Past Judges

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These were our judges for the Women Leaders 2020 Final

hilary Chipping

Hilary received the award in 2019   

Hilary is Chief Executive at the South East Midlands Local Enterprise Partnership (SEMLEP), which she helped to establish in 2011. She leads on setting the strategic economic priorities for the South East Midlands area, including overseeing a £265m programme of capital investment through the Local Growth Fund. During her tenure, SEMLEP has published the Local Industrial Strategy and Strategic Economic Plan for the area, Skills Plan and Energy Strategy. Hilary works closely with central Government, local authority, regional and private sector partners and the national network of Local Enterprise Partnerships to enable the delivery of infrastructure to unlock economic and housing growth, develop skills and create good quality places. 

From 2008 to 2011, Hilary was Director of the Milton Keynes South Midlands Growth Area (the largest growth area in the UK). 

  As Director of Network Strategy at the Highways Agency from 2001 to 2007 she developed the investment strategy for the motorway and trunk road network.   

Hilary graduated from the University of Manchester with an MA in economics and joined the Department of the Environment as an economist working initially on housing and then, from 1984, local government finance. 

Simon deMaid

Simon DeMaid is an employment law specialist and Partner at Howes Percival. He leads the firm’s Milton Keynes operations and works with a number of high profile clients in the area. A member of the MK Business Leaders Partnership, Simon is well-known and highly respected in the Milton Keynes professional community.    

Simon provides local companies with support and assistance with employment related problems. His proactive approach is creative, commercial and pragmatic (and also preventative where possible!). As well as assisting clients with disciplinary matters, grievances, ill health and discrimination issues, he advises businesses on the employment aspects of complex restructures, business acquisitions, outsourcing arrangements and corporate transactions.    

Simon regularly delivers training sessions and workshops in the Milton Keynes area and is renowned for his fun and interactive delivery. 

Lakechia Jeanne 

Lakechia received the Emerging Leader Award in 2019.  

Lakechia is a Biomedical and Public Health Scientist with a background in Film and Television, including past work with BBC Look North, ITV, CBBC and BBC Radio Humberside. Her academic research has included Diabetes Markers relating to Social Inequalities and Public Health Reform. She is now a Local Government Policy Officer, Keynote Speaker and a Multi-Award Winning Founder and Editor for 

Shalom Lloyd 

Shalom received a Women Leaders award previously.  

An award-winning, senior business professional, with over 24 years’ experience in the pharmaceutical industry. A British-Nigerian with a BSc and MSc in Pharmacy from the Ukrainian Academy of Pharmacy in former Soviet Union, and an MBA from the University of Liverpool, resulting in a cross-cultural background which has enabled her to push for diversity and cultural awareness in the global business place at every opportunity for herself and others.     

Shalom is the Founder of Naturally Tribal Skincare, a natural chemical-free skincare company built on valuing healthy, ethical and sustainable living whilst empowering African women.   

Shalom is also the Chief Strategy Officer at Emerging Markets Quality Trials (eMQT), an organisation focused on diversity in Clinical Trials providing the global pharmaceutical industry access to patients in Africa.   

Shalom is a DIT Export Champion, a Mentor, a previous WL winner and strong believer in the fact that anything is possible! 

Carolyn Lowe

Carolyn heads up the Clinical Negligence team in Milton Keynes and Oxford at Freeths LLP. She has over twenty four years’ experience of bringing clinical negligence claims and is recognised as being dedicated to seeking answers for her clients and obtaining compensation. 

She has been praised for her sensitive and empathetic approach to her work, helping her clients to feel at ease when it comes to the complexities of medical terminology and procedure. Her aim is to take away the stress of seeking compensation at what is often an emotional and stressful time for clients. 

Carolyn is listed as a Leading Individual in both the Legal 500 (2020 edition) and Chambers (2020 edition). She is also accredited in Clinical Negligence by The Law Society. Carolyn was a finalist in the 2018 Women Leaders Awards in the category for Professional Services and has supported Women Leaders UK at various events since. 

Keith McLean

Keith has been a Milton Keynes Councillor for over 9 years and joined the Women Leaders judging panel in its inaugural year when he was Mayor of Milton Keynes. Latterly Keith has worked for Iain Stewart MP until retiring in August 2019. Prior to that Keith spent over 50 years working in the Information Technology sector performing senior management, sales and project management roles. 

Lee Parker

Lee has worked in further education marketing for over 10 years, managing award winning marketing teams at both Bedford College and now with Milton Keynes College. He has a particular passion for the power of research in making good decisions and the importance of positioning the College as a first-choice provider across its audiences. This will be the second year Lee has been a judge and he is delighted to be involved again after being inspired by the nominees last year. 

Jane Wharmby 

Jane has many years’ experience of working with organisations on talent development as a member of the senior management team at Cranfield School of Management.  She is a qualified coach, works as an Independent Assessor for the Chartered Management Institute for the Senior Leader standard, and teaches English to female refugees who are establishing their lives and careers in the UK.  She was a shortlisted finalist in the MK Women Leaders Awards last year, is passionate about supporting women in their leadership journeys and has chaired Cranfield University’s own Step Up Network for the last 2 years. 

Jacqui Wilkins 

Jacqui received the Creative Industries award in 2018 and has been a judge for Women Leaders for two years.  Jacqui is the founder of the award-winning creative communications consultancy, Visual Identity and has over 30 years’ experience of running her own successful business. A life-long supporter of all things Milton Keynes, newly appointed as President of Milton Keynes Chamber, Jacqui is a keen champion for everything the city has to offer. Aa a proud alumnus of the Chelsea School of Art, Jacqui is a passionate supporter of an education system fit for the modern business world and believes childhood beginnings should not predetermine future achievements – male or female. 

Jane Rickson

Jane Rickson is Professor of Soil Erosion and Conservation at Cranfield University. She has over 30 years’ experience of research, consultancy and teaching in soil science, specialising in sustainable land management. Her work focuses on better understanding of how soil produces food, regulates water and stores carbon. Jane was part of the Cranfield team that won the Queen’s Anniversary Prize in 2017 for research and education in soil and environmental data for the sustainable use of natural resources worldwide. She works for Government and private sector clients and teaches on postgraduate courses in Land Reclamation and Restoration, Environmental Engineering and Soil Management. Jane was the first female President of the Institution of Agricultural Engineers. In 2019, she won the Women Leaders MK awards for both ‘Outstanding Achievement’ and for ‘Engineering, Science and Maths’. Jane is a Chartered Environmentalist and Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.

Carolyn Norfolk

Carolyn is an Associate Partner at EY with over 15 years’ experience advising both public and private companies.  She has a proven track record of developing female talent both within the teams she works within acting as a formal coach and mentor to junior colleagues.  Outside of work, Carolyn is a Trustee of Acorn Childcare, a leading MK based social enterprise committed to developing a more caring and connected society through the provision of high quality childcare and training for early years professionals to ensure that every child gets the best possible start in life.   

Carolyn was delighted to be invited to join the judging panel in 2020. 

Mica Kabasu

Last year I was a nominee and winner of the Leisure and Retail award on behalf of my business,  Whyte Weddings and also for working at  Woughton  House hotel.   

It was a tremendous shock and honour to have won, especially being up against a contestant who is a part of the future plans for Milton Keynes.     

Since winning, I have planned more Weddings and ventured into other events. I have moved house, gotten married and turned 30. All three of those big events in my life happened within 17 days of each other and during this pandemic we still find ourselves in. Although it wasn’t the big wedding we had originally planned for in May 2020; in August 2020 with12 of our closest for an intimate ceremony we let love win at all costs.    

All the best to all of the contestants. 

Maralyn Smith

As CEO for MK Dons SET I am very proud of the support and impact SET staff make to communities in and around Milton Keynes. MK Dons SET provides sports and education opportunities for over 50,000 participants annually working with community members from age 3 – 93 years of age through education and employability activities. MK Dons SET also manage the development of young players through Advanced and Girls Development and Talent Centres and provide the management and support for MK Dons Women’s Football Team.

Maralyn has over 25 years within the Youth and Community Sector in a wide range of settings including Local Authorities, Charities and as an independent consultant for over 20 years. During this time working with a wide range of regional and national charities and government departments in the field of community, youth work and vocational education. Maralyn is currently a EFL Trust Advisory Group member and Safer MK Voluntary Sector Representative for MK.

Kurshida Mirza

Kurshida is married with two children and has lived in Milton Keynes since 1990.  She has a research, policy and strategy background working within local and central government.  She held many portfolios in Government including leading on housing for vulnerable and older people, community engagement, tackling worklessness and homelessness. 

Kurshida is Chair of MK Community Foundation, Ex Chair of Citizens MK, founder of Trubys Garden Tea Room - MK's interfaith cafe and the Midlands Chair for Housing Learning and Information Network (a learning and improvement network connecting housing, health and care).  Kurshida is also the founder of the Great Get Together Iftar MK  which brings people from all faiths and the wider community to join Muslims during Ramadan to break the fast.  The Great Get Together Iftar and Trubys Interfaith Cafe are both growing from strength to strength with a huge following in MK as a conduit for positive dialogue between Muslims and the wider community.

Kurshida is passionate about creating opportunities for intefaith dialogue and all her voluntary and community work reflect this.  Kurshida is a 2019 Women Leaders winner for community impact - volunteer.

Dr Kerry Mashford OBE

Kerry Mashford is a professional engineer with wide experience in manufacturing, energy and the built environment and is a Fellow of the IMechE, ICE and IET. She was the winner of the Women Leaders award for Energy and the Environment in 2015, and a finalist in the CBI First Women Awards on 2016. Earlier in 2020 she was named as one of the top women engineers in sustainability as a winner of the WE50 awards.

Kerry is currently a private sector board member of SEMLEP and the LEP’s energy champion; a non- executive director of the Ecology Building Society and the Active Building Centre RTO; serves on Cadent Gas’ CEG providing critical challenge on the company’s business plan and on the UK’s Transforming Construction Sector Challenge Advisory Group. She is also an active member of The Edge and, at intervals over the last 30 years, has built three pioneering sustainable family homes with her husband.

Peter Cox

Until his retirement very recently, Peter was a partner in Dentons' Corporate practice. His practice area covered banking, mergers, acquisitions and disposals, establishing and reorganising businesses, joint ventures, venture capital and private equity investments. He also headed the Company Secretarial team that provides company secretarial services to over 400 English registered companies.

  Peter has been involved with Women Leaders since its inception in 2015, and has thoroughly enjoyed his judging roles over the years, and seeing Women Leaders gain considerable momentum and profile amongst the Milton Keynes community.

Dr Susan Thirakornratch

Dr Susan Thirakornratch has over a decade of experience working in international relief and livelihood projects with international organisations. Before this she was involved in research at Bath University where she also taught. After having children she returned to Buckinghamshire and started One Earth Organics. A company that strives to better connect producers in Africa and Asia to markets in the UK. Starting with smoothie blends and now freeze dried organic fruit, One Earth Products can be found in the likes of TK Maxx and Wholefoods with huge growth over the last 2 years.

Pili Lopez

With a background of performance on stage and in TV, Pili has been involved in productions for more than 25 years. With this experience Pili went on to work on the 3D Printshow London, Paris and New York which was a fantastic experience. Her current role as Events Director at Imagine continues her skills and knowledge to piece together events from start to finish and working within the many different aspects of the industry. At present, never has it been more necessary to broaden the skills and knowledge in the digital and technical world.

“I am so proud to be able to talk to these talented individuals who have strived to make a difference and are being recognised within their industries.”

Yvonne Owuor

Yvonne was a participating delegate at the Women of the Future Summit in 2018 and the Team Lead for the 2019 award winning team for the Habitat for Humanity Hope Challenge. She is a proud recipient of the 2018 Women Leaders Award for her Voluntary works and was a Judge during the 2019 and 2020 awards.

Currently a Trustee for the Arts and Heritage Alliance MK and working at Network Rail in the area of Sustainability development with a national focus on eradicating the issue of homelessness.

Yvonne is engaged with the voluntary sector both locally and nationally and has also worked internationally. She thinks strategically and has a great understanding of social integration and the challenges for new communities settling in new cities.

Meet our Shortlisting Judges

Sally Alexander

Sally is Principal: Prison Services at Milton Keynes College having worked in Offender Learning for 24 years, supporting learners both in custody and in the community, to develop their learning and skills, address their offending behaviour and to support them on a pathway to resettlement on and after release. Sally was the winner of the Women Leaders Public Services award in 2019.

Rebecca Carrington

Rebecca became involved with Women Leaders after winning the award for Arts, Culture and the Creative Industries award in 2019.  Rebecca is Principal of Arts1, an independent theatre school in Milton Keynes which offers performing arts courses for children, young people and adults and she is passionate about nurturing and supporting young people to develop their skills.  As an independent business owner Rebecca is thrilled to be on the judging panel for the 2020 awards where she can contribute to the recognition of so many inspiring women across Milton Keynes.

Jan Flawn CBE

Jan is the founder and former Chair and Trustee of Women Leaders UK and is also the founder and Chair of specialist neurological care provider, PJ Care, in Milton Keynes and Peterborough. After winning the national CBI First Women of Business Services award in 2013, Jan realised the importance of celebrating the achievements of women and on International Women’s Day 2015, the first Women Leaders Awards in Milton Keynes were launched. Since then the Charity has grown from strength to strength.

James Howarth

Having trained as a lawyer after a career in publishing, James is now a partner with Howes Percival in MK helping clients with media issues and disputes regarding intellectual property in MK. James has acted for major corporations, SMEs and private individuals in various forums including the High Court, the Intellectual Property Enterprise Court, the UK Intellectual Property Office and WIPO. A strong advocate for the work of Women Leaders, James has been involved in judging for the last two years.

Ruby Parmar

Ruby is a Trustee and Chair of the Women Leaders MK Event Committee. Having worked in professional services for thirty years, most recently as a client relationship partner at PwC, with a background in tax, Ruby spent her time building, nurturing and supporting relationships with some of the most talented individuals at Board level as well as being a trusted advisor to private business owners and entrepreneurs. Ruby now uses her skills at Board level with several private businesses (including TOTM, Twenty3, Signia Wealth and Milton Keynes College). Ruby has been involved with Women Leaders since its inception as a charity and has always been passionate about support and development for women being an active mentor and role model.

Sarah Pumffrey

Sarah was a Trustee of Women Leaders until she had to step down in 2019 due to work commitments. Sarah has a wealth of banking experience and has worked for NatWest for over 30 years. Sarah leads the Corporate team in the East of England, managing a team of directors across Suffolk, Norfolk, Essex, Cambridgeshire, Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire. Her team looks after the large Corporate customers. Sarah is passionate about creating diversity in the workplace and is involved with the bank's entrepreneurial hub as a mentor to the many businesses they support.

Helen Sachdev

Following an executive career in organisations including Tesco and Barclays UK, Helen Sachdev now combines a Non-Executive career with her coaching practice WOMBA (Work, Me and the Baby).  She is Chairman of the Loughborough Building Society, REMCO Chair at Wilmington PLC and has lived in Milton Keynes for 8 years.  Having attended and been impressed with the quality of Women Leader events, she was delighted to be invited to the judging panel in 2020 and to support women through mentoring.

Yvonne Owuor

Yvonne was a participating delegate at the Women of the Future Summit in 2018 and the Team Lead for the 2019 award winning team for the Habitat for Humanity Hope Challenge. She is a proud recipient of the 2018 Women Leaders Award for her Voluntary works. Was a Judge during the 2019 awards and is a mentor for the 2020 awards. Currently a Trustee for the Arts and Heritage Alliance MK and working at the Network Rail in the area of sustainability development with a national focus on eradicating the issue of homelessness. Engaged with the voluntary sector both locally and nationally and has also worked internationally.

Jacqui Wilkins

Jacqui was the winner of the Creative Industries award in 2018 and has been a judge for Women Leaders for two years. Jacqui is the founder of the award-winning creative communications consultancy, Visual Identity and has over 30 years’ experience of running her own successful business. A life-long supporter of all things Milton Keynes, newly appointed as President of Milton Keynes Chamber, Jacqui is a keen champion for everything the city has to offer. Aa a proud alumnus of the Chelsea School of Art, Jacqui is a passionate supporter of an education system fit for the modern business world and believes childhood beginnings should not predetermine future achievements – male or female.