Manchester's Women In Business

2018 marks one hundred years since some women first won the right to vote in the UK, so we’re celebrating women in our usual Manchester way. We asked some of Manchester’s most successful women

‘What does being a woman in 2018 mean to you?’


Collette Roche | Chief Operating Officer at Manchester United Football Club

“Being a woman in business in 2018 feels empowering. Women are starting to stand proud, speak up and challenge the inconsistencies and inequalities in and out of the workplace. Furthermore, male leaders and partners are also ‘stepping up to the plate’ by supporting, opening doors and promoting more women – something I am lucky to have the first-hand experience of.”


Emma DeggChief Executive, North West Business Leadership Team 

“This is the best time ever to be a woman; we have more power and opportunity than our mothers and grandmothers – we stand on their shoulders. That is why we must keep striving for an even more equal, fair and just society – for our sons and daughters in turn.”


Rose Marley | CEO, Sharp Futures 

“Being a woman in 2018 I believe is the same as for many of my male counterparts. I am full of hope and excitement for the future whilst apprehensive about the challenges presented by the complex world that lies ahead of us. I appear to be in a lucky minority. I’ve never had cause to declare #metoo, despite working in male-dominated worlds from the music business to digital and tech, and my career has never been hampered by unequal pay or opportunity. So, my mission is to share this knowledge with all the diverse young people I know and work with them to empower the next generation.”


Geraldine Ryan | Head of Commercial Litigation & Manchester Office, Hill Dickinson LLP 

“It is a tremendously exciting time to be a woman. The current level of debate around equality issues is unprecedented and I am encouraged to remember how far we have come since Edith Berthen – one of the first 10 women solicitors to qualify in 1927 who worked at my firm. She was a true trail-blazer and the path to equality continues!”


Jennifer Atkinson | CEO, ITC Travel Group  

“For me, it’s all about recognising and seizing the opportunities that life throws my way, encouraging the talent and unique qualities of those around me, recognising my limits and not being afraid to ask for help and support, and sharing and celebrating successes to inspire others.”


Gill Thomson-Woolley | Managing Director, AKA North & AKA Scotland 

“For me, being a woman in 2018 is extremely exciting. As a Managing Director within a global advertising agency, I have the pleasure of working with an amazing team of extremely talented people on some of the biggest entertainment brands in the world. Every day brings new challenges and I am very lucky to be inspired and empowered by an amazing group of women, from my group CEO, to my wife, mum and sister, who support me and give me the strength to constantly strive to achieve more.”


Lou Cordwell OBE | Founder & CEO, magneticNorth 

“The remarkable sequence of events in 2017 – from Trump to Weinstein – have created an unprecedented spotlight on women that culminated in the condemnation of the infamous President’s Club event at the beginning of this year. All of this shapes what it means to be a woman in 2018. I think we have an unmissable opportunity, and a real responsibility, to collaborate and to leverage this momentum so we can redesign the mainstream view on what a fair and happy society looks like. This year is our chance to define a new normal.”

Seema Malhotra | Design Director, Forever Unique 

“It’s 2018 and I can confidently say that I’ve never felt more empowered to be a woman. As a businesswoman with over 20 years’ experience in fashion, I’ve learnt to overcome the challenges faced with being heard in such a competitive industry. Today, more than ever, women are standing up for what they believe in and are finally being listened to. We’ve come a long way to strive for gender equality and there’s still a long way to go, but I’m proud we’ve got this far. I live by the mantra ‘empowered women empower women’ and that’s the exact message I choose to portray through my designs.”

Liz Whiteley | Business Development Director, Methods    

“2018 is being part of a gender-balanced workforce in the tech industry. I had the freedom and confidence to take the leap to join Methods, a digital SME, and open a Manchester office to be part of the digital community. All my roots are in the North and I believe women are less afraid now than 10 years ago. The combination of being a mother of three and having a career is really important to me.”


Janine Smith | Head of Growth Services, Business Growth Hub 

“I’m proud to be a woman in 2018 who is recognised for what I have achieved through working hard and always over-achieving through my teams regardless of my gender. At work, I truly don’t feel I receive positive or negative discrimination due to being female. Within society, there is still a huge way to go though.”


Christine Cort | MD, Manchester International Festival 

“2018 will be an important year for women globally. I really admire the women who are speaking out about gender imbalance, the strength they are showing in supporting and empowering others. As Managing Director of MIF it’s so rewarding to see the women here thriving and supporting each other.”


Angela Rayner | Shadow Secretary of State for Education & MP, Ashton-Under-Lyne

“Manchester has a long association with women’s equality campaigning. Many key local figures like Elizabeth Dean, Hannah Mitchell and Annie Kenney, were unusual as they were working class. Today the fight for equality goes on. The under-representation of women in boardrooms, the pay gap and the passive acceptance of misogynistic comments by President Trump show there is still a way to go. Being a woman in 2018 is about continuing that fight and my working-class Mancunian BACKground makes me particularly determined.”

Julie Wilson | Former Co-Founder, Rule 5

“We are fortunate to live in a society where our gender does not, need not, define us.  Gender roles have changed greatly over the years and today women, and men, have opportunities past generations were not afforded.  Emmeline Pankhurst provided women with a voice and it’s a voice that continues to shout loudly through the achievements of so many others today.  It’s a voice that is increasingly heard.  We’re some way from achieving equality, but we have made progress.  We should never stop striving for a fairer, more balanced world, for everyone.”

Jennie Johnson MBE | Chief Executive, Kids Allowed 

“Being awomann in 2018 is exciting; a sea change is taking place that feels historic.  Feminism is no longer a dirty word for most and we are finding our voice and strength as never before. We want to walk shoulder to shoulder with men, not as betters, but certainly as equals.”


Diane Modahl | CEO, Diane Modahl Sports Foundation 

“Manchester to me is a city of hope regardless of whether you are a minority or not, and the last thing we ever want to lose is hope. I am a woman, I am a mamma, I am winner.  I am whatever I want to be.”



Nicola Graham | Director, Training Consultancy Company & Former GMP Specialist Child Abuse Detective

“I recently retired from GMP in the post of Specialist Child Abuse Detective. Serving 30 years in a predominantly male environment, having to stand up for myself BACK in the early days of my career as a female was always a challenge. Being a female starting up a safeguarding consultancy business in 2018 has been easier. In this era, my experience has been that there are less barriers for women and more opportunities. Women in 2018 are given greater respect and better opportunities to make a difference.”



Sally Penni | Barrister at Law, Founder & Chair of Women in the Law UK 

“Being a woman in 2018 means to me, more than having the right to vote, it means having rights and access to health care, access to education and access to funds. But being a woman in 2018 means understanding there is still a long way to go. For example, there are still huge gender pay gaps in industries, our boards and courts do not quite represent the diversity of society we serve. Above all, it means having the sense and feeling that women can be whatever they want to be. Being a woman in 2018 means being a visible positive role model to other women. I hope the Pankhurst would approve of this.”


Laura Smart ACA CTA | Director, KPMG 

“Battling the constraints and unconscious bias that we face as professional women, and in particular, combating the imposter syndrome that so many of us experience daily. Plus, acting as a role model in all aspects of my life whether that’s working in an office of over 1000 people, as mum to two children, or supporting my local community.”


Lisa Tse MBE | CEO, Sweet Mandarin

“Being the third generation of women restaurateurs, there is a sense of upholding standards and family tradition. Success is all relative, but in the food business it is about serving the customers to the highest standard with a friendly attitude. As a woman in a fast-moving business such as Sweet Mandarin, it ensures you keep innovating, tests your patience, builds self-discipline and enduring persistence during the high and the lows in the business journey. I’m honoured to be continuing the family legacy through our award-winning restaurant, sauce brand and as a role model for other women. Running a business is hard and being a Chinese woman, you must do what you need to do to run your own race. My motto has always been ‘nothing is impossible’.”


Gemma Gore | Director, We Are Indigo & We Are Family

“I think 2018 will be a year where women will be even more engaged, energized and resolute than ever before. Issues that were long ignored are finally coming to the surface, and women are beginning to speak up and use their voices and influence to demand real change.”


Joanne Ahmed | Partner in Global Employer Services, Deloitte 

“From a business perspective, being a woman in 2018 to me means choice, opportunity and challenge without worrying about the glass ceiling. Feeling valued as part of a diverse team, knowing that your opinion matters and your voice is heard.”


Professor Fiona Devine | Head, Alliance Manchester Business School

“2018 means choice. Women can choose many things we could not a hundred years ago, including the choice to vote. We can also choose to open a bank account or apply for a loan, work in the legal profession, claim equal pay for doing the same work as men, or serve on a jury; amazingly all things we could not have done 100 years ago.”


Deepa Parekh | CEO/Founder 7Star Football Concierge

“Being a woman in 2018 is of course exciting as people are waking up and recognising that women have been role models, inspirations and figureheads for generations, just like men. In business, I put my success down to valuable lessons from the greatest influencers of my life – my parents. Having succeeded in the world of football, media and hospitality, I have come to understand the importance of navigating all types of personalities in order to achieve the commercial goals of the organisation I represent irrespective of gender. It can only get better.”


Paulette Constable | DJ, Reform Radio & Gaydio

“Being a woman in 2018 means using my voice, stepping up and stepping into my power, gender and sexuality with renewed confidence. It’s accepting who I am, being proud of what I do and have achieved and it is the positive reinforcement of everything my mother, sisters, friends and associates represent.”


Cara WilliamsDeputy CIO of Greater Manchester Combined Authority

“We deliver public good through our talent and creating space for innovation. The limitations placed upon us are that of legacy systems and thinking. The achievements of people in technology, from Ada Lovelace to Alan Turing know no bounds. They thought and acted beyond the barriers they faced and created something amazing. 2018 for me is another step on the developmental and transformational journey of digital in Greater Manchester…and I happen to be a woman.”

Read More: AMAGAZINE Manchester’s 10 Most Influential 

Words by admin

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