ATHENA scr Leadership Awards 2020

Each time a woman stands up for herself, she stands up for other women and, together, there is no limit to what women can achieve.

As an all-female team here at Aroundtown, we know how important it is for women to build each other up and encourage others to reach their potential.

Women are brave, they do escape their comfort zones, and they will work hard to achieve their goals with the same level of determination as their male counterparts.

Yet representation of women is still faced with great disparity in many areas of modern culture, from film and media to politics and business, with women under promoted and over-objectified in many cases.

But still, we keep moving forward to level out the gender balance.

Collectively, we can use our individual beliefs and actions to make a change by promoting more equality in every area of life. From the boardroom and workplace to the media and sport, recognising the assets women bring to influential positions can inspire a new generation of change.

Equality is not a women’s issue – it’s a business issue and one which is essential for economies and communities to thrive.

We all have sisters, mothers, lovers, female friends and colleagues who deserve a balanced society. It’s not about making women stronger – most would say they already are – it’s about changing how the world we live in perceives those strengths.

Every girl and young woman, regardless of her roots and where she comes from, deserves the opportunity to develop the promise and potential inside her. We should teach our daughters to be bold, independent, fierce and kind, but most importantly to remember their voices are important.

Sunday 8th March marks International Women’s Day and this year’s theme is #EachforEqual; a day to celebrate women’s achievements and raise awareness against bias.

International Women’s Day, which was first celebrated in 1911, recognises the significant contributions women have made to gender advancement. Whether that’s working rights, social movements or the right to vote, it precedes a year-round campaign that is recognised globally, with varying attitudes and beliefs.

While some countries have public holidays, others protest against the ideology of women’s rights. Some countries ignore it altogether.

One important event on the calendar in recent decades has been the ATHENA Leadership Awards; an international movement that aims to develop, support and honour female leaders.

ATHENA is recognised in over 500 communities worldwide but the Sheffield City Region is the only place in the UK to host the annual event.

Named after Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom and military victory, the awards were started in the 80s to create balance in leadership worldwide as well as inspire women to reach their full potential.

The event is a celebration of excellence rather than a competition, with recipients honoured for their professional excellence, giving back to communities or motivating other leaders to believe in themselves.

The ATHENA awards highlight those in society who have strived to realise women’s contributions to leadership, be it by building relationships and embracing the talents of others or celebrating their own accomplishments to instil a sense of hope and purpose.

It’s not about women wanting attention or to be seen for the work they do – it’s about them being heard and respected, gaining the recognition they deserve for their excellent achievements.

This year, the recipients will be chosen by a panel of five judges including former ATHENA recipient, Jackie Freeborn, who is currently a Custodian of The Rotherham Story, a role to positively promote Rotherham.

Jackie Freeborn, Custodian of The Rotherham Story

In 2011, Jackie received the award for her work her work as CE of Business and Education SY, helping children and young people develop their capabilities and employability skills.

Jackie then became involved with the Barnsley Rotherham Women in Business group, becoming the chair in 2011, a role she held for eight years
before handing over to last year’s ATHENA recipient, Lyndsey Pitchley.

Jackie has invested so much energy into advocating women’s attributes in influential roles and gender balance and BR Chamber is now testament to this. is backed up by fantastic improvement within BR Chamber.

When she started as chair of the WIB forum in 2001, she endeavoured to create a more balanced board, to have the first female president and improve the representative council.

Now, half of the board is female, their first female president Lisa Pogson served three years before passing onto their second, Joada Allen.

WiB is now highly respected within the Chamber, their events well attended, including the annual ATHENA Leadership Awards to coincide with International Women’s Day.

Last year’s ATHENA scr Leadership recipient, Lyndsey Pitchley

This year, the event is being held at Tankersley Manor Hotel on Friday 6th March – the same day Aroundtown is being published. So, while we can’t announce the recipients, we have highlighted some stories of those honoured this year.

“People reading this may think it’s all about women burning our bras in the street, but it isn’t a heavily feminist event. Neither is it about wanting to be masculine. It’s all about empowering the typically female traits that make women great leaders.

“It’s also not just all about women – a man can be a recipient too if they are passionate about wanting women to achieve great things,” Jackie says.

Alpha-females shouldn’t intimidate men or make them feel emasculated and silenced. Events like ATHENA and IWD are not about one sex ‘winning’ over another. It highlights the importance of men and women working together as allies to create a better, more prosperous society.

Mindsets are slowly changing and more leadership roles, particularly those in the public eye, are being undertaken by women.

Hopefully, in the future there will be no female leaders – only leaders. But for now, let us appreciate the giant leaps we have taken.

ATHENA scr Honourees 2020

International Leadership Award

  • Dana Abdulkarim
  • Jackie Cook
  • Kate Grosvenor
  • Kay Hutchinson
  • Moira Benson
  • Natasha Wilson
  • Nichola Smith
  • Ruby Smith
  • Ruth Willis
  • Una Jennings
  • Victoria Allen

Young Professional Leadership Award

  • Bluebell Smith
  • Annalisa Toccara

Organisation Award

  • Casting Technology International
  • Harris & Co