Our vision is to create gender parity in every area of life by championing equality for women in civil, political, economic, social and cultural arenas.

Women Leaders and Milton Keynes

The high proportion of female business owners is a key factor driving the city’s economic success.  The evidence comes from two influential research papers.  The Centre for Cities report lists Milton Keynes as the location with the “most dynamic business environment” in the UK outside London while the work from Paymentsense shows it’s the best place in the country to start a business.  Business start-ups have a greater chance of thriving here than anywhere else and the latter report also points out that almost a third of companies are owned by women.

Dr Julie Mills OBE chairs Women Leaders UK, says:

“This is why organisations like Women Leaders are so important in continuing our city’s economic development.  All the evidence shows that creating an environment where women can be entrepreneurial adds a whole new dimension to productivity.  It’s also no coincidence that the gender pay gap is narrowing more quickly here than in many other places – another strong indicator of an economy with better balance to be successful.”

Dr Julie Mills OBE

Chair of Board

Get involved

There are many ways you can get involved, support the women leaders you know, and help contribute to Milton Keynes' growth and and recognition.

Find out how with the below programmes:

Women Leaders Mentoring programme

Create inclusive organisations

Engaging more girls and women into STEM

About Us

Women Leaders UK is a registered charity established to recognise outstanding women, promote and strengthen women’s leadership, and support gender equality and diversity.

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Women Leaders Awarded
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Nominees
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Founded 6 years ago
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Businesses supporting us

Women Leaders UK is the brainchild of Jan Flawn CBE, founder of specialist neurological care provider, PJ Care, based in Milton Keynes and in Peterborough. After winning the national CBI First Women of Business Services award in 2013, Jan realised how important it is to celebrate the achievements of women.

Jan set about inspiring a group of activists, passionate to develop the idea and in March 2015, on International Women’s Day, the first Women Leaders Awards was launched in Milton Keynes. It was a huge success, uncovering talented women from across the region, culminating in a joyful and inclusive gala dinner.

From these beginnings Jan led the development of Women Leaders as a charitable organisation, expanding focus to include mentoring, support and networking activities for our nominees, finalists and winners. Incorporated in 2018, the charity has worked with over 700 women from all backgrounds and sectors and some 50 organisations and businesses which support our vision. 

This year we will formalise our mentoring programme, aimed at any woman who aspires to become a leader, this will include networking and CPD events.  In line with our charitable objectives we will continue to support personal development in both mentors and mentees.

Our Objectives

We are proud to support MK Innovates, Milton Keynes’ STEM festival.  The festival brings together the best of local, innovative businesses and provides valuable interactive experiences for schools and members of the public. This is the first and only STEM event in our city and has been increasingly well attended over the past few years. 

Our activities throughout the year include a mentoring programme for women who aspire to lead.  In 2020 we expect to develop this work by providing more professional development and networking opportunities.  This work is ordinarily funded by our Gala Awards event which celebrates the achievements of local women across a range of sectors. This year will be different due to COVID-19, but we will still celebrate! Watch this space…

Make your contribution by sponsoring an award or nominating remarkable women in your field.

Share Success

Promote the achievements of women to provide role models in the community

Gender Equality

Identify and challenge gender disparity

New Horizons

Support young women to study science, tech, engineering and maths

Inspire Others

Inspire and support women to develop their education, skills and training to maximise their potential

Engage Action

Organise conferences, seminars, research and other educational activities

Nuture Leaders

Keep growing the skills and knowledge through our mentoring programme

Update on Women Leaders Awards 2021

“ We took the decision not to run the Women Leaders Awards 2021 earlier this year.  The rationale was to focus on our two exciting new programmes, CareerConnect and the Allyship Programme as we look to support women returning to the workplace, entering it for the first time or seeking development support.

We will be returning to the awards in 2022, hopefully in a post COVID environment”

Ruby Parmar – Trustee & Vice Chair Women Leaders UK, MK Awards Chair

Our Trustees

Dr Julie Mills OBE

Chair
Dr Julie Mills, is the CEO and Group Principal of MK College and a highly respected thinker and doer in the areas of education, skills, social justice and diversity. Julie's contributions have been featured by the BBC, ITV, The Huffington Post, The Times Educational Supplement, FE News, and many more.

A passionate advocate for diversity and inclusion, Julie was recently named Principal of the Year by the National Centre for Diversity (NCF). She is the driving force behind plans for an Institute of Technology at Bletchley Park, chair of the Helena Kennedy Foundation and Chair of Women Leaders UK. Julie is an Open University graduate, and was awarded a doctorate in 2005 for her research into the management of prison education staff.

Julie is a champion for all things Milton Keynes, an ardent fan of the MK Dons and a trustee of the MK Dons Sport and Education Trust. Julie was recognised with an OBE in the Queen’s 2019 Birthday Honours List.

Ruby Parmar

Vice Chair
Ruby is an experienced business advisor to the private company market. She has worked in professional services firms for over 30 years, the last 20 at PwC where she was a partner whose roles included heading up the Private Business practice, leading on the PwC sponsored Private Business Awards and latterly as leader of the Milton Keynes office.

Having retired as a PwC partner at the end of June 2019, she now wears many hats supporting the private, public and charitable sectors. She also continues to mentor individuals and supports organisations with their Diversity and Inclusion agenda.

Her other roles include: Chair of TOTM (an organic and sustainable feminine hygiene products business), Director of Twenty3 (a MK based sports intelligence business), Non Exec Director of Wells and Co (a local Family Business in the brewing and Pub sector), Trustee of the Magic Bus, (a charity supporting children from the most deprived backgrounds in India), Board Governor of Milton Keynes College and Trustee and Vice Chair of Women Leaders UK (a MK based Charity). When not engaging in business, education and opening up and sharing networks, Ruby is a British Red Cross Volunteer and works at the MK Winter Night Shelter. She enjoys walking the dog, keeping fit, and growing vegetables.

Nikki Ross

Trustee
I have recently retired having spent 35 years in UK policing retiring as a senior executive, managing complex change and serious threat and risk scenarios. It has been profoundly rewarding to share my experience by coaching and mentoring others. My varied career included change management, problem solving and a need for demonstrable emotional intelligence and authenticity.

Since September 2019, I have been the Chief Executive of Thames Valley Partnership, a charitable organisation dedicated to helping people within the Criminal Justice System. Working with partners the charity works with victims, with offenders and with families of people touched by or at risk of becoming involved in the Criminal Justice system.

Having spent my whole career in a male dominated environment, and being dedicated to helping women to continue to achieve, I am delighted to be able to continue that work with the Women Leaders. I have worked with the organisation previously and was an award winner in 2016. The event is always the most inspiring event I attend every year. I intend to organise structured mentoring for all nominees and to establish a mentoring network within the organisation

Gamiel Yafai

Trustee
Gamiel is more than an engaging, passionate, seasoned Diversity & Inclusion expert. He was the proud recipient of the Global Diversity Leadership Award presented by the Global HRD Congress 2017 and the author of ‘Demystifying Diversity’ and ‘Yemen Proud’. Recipient of High Sheriff of Buckinghamshire's Award (2021) in recognition of his commitment and dedication to improving understanding of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion across the Milton Keynes Community.

Gamiel’s first foray into the world of Diversity was in 2000 when was in publishing and collaborated with the then Commission for Racial Equality to promote the Amendments to the Race Relations Act which require public bodies to take action on Race Equality. Now more than two decades later, Gamiel has built a successful Diversity and Inclusion practice (Diversity Marketplace in 2005) working with companies that include: Channel 4, Siemens, Rolls Royce, Cranfield University, Eon, BEIS, News UK, Barclays Business, FCO Services, the Welsh Assembly, Local Authorities, the NHS, Schools, Colleges and Universities and more...

Gamiel works with these employers to create D& I strategies, design and implement leadership development/Positive Action initiatives to attract both new talent from diverse backgrounds and to support existing talent to reach their potential, working on some of the largest inclusion projects in the UK. Using insights gained from the completion of 34 research projects into the challenges of working for UK employers from a minority perspective.

Claire Farmer

Trustee
Last year was a good one for me, I was recognised as an National House Building Council Star for 2019, because of my role in delivering key budgeting, forecasting and debt management projects.

As an ACCA qualified accountant working locally for NHBC I benefit from a working pattern that accommodates a healthy work/life balance. Taking time to relax and wind down from the intensity of work is important to me. In my spare time you will find me and my husband James, on a mission to tire out our lively Border Collie Lexie.

I am delighted to be joining Women Leaders as Treasurer on the board of Trustees and look forward to using my passion for gender balance and financial experience to help the charity meet their objectives.

Pam Gosal MBA

Trustee
My late father taught me the value of entrepreneurialism and that it is my responsibility to help create a world where ambition and aspiration thrive. For more than twenty years across all aspects of public, private and voluntary sectors I have been driven to impact change in areas including; inward investment, business, cultural, legal, financial and regulatory policies both in Scotland and England.

I am proud that, as a result of my passion for providing inclusive opportunity, Milton Keynes has received a host of accolades, including recognition as the best place for business investment, job growth and inward investment projects, directly improving the retention and growth of thousands of jobs. By fostering partnerships with the private and voluntary sectors I have been able to deliver cultural and sports events in MK that bring diverse communities together.

Now in my third year as a Trustee, and as a winner of two awards in previous years, I know first-hand the value that the Women Leaders awards brings to the success of our city. I will continue to advocate for gender parity and mentor other women with the will to lead.

Kelly Haynes

Trustee
The first time I threw a punch was at the age of 12. Fast forward 20 years and I am now K1 World Champion, 2017's Upcoming Female Fighter of the Year and 2018's & 2019’s Martial Arts Women of the Year by warriors assembly British Awards. I also won the Women's Leaders 2019 Sport award and recently was awarded a commendation by Thames Valley Police for the work on the Boxing Clever project.

I’m an ambassador and help teach fitness in a number of charities such as MK ACT which is a local women’s refuge, Sportraider, fit4life and a non-profit project - Boxing Clever. Boxing Clever is achieving amazing results with students insecondary schools and just won an award - Kids Count 2019 at House of Commons, the project is aimed to foster discipline through martial arts, it was started by Thames Valley Police & Milton Keynes council earlier 2019.

Zoe Mills

Trustee
My 25 years as a Human Resources Specialist has made passionate about diversity and inclusion in the workplace. I find gender disparity to be such an important aspect of the equality agenda and has been my focus for the last few years. I am proud that my work with NHBC to improve and equalise maternity and paternity leave and pay has meant they are the first Milton Keynes employer to have taken this progressive and ground breaking step.

I assisted the Women Leaders UK judging panel in 2018 and was overwhelmed and inspired by the nominees I had the pleasure to meet. I was delighted to be the Winner for 2019 Professional Services Women Leaders category. This is my first position as a Board Trustee and I hope to be instrumental in raising the profile of this important cause.

Zoe Raven

Trustee
I am the founder and CEO of Acorn Early Years Foundation, a social enterprise and charity that began as a small private nursery over 30 years ago. I gradually grew the organisation to 12 day nurseries with over 300 employees. I’m an advocate of lifelong learning, with an MBA from the OU and i’m currently a part-time doctoral student at Royal Holloway, University of London, researching ethical issues in early years provision in the UK.

I have four children, been an active member of the NCT, a school governor, and i’m vice-chair of trustees at the Parks Trust. With a keen interest in the fight against gender equality, i’m thrilled to be involved in Women Leaders. Mentoring and training within Acorn has shown me that supporting talent and celebrating women’s achievements is a great way to inspire the next generation of women.

Elizabeth Sheldon

Trustee
I was nominated for 2 Women Leaders awards in 2016, Business Services and Science and Technology, to my surprise I won both. A keen champion of increasing skills in STEM subjects and as Chair of the MK Innovates festival I strive for more women to develop an interest and subsequent career path in these key areas. Without doubt winning these awards opened the door for further opportunities to appear. In December 2017 I was invited to become Vice President of Security for ADS the industry body representing Aerospace, Defence, Security and Space. Invitations have just followed regularly thereafter.

I don't doubt that without the recognition I received through Women Leaders I would not have enjoyed many of the privileges that followed. In my role as Trustee my hope is that other women benefit from the support of the charity's commitment to improving gender equality.

Hanayyah Sutton

Trustee
Hanayyah is the current EMEA transition and Product refresh lead for JLL. Prior to which she has over 10 year’s experience in Finance services, leading change across multiple disciplines including, digital, financial crime, cultural transformation, sustainability and climate change. She has a track record of successfully delivering large scale projects and programmes including leading the development of Unity Place, Milton Keynes from concept to construction.

Hana is passionate about sustainability, social mobility and inclusion. Having started her career working in a call centre she understands the challenges faced by women when navigating their way through their careers. Hana believes in supporting women wherever possible and paving the way as a positive role model for women of all backgrounds.

Hana has extensive experience in working within the community to support diversity, inclusion and social mobility, including mentoring, coaching and being a trustee for MK Women Leaders. Hana is also a proud winner of 2020 Emerging leader award. 

Sarah Thorne

Trustee
Sarah has been a champion of other women throughout her career, often asked to be a mentor and to coach others, as one of few female leaders within the construction industry.

As a long time supporter of Women Leaders Uk, lucky enough to be a finalist in 2018, and then a winner of the Professional Services award in 2020, Sarah’s own values resonate with the values and ambitions of the charity, and so when Sarah got the opportunity to become a trustee, she jumped at the chance.

Equality and inclusion, raising aspirations and providing opportunities to celebrate talented women across all sectors, are things that Sarah strives to do in all of her endeavours.

The work that Women Leaders does is so important, recognising and celebrating local women, who may not otherwise be valued for their contribution to their community, organisation or sector, can make all the difference to their careers, self esteem and confidence.