Women Leaders' Mentoring Programme 2023

Women Leaders Logo

Following our successful mentoring programme in 2020, which provided mentors for all our award nominees, we have an exciting offer this year. We are working in partnership with MK Council to provide CareerConnect – a mentoring programme for women who find themselves trying to get back to work following an absence – this may be pandemic related or for any other reason.

Our experienced mentors can offer up to 5 sessions to help support you to regain your confidence, to better network and to provide some CPD learning opportunities through the charity’s ‘Lunch and Learn’ sessions. A simple online application will allow you to be placed with a suitable mentor.

One-to-one sessions with experienced and supportive mentors

Build confidence

Expand networking options

Access to our knowledge hub

Funded by Milton Keynes Council

What Mentoring Means To Us

Meet our mentors

Dr Julie Mills OBE

CEO & Group Principal of MK College
Dr Julie Mills is 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 was recognized with an OBE in the Queen’s 2019 Birthday Honours List for services to business and education.

Nikki Ross

CEO Thames Valley Partnership
Nikki feels it has been profoundly rewarding to share her experience by coaching and mentoring others. Her varied career has included change management, problem solving and a need for demonstrable emotional intelligence and authenticity.

Nikki has always felt that looking back and helping others up the ladder behind her is so important and wants to continue to invest her time to help others as much as she can.

Ruby Parmar

Chair and Non-Exec director at TOTM
Ruby’s personal approach to mentoring leans towards being informal and more personal, both when being mentored and when mentoring others.

She believes that our personal circumstances, the way we feel, and a corresponding drain on energy will all have an impact on our professional development. We need to address both to reach our full potential.

Sarah Thorne

Managing Partner queensbury consulting
As the managing partner in her own business Sarah brings to bear her experience as a leader, with over 15 years in the consultancy industry.

Sarah’s own experience of being mentored had a profound effect on her career and personal development, and she gives back by mentoring other women, including school age girls at risk of underachieving.  She uses the challenges she has faced ‘on the way up’ to inspire others to reach higher and to challenge gender inequality in the workplace.

Kelly Haynes

Pro Fighter
Kelly is passionate about empowering women to feel strong and capable. Most of her work impacts directly on individuals by building those supportive relationships one to one.

Kelly is an ambassador who helps 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 in secondary schools and won a ‘Kids Count’ award in 2019. The project which was started by Thames Valley Police & Milton Keynes Council, aims to foster positivity and discipline through martial arts.

Elizabeth Sheldon

Executive Director Evidence Talks
Elizabeth has always considered it her duty to pass on experiences and wisdom to others who may just be starting out. Lessons learned, both good and bad can make a huge difference to someone embarking on the journey towards becoming a leader.

She looks forward to creating those relationships and doing what she can to ease the path towards leadership and success.

Maureen Sumner Smith

As EMEA Chief Operating Officer Maureen has full responsibility for the business performance and operations for all the countries within BSI’s EMEA region, which employs around 1,200 people. As such, she leads operational delivery, technical review and sales and marketing activities as well as being responsible for delivering and tracking against the EMEA region’s strategic plan.

She is directly accountable for the operation of all BSI’s business streams including assurance services incorporating the Kitemark™ plus training and certification.

Jane Horridge

Consulting Director, Responsa
Jane has over 25 years of experience in the corporate, public and third sectors, having worked in and with organisations of all sizes.

Having been fortunate to have the support of strong mentors throughout her corporate career, Jane is an advocate for mentoring, and has supported many individuals at various stages of their career to expand their thinking, develop and progress.

Jane is currently running three of her own businesses following six years in the education sector, bringing commercial and marketing expertise from her corporate career to MK College.

Zoe Raven

CEO, Acorn Early Years Foundation
Zoe is the founder and CEO of Acorn Early Years Foundation, a social enterprise and charity which began as a small private nursery over 30 years ago. Her business gradually grew and today comprises 12 day nurseries with over 300 employees.

Zoe is an advocate of lifelong learning, with an MBA from the OU and currently a part-time doctoral student at Royal Holloway, University of London, researching ethical issues in early years provision in the UK.

Mentoring and training within Acorn has shown her that supporting talent and celebrating women’s achievements is a great way to inspire the next generation of women.  

Gamiel Yafai

MD Diversity Marketplace
“You don't realise how much power you have until you start to give it away".

Mentoring is Gamiel’s way of giving away the knowledge, skills and experience he has accumulated over the years and getting that feel-good factor as a result. Gamiel 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’.

He is also an Ambassador for the Global poverty charity The Hunger Project and is on the Board of Trustees for The Parks Trust and Women Leaders UK.

Yvonne Owuor, Msc BA (Hons)

Women Leaders Award Winner 2019
Yvonne is a dedicated young professional, working mother, a humanitarian and a trained political scientist who is passionate about making a difference in society.

Growing up in the UK, Yvonne always thought that her mentor was going to be an older version of herself and looked for someone who looked like her for years, never finding that person. There are very few women in leadership positions and so very rare to see women of color in leadership roles. By being a mentor, Yvonne can empower women and lead them to upward mobility in employment, education and personal development and as future women leaders.

Richard Naylor

Managing Partner Queensbury Consulting
Richard is an experienced Chief Executive, Chief Operating, Finance Director and business owner, with over 28 years’ experience running businesses in both the UK and overseas.

His main focus is bringing entrepreneurs and businesses together, as well as helping grow new and existing commercial opportunities, through mentoring start-ups, entrepreneurs and business executives.

Dr Chinwe Osuchukwu

Consultant Paediatrician
Dr Chinwe Osuchukwu Chinwe, a graduate of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, is a specialist children’s doctor at Central and North West London NHS Trust, based in Milton Keynes. She also works as Consultant Paediatrician in the community specialising in the care of children with complex, neuro developmental needs.

She is passionate about diversity and inclusion and has served as an international chair, co-ordinating international activities for a local Rotary Club and is an executive member of British Academy of Childhood Disability (BACD) and Oxford BACD regional Coordinator. Chinwe became a trustee of CBM, the Overseas Disability Charity UK in 2015.

Kate Broadhurst

2020 Finalist
Kate currently leads the John Lewis Milton Keynes store. They employ over 500 Partners and deliver a multi million pound annual turnover. She joined John Lewis as a Graduate Trainee and have worked in various areas of our business including: Digital, Marketing Personnel, Retail and Communications.

Kate’s passion is in leading large teams to deliver results by empowering and supporting them in their personal development. Her current role is therefore her dream job. Outside of her day job she is also an NED for Childbase Partnership Limited and a Trustee for Camphill Communities.

Arvind Kaushal

Equality, Diversity & Inclusion manager at Milton Keynes College
Arvind has been the programme lead for a DfE funded Equality & Diversity programme, where he created a network of over 400 people passionate about making leadership in schools more representative. More recently he has widened his ambitions to improve outcomes for colleagues in their career aspirations.  Arvind was instrumental in creating and delivering professional development to thousands of educators in over 85 countries through the #LDeduchat series during the first lockdown. More recently he has taken on the role as a Trustee and national steering committee member within the BAMEed Network, which is a national grassroots organisation that provides support and resources to educational professionals.

Arvind has improved the outcomes of students by improving the diverse nature of staff in schools and colleges that he has influenced. His highlight over the past year has been to bring a diverse range of stakeholders together to collaborate on possible solutions. This is now developing into a wide network that is looking to implement positive strategies into local schools. Arvind’s philosophy is that sustainable solutions can only be achieved through a positive and inclusive approach.

Michelle Nichols

Michelle is an experienced communications and PR professional with over 22 years’ experience working in both the public and private sector. She has managed complex crisis communications at a national level, leading multi-agency responses to major incidents, managing media relations and briefing, advising and preparing senior police officers and executives.

Former Head of Communications for Thames Valley Police and Network Rail South East, Michelle now works with a varied portfolio of clients including law enforcement, tourism and travel risk management. She has a passion for driving digital engagement and she is an experienced media strategist, trainer and spokesperson.

Carolyn O’Sullivan

FCIPD Executive Coach and Coaching Supervisor
I truly believe that everyone has the potential to achieve, I left school with hardly any qualifications having just simply not tried hard enough. Luckily for me I had some great tutors and line managers and with a little ambition and determination set out to achieve my own goals. I had one of the most amazing mentors, with their support, I gained confidence to fulfil so many things both personally and professionally. In turn helping others I have been delighted and enlightened to help develop people and be part of their own personal journeys. I continue to learn and develop on a daily basis and am always grateful to those who allow me to be part of and into their lives. It is incredible to see someone start to emerge in their confidence and ability and begin to achieve their own goals. I am a Diversity and Inclusion Champion and am glad to be part of a community who respect each other and can be open to learning new skills regardless of who they are.

Sabrina Aries

Sabrina runs her own consultancy business. Being an active member of the wider Milton Keynes community has been important to her since the late 90’s when she became a peer educator for the Youth Service, which later led to a career in youth work and education.

She has developed her business and community work around her core values of empowering people, building resilience, caring for the planet and creating sustainable systems to reduce discrimination. Having her personal and work lives so well aligned provides her with the flexibility to work with local and national charities to fundraise while increasing awareness and accessibility. Being a Mental Health First Aider and diversity champion provides her with the opportunity to speak at online events and provide virtual workshops for various organizations including associated charities.

Her focus for the last 20 years has not changed: helping people reach their potential and creating opportunities for all, continues to be her driving force. Building lasting, meaningful relationships with people throughout her journey remains a fundamental part of her wider belief in the importance of investing in people and connections

Emma Walker

Managing Director and founding member of Ashridge Group
Emma has over 18 years of experience within the service industry and is a former personal protection officer. She went into business with her husband who is ex-military and together they formed Ashridge Group.

As a business owner and certainly in the early years, Emma found that she had to work in every position within the company, from managing the monthly accounts, to developing the sales pipeline. But over the years Emma has really understood the importance of compliance and ensuring all our employees are equipped with the right training and skills to deal with unexpected events.

Emma is passionate about providing a service of excellence by putting Ashridge people first, which is why she developed a ‘people first, service second’ business model, resulting in 95% business growth through referral and recommendations.

Dr Noel James

Director & CEO of MKCDC at Bradwell Abbey, 2020 finalist
Noël has a background of 30 years in the heritage sector, particularly in cultural policy, and specialises in New Town Heritage and Medieval History. She is thrilled to be working at the beautiful Bradwell Abbey and is blessed with a fantastic and enthusiastic team, who are all bringing exciting changes to the site.

Noël has authored several academic publications and her research interests include New Town Heritage, Landscape Archaeology and Medieval Law. Most recently she has edited a series on New Town Heritage and is well-versed in History, Literature, Urban Geography and Music. She gained her Doctorate from the University of York in 1999, and is working towards her CIPD, as well as undertaking graduate studies in archaeology.

Neus Garriock

Galliford Try’s Business Development Manager for the East Midlands region
She has enjoyed a varied career that has provided her with both international exposure and solid experience in the fields of new technological developments, telecommunications, project management, construction and regeneration, with the last 16 years seeing her hold a number of senior positions within the Galliford Try group of companies.

In 2018, she joined SEMLEP as a private sector Board Director, where she has been contributing her strength in strategic thinking, planning and complex problem solving, as well as her extensive experience in bringing together disparate stakeholders to achieve challenging aims.

As a senior manager in a male-dominated industry, Neus is acutely aware of the challenges women experience in the workplace and is passionate about helping others overcome barriers, change perceptions and achieve their professional goals. She has been lucky to have had strong mentors and advocates throughout her career – in her own words, “it’s time to pay it forward!”.

Fola Komolafe

Fola has worked for many years with large multinationals in the private sector as a strategy consultant, a business leader and a partner with one of the top accounting firms in the UK. Her public sector experience leading international multimillion pounds project in Africa and Asia led to her being awarded an honorary degree by the University. Fola also worked for both HSBC and IBM in a number of senior roles including as IBM’s Head of Diversity for UK Ireland and South Africa.

Fola has an MBA in Finance from City University London, a postgraduate diploma in IT from Brunel University & a BSc in Architecture. She currently chairs and sits on a number of local and regional boards and she has been Chair of the Milton Keynes Community Foundation and Milton Keynes College. In 2017, Fola was appointed a Vice President with the British Red Cross and was also invited to become a Companion to the Chartered Management Institute. She was appointed a Deputy Lieutenant for Buckinghamshire in 2015 and in June 2016 she was awarded an MBE for services to business and community.

Fola currently directs two companies following her retirement from Mazars where she was a UK partner and Global Lead for International Development, providing leadership with international donor agencies who require consultancy, audit and assurance support. Prior to this Fola was Managing Director of Indisys Business Solutions, directing a £21.6 million portfolio of award-winning development projects in 14 countries located in Africa and South Asia for the Open University.

Hanayyah Sutton

2020 Finalist
Hanayyah has over 10 years experience in the Finance industry leading 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.

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

Vanessa Holmes

Vanessa Holmes is currently head of charity at Milton Keynes Hospital Charity, and leads on the fundraising, governance and day to day management of a growing NHS charity .

She has worked in the charity sector for 21 years and in a variety of fundraising roles – from small family support charities to well-known national health charities.

Vanessa is driven by making a difference within communities, connecting and inspiring others – hopefully for the longer term.

Outside of work she is married to Graham, has a five year old daughter and volunteers as a Trustee of locally based charity Harry’s Rainbow. She’s also an (average!) runner.

Odette Mould

2020 Finalist

Carol Older

Carol has worked in the voluntary sector for over 20 years and has been a successful CEO and Strategic Lead.

With extensive experience of building and developing services along with the necessary income generation skills Carol has helped charities grow and become established, providing services for those with Learning Disabilities, Older People and most recently Survivors of Sexual Assault and Abuse.

She has often secured Government funding as part of contract and project management of European Social Fund projects, Local Authority and Government department contracts. In December 2022 Carol received an award from the High Sheriff of Buckinghamshire for the Development of Sexual Assault and Abuse Support Services across the County.

Nanci Hogan

Nanci Hogan has worked in the private, public, and charitable sectors. She has coached and mentored people throughout her career, formally and informally. In her work for a large international nongovernmental organization, she mentored, trained, and coached young people to develop strategies and projects for developing countries. During that time she lived and worked in over 70 countries and is skilled in cross-cultural communications.

She’s been an executive coach for charity chief executives in her role as the MK Chair for Ella foundations. Additionally, she’s worked in the private sector in the health and well-being industry, the hospitality industry and in telecommunications. She formally trained as an ICF coach in 2017 and has an ICF ACC credential. She’s held senior management roles in all three sectors, including serving as the Chief of Staff for the Bedfordshire Police and Crime Commissioner.

Currently she works as a philanthropy coach and consultant focused on guiding people through major life transitions to help them find their purpose and the ways their life can make a positive impact in the world.

Susan Izadkhasti

Susan believes 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, n she helps 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 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 making a real difference to her clients’ personal and professional life.

Robyn Ramsell

Robyn began her working life in the public sector expecting this to be a 30-year career. It was a significant time of change for her as she navigated a full career change in her early thirties. This led Robyn to pursue a career in coaching and mentoring to help people reach their full potential. Robyn completed a postgraduate certificate in Coaching and Mentoring from Oxford Brookes. In 2020, she had a baby during the lockdown period, which required her to make a new transition as a working mum. Despite the challenges, she was able to successfully balance her responsibilities as a mother and a professional, and she has been thriving in her current role within a Criminal Justice charity. Robyn is passionate about inspiring and motivating people to see their potential and achieve their goals. Her experience has taught her the importance of perseverance, resilience, and adaptability, which are qualities that she brings to every aspect of her work