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.

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.

Women Leaders Awarded
Founded 8 years ago
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Businesses supporting us

Our Objectives

Share Success

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

Gender Equality

Challenge gender disparity and promote gender equity

New Horizons

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

Inspire Others

Inspire and support women in their personal and professional development

Influence for Action

Influencing employers and organisations to take action.

Nurture Leaders

Support women to develop their leadership skills through our mentoring programme

Through MK Innovates, we aim to get more women and girls into STEM related activities. We host a STEM Festival each year which was the first one of it’s kind in Milton Keynes. 

We run an allyship programme that allows businesses and business owners the opportunity to show their support for the women across Milton Keynes by backing the campaign to reduce the gender pay gap and fight for gender equity within the workplace.

Finally, we offer Career Connect which is a mentoring programme for women who find themselves trying to get back into work following an absence, or would like advice and support in furthering their  careers.

Our Trustees

Dr Julie Mills OBE

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

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

Gamiel is more than an engaging, passionate, seasoned Diversity & Inclusion expert. He was the proud recipient of the Global Diversity Leadership Award and is the co-author of ‘Demystifying Diversity’ and ‘Yemen Proud’. 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 2000 which required public bodies to take action on to promote Race Equality. Now almost two decades later, Gamiel has built a successful global DE&I consultancy and team of DE&I researchers, strategists, trainers, facilitators and consultants, helping clients create the right systems, structures and behaviours to create cultural transformation. Since 2005 we’ve been helping public, private and voluntary sector organisations to grow a thriving diversity culture and add value to their business. This year we won 3 awards at the MK Business Achievement Awards including Business of the Year Gamiel is also a trustee for Milton Keynes Ethnic Business Community

Kelly Haynes

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 Raven

Zoe is the founder and CEO of Acorn Early Years Foundation, a social enterprise and charity that began as a small nursery in 1989 and which now has 16 nurseries over three counties, with over 400 employees and a turnover of £12m. It also runs forest schools, nature kindergartens, holiday clubs, an early years catering service, training and consultancy. Zoe is a passionate advocate of lifelong learning, and professional development in the early years sector, and she was awarded a doctorate in 2023 for her research into ethical issues in childcare provision. Zoe has always had a keen interest in governance, and has had a wide range of board experience, including ten years as a trustee at the Parks Trust, including three years as chair. She is deeply committed to combating social injustice and gender inequality, and her experience of mentoring within Acorn has been put to good use in her mentoring for Women Leaders. She believes that supporting talent and celebrating women’s achievements are vital for inspiring the next generation of women leaders.

Hiran Odedra

Hiran started her career in Marketing and has worked for several large organisations, including Which Magazine and Barclays. She became involved in Barclays’ Diversity programme as a volunteer in 2002 and was so passionate about it that she re-evaluated her goals and changed careers, fulfilling the role of Equality & Diversity lead for Barclaycard until she joined Cranfield University in 2006. Hiran went on to hold a number of roles in the EDI space at Cranfield and led a range of strategic initiatives to attract, recruit and develop diverse talent across the organisation. This led to the University winning a number of EDI awards, including being recognised as a Working Families Top 30 employer. Hiran joined the Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS Formula One Team in 2023 as Head of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, to utilise her experience and expertise to develop and implement the Team’s EDI strategy and partnerships. Outside of her role, Hiran is freelance Diversity consultant as well as a Visiting Fellow at Cranfield University and qualified coach.

Sarah Thorne

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.

Susan Izadkhasti

Susan lives an intentional life with passion & purpose, believing in using our strengths as the best leverage for attaining diverse and inclusive work culture and creating a sustainable and balanced life. Using her business acumen, expert leadership skills with DE &I inspired coaching and consultancy style helping leaders and legacy builders in organisations to develop a compassionate and inclusive approach in their work, so they can better engage with real world complexity to make a difference for themselves and their organisation achieving success in ways they can’t accomplish alone. Susan is a scientist by training, with a strong background in Sales, Marketing and Business Development, trained to teach and facilitate at the corporate level having graduated with a doctorate (PhD) in Coronavirus vaccine development. She is an ICF qualified coach, accredited DISC personality practitioner, trained Inclusive coach, registered coach for NHS Leadership Academy and a coach for Minority Ethnic Women as part of NHS Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion programme. Bringing unique experience and expertise into her coaching and consultancy programmes using bespoke coaching with powerful strength-based, positive psychology and emotional intelligence, making a real difference to her clients’ personal and professional life.

Claire Farmer

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.

Freddie Guilmard

Freddie is an award winning transformational leader with over thirty years’ experience of strategic board level Communication and Change initiatives focusing on building High Performing Teams (which is his passion), Leadership & Change initiatives & Helping Leaders deal with their big issues by building Human Organisations. He has been involved in a number of medium to large scale change programmes for brands such as BUPA, Mercedes Retail, Nestle. Freddie started the Red Thread Partnership (RTP) in Olney, near Milton Keynes, an award winning boutique leadership and change consultancy and his clients have included Kerry Foods, Lexus GB & Europe, Purina, Santander, Panasonic, DWP. Freddie also started the Award Winning Red Thread Fellowship, a not-for-profit organisation founded in 2016. The aim is to build more caring and inclusive communities in and around Milton Keynes by offering a yearlong leadership development programme to middle leaders for free. As part of the programme, Fellows apply their new skills to a project that supports a local charity. Fellows must raise at least £500 for the charity. To date Fellows have supported over local charities, raised over £75,000.00 and come from over 30 organisations. Freddie is the co-author of The 7 Steps to Frontier Leadership book. He has for many year championed the need for diversity and inclusion and he is extremely proud to be a trustee and on the board of Women’s Leader.