WEST WOMEN OF THE YEAR 2019
» Contest’s inspiring winners announced
THE West Women of the Year Awards provided an empowering celebration of women across the region who have excelled in the fields of business, charity, sport, health and education.
One hundred of the South West’s most inspirational women, along with their families and friends, packed out The Passenger Shed at Bristol Temple Meads.
The event was the culmination of a four-month campaign in which the Gloucestershire Echo, Citizen and our sister papers across Bath and Somerset, asked readers and former award recipients to nominate women they believed were an inspiration to the communities they served.
Our judges then narrowed down entries to a list of 100, with the winners of eight special categories revealed during the ceremony.
Most Inspiring Woman in the Charitable Sector, sponsored by Natwest, was awarded to Hilary Rawles, of the Suicide Crisis Centre in Gloucestershire.
She was praised for her compassionate commitment to helping people in dire crisis.
Most Inspiring Woman in Business, sponsored by CMD Recruitment, went to Anne O’donnell, chief executive of management consultancy Procorre.
And Professor Marcelle Mcmanus was named Most Inspiring Woman in Science, Technology, Engineering and
Mathematics, an award sponsored by Lucozade Ribena Suntory.
The University of Bath lecturer is a world-leading authority on bioenergy, carbon capture and renewable energy production.
She said: “There are so many global challenges at the moment with climate change, with energy security, resource management, water scarcity, and we need so many different types of people who can solve these problems and work on these challenges.
“When you get to a point where you’re working on something and you realise you’ve worked out how you can do it, it’s an amazing feeling. So stick with it.”
Most Inspiring Role Model went to Sado Jirde, of the Black South West Network.
Sado works to raise awareness of racial inequality at policy levels, both regionally and nationally.
The accolade for Most Inspirational Woman in Sport was scooped by Sally Harris, of Bath City FC.
Her work as the club’s community director continues to develop programmes for underprivileged and under-represented groups in the community. She has also worked with a variety of local charities, including Bath Amnesty and Bath Welcomes Refugees. The Lifetime Achievement award, sponsored by Queens Square Wealth Management, went to Suzanne Thompson, of not-for-profit social enterprise The Restore Trust. The organisation offers advice and guidance to unemployed and disadvantaged individuals, helping them to gain permanent employment and escape poverty.
The People’s Choice award, sponsored by Divine Divas, was voted for online by readers and received more than 10,000 submissions. It was won by Joanne Waterman, although sadly a posthumous honour. Upon discovering she was facing breast cancer, Jo embarked on a journey to educate others about the disease, creating a Facebook blog called One Rubbish Summer.
The frank and humorous account of her experiences not only informed others about the illness but became a platform of support for many others facing similar challenges.
The final award of the night, sponsored by headline sponsor Bank of Ireland, was this year’s winner of winners.
The title went to Nicola Halford who set up the charity Time is Precious after losing her young son to a brain tumour. Keynote speaker of the evening was Samantha Payne, of Open Bionics – last year’s recipient of the Innovative Woman award.
Reach plc’s regional editor in Gloucestershire, Rachael Sugden, closed proceedings by saying: “Please remember to shout about your achievements, please shout about other women’s achievements and please work together to continue to lift women up.
“Despite all that women have achieved since we won the right to vote in 1918, in the West and around the world there is still a gender power gap and there is still a gender pay gap.
“Demand to be heard, demand to be recognised and demand to be rewarded. You deserve it.”
Nicola Halford collects the West Woman of the Year award from Christie Cook from Bank of Ireland