Headline Sponsor of the 2023 Women of the Year Awards & Luncheon

Our President and Ambassadors
Meet the Women of the Year Luncheon and Awards President and Ambassadors
Our President

Sally Lindsay

Actress and Presenter

Sally Lindsay first appeared on stage at the Women of the Year Luncheon & Awards in 2018 to present an award to the women of the Suffragette movement, and returned the following year as its keynote speaker.

Sally is a native of Manchester and read English at Hull University where she also got the acting bug.

Sally got her first break in the ground-breaking sitcom The Royle Family. Roles in both Phoenix Nights and Fat Friends followed soon after. Sally then went on to create one of Britain’s best loved barmaids, ‘Shelley Unwin’ in Coronation Street, where she enjoyed a very happy five years.

Upon leaving, Sally moved very successfully into theatre appearing in the sell-out A Taste of Honey and Everybody Loves a Winner at the Royal Exchange.

Since then, Sally has appeared in numerous television shows including C5 hit dramas Cold Call & Intruder, the BAFTA winning Murdered For Being Different, Dial M for Middlesbrough, Still Open All Hours, Ordinary Lies and Moving On to name just a few. With her friend Suranne Jones, Sally created Scott and Bailey for Red Productions, in which she also starred. She also headed up seven series of Sky1’s Mount Pleasant.

Sally’s film credits include Pond Life, and the voice of ‘Piella’ in the Oscar-nominated animation A Matter of Loaf and Death.  Sally is also the voice of Halifax in the mult-award winning C5 animation series The World According to Grandpa.

Sally has also diversified into presenting and fronted the BBC Documentary Emmeline Pankhurst: The Making of a Manchester Militant. In 2018, Sally filmed the documentary series Posh Hotels with Sally and Nigel for Channel 5 which has led to 2 series of Sally Lindsay’s Posh Weekends.

Sally is Creative Director of Saffron Cherry Productions with whom she created, produced, wrote, and stars in The Madame Blanc Mysteries for C5 & Acorn TV.

Committed to inspiring, celebrating and promoting female role models across all areas of society and the business community, Sally will help the Women of the Year Luncheon & Awards continue to celebrate the achievements of women across the UK.

Our Ambassadors

Emma Heathcote-James

Founder – Little Soap Company

Ahead of its’ time in 2008, but absolutely of the moment in 2022, the multi-award winning Little Soap Company was created by Emma Heathcote-James when she questioned why UK supermarkets didn’t offer any choice of natural or organic beauty on their shelves .With genuine provenance from hand-making on the kitchen table and selling in sub-zero degrees at local farmers markets Little Soap Company really has been a rag to riches tale having brought the first organic soap to the supermarket a decade ago and fast grew to become the first ethical soap in all the main Grocers (Waitrose, Booths, Sainsbury, Tesco, Asda, Morrisons), chemists (Boots, Superdrug and Lloyds Pharmacy) plus online retailers including Ocado, Fetch and Amazon and has been disrupting the soap market ever since.

With various brands for differing audiences, Little Soap Company entered the sector, brightened the shelves, created and drove consumer demand for organic and natural soap and helped turn it around, bringing entirely new audiences to purchase natural bar soap. 

Now one of the fastest growing companies in the toiletries sector and with copious personal and product accolades including making the Top 50 Most Ambitious Business Leaders’’ and ‘Scale Up Business” to “Best Rural Retail Business” to ‘Entrepreneur of the Year’ – the products follow suit with awards of their own including awards from Beauty Bible, Free From Skincare Awards, Mama & Baby Beauty Awards, Green Parent, The Grocer and Psychologies Magazine Eco Awards. 

Little Soap Company also gained BCorporation certification in 2019 – their proudest achievement of all to date.

Constantly pushing boundaries and bringing out innovative products that create market trends – the latest Eco Warrior range is entirely plastic free, eradicating the need for unnecessary bottles, formulating traditionally bottled liquids, into bar form.

Committed to inspiring, celebrating and promoting female role models across all areas of society and the business community, Emma will help the Women of the Year Luncheon & Awards continue to celebrate the achievements of women across the UK as an ambassador.

Fleur Sexton DL

MD and co-founder of PET-Xi Training

Fleur Sexton is Deputy Lieutenant, representing Her Majesty’s Lord-Lieutenant of the West Midlands, Businesswoman of the Year and CEO and co-founder of multi-award-winning PET-Xi Training, one of the most hard-hitting and dynamic training providers in the UK with a reputation for success with the hardest to reach.

Deeply committed to changing lives through education and employment, since 1995 she and her team have delivered impact, inspiration and value to 250,000 learners in a wide range of communities across the UK, making social mobility a reality by finding and breaking barriers, improving life chances and making communities stronger.

Fleur invests much of her time and 10% of company profits into these activities, to which both she and PET-Xi bring enthusiastic engagement and active hands-on participation.

Board member of C&W Chamber of Commerce, The CW LEP Skills Board, C&W Champions, Historic Coventry Trust and Chair of the Coventry Music Trust.

She founded and runs the PET-Xi Foundation, which raises money to directly break barriers for individual young people nationwide, is an active member of The BCU Business School Advisory Board, Coventry City of Culture Development board and the Commonwealth 2022 Legacy & Benefits Committee.

Fleur is a married mother of 3, tweets as @FleurSexton and can be found at fleursexton.com

PET-Xi Training – Graded as Good by Ofsted “Leaders are ambitious for their learners and apprentices and have a clear purpose and strategy to support those who have significant barriers to learning and employment, such as previously poor experiences of education. They have developed strong links with local business and regional agencies”

Ofsted Report 28 September to 1 October 2021


Kathryn Farmer

Wade Ceramics

Kathryn Farmer left school at 16 years old with no qualifications and started work as an office junior learning secretarial duty. After starting her family, she later moved to Stoke-on-Trent, where she soon became involved with the pottery industry working initially in the HR department. She later changed her career and moved into local government to become the Lord Mayors Secretary. 10 years later, Kathryn moved back into the pottery industry becoming the brand ambassador for one of the region’s leading manufacturers.

Outside Kathryn’s career, she is very active in charity work and for the past 10 years has been working with and raising money for The Donna Louise Trust, a hospice for children and young adults. In 2015 and 2018, Kathryn took on the role of Land Crew to support both Tower2Tower events, which consisted of 12 people undertaking cycling from the Eiffel Tower to La Havre, rowing from La Havre to Brighton Marina then walking from Brighton to the Tower of London in just four days.

Committed to inspiring, celebrating and promoting female role models across all areas of society and the business community, Kathryn will help the Women of the Year Luncheon & Awards continue to celebrate the achievements of women across the UK as an ambassador.

Sally Penni

Barrister and Founder of Women in the Law UK

Sally Penni is a practicing Barrister at law and the founder and CEO of Women in the Law UK. She is a multi-award winning Barrister for her work in Equality. She is one of the best known lawyers in the North West of England.

Outside of her practice she is a Speaker, Author and Broadcaster and is the host of Talking Law podcast. She also sits as a non-executive director on several boards including Royal Exchange, Arawak Walton Housing Association and Camberwell Park Primary School.

Sally is an ambassador for Women on Boards UK and the Pankhurst Centre Manchester along with Sally Lindsey and others.

Suzanne Linton

CEO - Freestyle

Having co-founded Freestyle, a digital innovation consultancy, in 1996, Suzanne’s driving ambition has always been to find a better way of operating; to deliver great results for customers whilst also recognising the potential in people, regardless of their background. The ultimate aim is to develop meaningful careers as well as brilliant teams.

It is this growth of the individual with trust and grown-up relationships at the heart of the team, that Suzanne believes can deliver great results; achieving a successful balance between both a sustainable business and a sustainable way of living and working. By doing this Freestyle can bring our diverse experiences to solving clients’ problems and challenge the status quo.

The current transition in the workplace to deliver real meaning for people rather than always seeking maximum profit has been a long time coming.
But businesses need commercial success to make it possible to develop individuals’ careers and provide opportunities. Together, successful Enterprise and fulfilled individuals will bring innovative solutions and thinking to benefit society and deliver a better customer experience.

Freestyle’s values have always hinged around always seeking out better ways of operating and delivering success, of being agile and embracing change to deliver outstanding results whilst always being good humans.

Mentoring the next generation of business superstars is part of Suzanne’s DNA and she is committed to inspiring, celebrating and promoting female role models across all areas of society and the business community as an ambassador for the Women of the Year Luncheon & Awards.

Gareth Shenton-Harold

HR Professional and Entrepreneur

Gareth has had a varied career, starting in luxury retail, and spent 15 years as a Human Resource director specialising in learning and development. He is also a member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development. He is a professional mediator and seasoned development coach, lending his skills to a number of organisations such as Young Enterprise and The Prince’s Trust.

He has developed a portfolio of businesses since 2012, from working with the Natural History Museum to bring dinosaurs to Blackpool for the first time, to introducing the pioneering co-working space Ziferblat to the UK in 2015, for which he won multiple awards for innovation and hospitality excellence.

He has continued his career as an owner and operator of several award-winning food and beverage establishments; being shortlisted for Employer of Year and producing the Emerging Bartender of the Year at the Class Awards 2022, as well as achieving Top 3 Newcomer in the Top 50 Cocktail Bars of the UK.

He also works alongside his partner as group Operations Director for their property company, Shenton Group, specialising in heritage restoration and co-living developments.

In his spare time, he is a keen yogi and has a passion for outdoor pursuits. He can often be found hiking or climbing to raise money for his charitable passions. He has a history of work with women’s charities and was a Trustee for Elle for Elle, raising awareness and restoring dignity to women in refuge.

Wendy Dean

Strategi Solutions

A true people person, Wendy enjoyed a career delivering impactful culture change programmes across diverse business for over 20 years. As HR Director for FedEx in 2000, the development of “Delivering Peace of Mind” transformed the business in readiness for acquisition in 2006. This culminated in Wendy becoming Personnel Today – HR Director of the Year. Following the same success, Wendy moved to Steelite International in 2008 becoming Group HR Director and delivering another culture programme in a traditional manufacturing environment that had gone through significant depression since the 1980’s. Wendy introduced “Stepping up to the Plate” in 2009 as a programme of change which created training opportunities for everyone, from employees being able to learn how to read and write, through to a new business foundation degree with Staffordshire University which was open to all employees regardless of level within the organisation. Her passion is to improve links between education and industry and to ensure that business requirements are communicated to education to ensure young people are fit for purpose. She became instrumental in the acquisition of Royal Crown Derby by Steelite International in 2012 and led the business through a rebranding and new product line programme – which was out of her area of expertise. Culture change, of course, soon followed. Ready to leave the corporate world, In 2015 set up her own business, Strategi Solutions Group. With culture change at the heart, Wendy saw an opportunity to align three core business streams: People, Marketing and Creative. All working simultaneously to help businesses thrive through change, using her wealth of experience to support every step of this journey. The company is now an employer of choice in Staffordshire, committing to cultivating local talent, and has gone on to win numerous prestigious awards. Wendy was the winner of Inspiring Workplaces Inspiring Leader 2022, Strategi was a finalist at the Engage Awards 2022, winners of Best SME HR and Marketing 2021, National Business Awards, Personnel Today Awards and the Staffordshire Chamber Awards to name a few!

Jennie Johnson MBE

Founder and CEO of My First Five Years Ltd

Serial entrepreneur, Jennie Johnson MBE, is Founder and CEO of My First Five Years (MFFY). She was the first female to win the UK Private Business Awards CEO of the Year (2017) and was voted UK’s Businesswoman of the Year (2019).

Jennie founded Kids Allowed in 2003, growing it to become one of the UK’s largest nursery groups, before successfully exiting in 2020. Working with tens-of-thousands of parents, children and childcare professionals gave Jennie the insights which led to her eureka moment in January 2021 – where she saw the opportunity to bring-together technology, science, and research to create an app to support and empower parents through the unique challenges of those first five years of their child’s life.

Within a year of founding, MFFY had raised over £1.5m in seed-funding from the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) and a number of high profile North West Entrepreneurs.

More details about My First Five Years can be found at:

Dr Sharon Redrobe


Strategic Zoological Consultant, Zoological Society of East Anglia

Sharon was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the Queen’s New Year Honours List 2017 for her services to Skills, Science and the Economy.

As a former winner of the category ‘Business Woman of the Year’, Sharon joined our board of directors in 2021 and is committed to promoting and celebrating the achievements of female role models across the UK and all areas of society and business.

Sharon’s efforts have also been recognised through awards including Institute of Directors West Midlands Director of the Year 2016, East Midlands Chamber Team of the Year 2016, Inspirational Woman of the Year Enterprising Women Awards and East Midlands Chamber 2017.

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