Outside of my role at ITV, I am proud to be Chair of Women of the Year. The main event of the year is the Women of the Year Lunch and Awards ceremony which took place on Monday 17 October at the InterContinental London, Park Lane – and it was a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the courage, selflessness and dedication of inspirational women.
Over 400 women attend the Lunch, and every woman who is invited to the event has achieved something extraordinary, in whatever walk of life she comes from. In addition, five awards, sponsored by Barclays, Prudential, DFS, and Good Housekeeping, recognised particular women for an extraordinary contribution they have made in their world, alongside one Special Award.
This Special Women of the Year Award was presented by the Prime Minister and was awarded to Margaret Aspinall, on behalf of all the Hillsborough families who worked tirelessly for 26 years to establish the truth of what happened at Hillsborough. It was a powerful and moving moment to witness their campaign for the truth recognised with this Award.
Women of the Year was first launched in 1955 – the pioneer of events that celebrate the achievements of women. But the Lunch is more than just shining a light on some amazing women. In bringing together this extraordinary group of women, it gives a very visible and tangible reality to the concept of women working together to support each other. Every individual in the room has made her mark, and is an inspirational role model for younger women who will, at certain points in their working lives, need a ‘leg up’.
Many young women today who are on the trajectory for success find that, at a certain stage, they get stuck. Having got so far in what is still often a ‘man’s world’, they have no-one to offer them advice on how to navigate what are often tricky and political waters in moving up to the next stage.
The attendees at the Women of the Year Lunch represent a way through these challenges, by being visible and confident in their success and by being prepared to listen, mentor and offer advice. They open doors, rather than close them. In so doing they enable the next generation of young women to succeed as they deserve to do.
This year’s attendees included Paula Maguire, a midwife from Wakefield who set up the ice bucket challenge; Razan Alsous, who fled the war in Syria and set up a cheese manufacturing business in Huddersfield; Adele Patrick, Co-Founder and Creative Development Manager of the Glasgow Women’s Library; Lorraine Jones, who founded the community centre ‘Dwaynamics’ after the death of her son in Brixton and Hibo Wardere, FGM campaigner and author of Cut: One Woman's Fight Against FGM in Britain Today.
These remarkable women have all demonstrated bravery, determination, compassion and success, and each of them demonstrates to young women that tangible outcomes are possible.
In the words of our President, Sandi Toksvig, ‘These women range from the super famous to unsung heroines who are the backbones of charities, industries and indeed every profession possible. I wish I could show this room to every school girl in Britain growing up in Britain today”
In our recognition of their efforts to make the world a better place, our vision is to create a platform for these Women of the Year to say to the next generation:
‘I did it. You can do it too.’