Jennifer Atkinson celebrates with friend, Amanda Brown

Business Award Winner, Jennifer Atkinson celebrates with friend, Amanda Brown - Credit: Archant

One popular winner was Dr Sheila Kanani, from Lytham St Annes, a planetary scientist and high school teacher. In conversation with Andy Crane, she communicated her passion for educating teenagers. With humour, charm and confidence she explained how she makes science relevant to her pupils. She was given the Inspiring Women Technology Award for her work in founding STEMMsisters, an online interactive site aiming to spread the appeal for science, technology, engineering, maths and medicine.

In a year which celebrates the 100th birthday of the Brownie movement, the Community award was given to Jean Sant from Sale, who, in her seventies, has been the Brown Owl for over 50 years, adapting to changing times and hobbies, and encouraging, teaching and inspiring decades of young girls.

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The Business award went to Jennifer Atkinson of Chester-based ITC Luxury Travel for her business acumen, tenacity and drive in turning around a loss-making business to one now rated in the Sunday Times 100 best small companies, as they celebrate 40 years.

Everyone loves chocolate but Sarah Gallacher, winner of the Entrepreneur award, took this passion further by changing her career, becoming a chocolatier and opening Cocoa Cabana Chocolatiers in West Didsbury in November 2012.

Melissa Porter and Andy Crane

Melissa Porter and Andy Crane - Credit: Archant

New for 2014, the Nurturing Female Talent Award aims to highlight companies who actively encourages women at all levels. The winner was Laing O’Rourke, based at Birley Fields in Hulme, Manchester whose vision is to challenge and change the perception of the industry to ensure that construction and engineering careers are seen as exciting and relevant for women.

Founder and organiser of the Awards, Jacqueline Hughes Lundy said:‘When the first Inspiring Women Awards lunch was held in 1993, it was relatively unique. It is, therefore, a testament to the women recognised then and since, that these awards continue to thrive against the multitude of award ceremonies that exist today.’



Inspiring Women Awards 2014

Inspiring Women Awards 2014 - Credit: Archant

Nurturing Female Talent Award sponsored by Manchester Metropolitan University

Laing O’Rourke

Laing O’Rourke’s vision is to challenge and change the perception of the industry to ensure that construction and engineering careers are seen as exciting opportunities for women. It has a range of initiatives including sponsoring schools like Skipton Girls’ High School, to increasing volunteer days with girls aged 14-16 who are interested in a career in the industry.

Laing O’Rourke is currently reviewing all roles to make them suitable for flexible working. Development programmes for future leaders are now targeting women in the business to ensure a balanced mix of future potential. Laing O’Rourke is one of only two businesses in the industry with a female Chief Executive who openly talks about the challenges she has faced and her desire to make it easier for women at all levels of the business to have a rewarding career.


Technology Award sponsored by Olivia Henry Associates

Sheila Kanani

Sheila is a space scientist and an educator, using the inspiring qualities of astronomy to enthuse disengaged students into doing science. She has the admirable and tough job of a secondary school teacher at an inner city comprehensive school in Preston enthusing students about physics. With her sister, she recently started an online company called STEMMsisters which supports people from communities which may not be able to access ‘STEMM’ subjects – science, technology, engineering, maths and medicine. STEMMsisters aims to: create a social movement by sharing information and inspiration through blogs, stories and case studies, develop a STEMM Network to identify and connect those with potential with those who have achieved and support all types of mentoring


Business Award sponsored by Deloitte

Jennifer Atkinson

Jennifer joined ITC, a family run business, in 2006 as Marketing Manager. By 2009 ITC recorded its biggest losses in its 35 year history as a result of declining sales and overheads that had grown out of proportion with the underlying business. Alongside these challenging trading times the chairman was diagnosed with cancer and appointed Jennifer as CEO. Less than six months later he passed away.

In her first year as CEO Jennifer had to reduce the headcount from 130 to 80 people, followed by some of the senior team in the organisation deciding to leave. However as a result of these changes the company broke even in 2010 and has seen phenomenal growth since. In 2014, ITC received special awards in the Sunday Times 100 best small companies to work for: Health and Wellbeing and Learning and Development.


Community Award sponsored by BBC Radio Manchester

Jean Sant

While the Brownie movement is celebrating 100 years in 2014, Jean Sant is celebrating her own milestone as the Brown Owl in Sale Moor for over 50 years. Although now in her seventies, Jean still spends every Tuesday welcoming and instructing the Brownies and continues to take them away to camp.

Jean has overseen many changes within the organisation over the past 50 years, including those coveted Interest badges, which in the 1960s included thrift, radio communicator and skating and today includes activities like crime prevention and science investigation. She is now instructing the grand-daughters of her original Brownies and continues to influence generations of our young people always graciously and with a smile on her face.


Entrepreneur Award sponsored by Santander

Sarah Gallagher

Sarah recently retrained as a chocolatier to follow her passion and set up her own chocolaterie. Her business, set up on a shoestring has within 18 months, traded on ‘Not on the High Street’ featured in ‘Stylist’ and ‘British Vogue Magazines’, won a Taste Gold Award and invited to produce Chocolate for Heston Blumenthal’s ‘Great British Food Programme’. In 2014 she was one of a few invited to ‘Salon du Chocolate’ event in London. Sarah opened her shop Cocoa-Cabana in West Didsbury in November 2012, and is now a focal point in the West Didsbury independent community. Sarah has the most exquisite palate enabling the creation of unusual and experimental truffles. Her ethos is to create fresh chocolates and truffles, without the use of artificial additives, preservatives or flavourings


Inspiring Young Woman Award sponsored by Lancashire Life and Cheshire Life

Joanne Lee

After leaving care, Joanne has continued to work closely with key decision makers to ensure that other looked after children and care leavers are supported effectively. She is a member of her local Corporate Parenting Board and encourages all professionals working with or for ‘looked after’ children or care leavers preface all their thinking and work on one question; “if this were my child, would this be good enough?” She has secured employment at Sefton Care Leavers Centre, set up to support young people who are in the process of leaving care or who have left care with the transition into adulthood and independent living.

Joanne is also a Sefton Young Advisor and works with community leaders and decisions makers to ensure that the voices of children and young people are consistently heard. She is involved in multi-agency training around Child Sexuality Exploitation and trains local elected members on how to effectively carry out visits to children’s homes and designated teachers on how to support the most vulnerable of children and young people.


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