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Posted on:
8th March, 2019

Women business leaders show how they're marking International Women's Day.

Following the Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) Review published by Government in July 2018, there is a need to improve the gender diversity on LEP boards across England. The review says that 1/3 of every LEP Board will be women by 2020, and 1/2 of every LEP Board by 2023.

The Leicester and Leicestershire Enterprise Partnership (LLEP) is already taking action to attract more women to the LLEP Board to ensure five of the fifteen board members are women by 2020.

The LLEP currently has three women on the main board.  They were asked to talk about what the role entails and why they decided to join the board.

In addition, with International Women’s Day being celebrated today (8 March) they talked about their plans to participate and celebrate the day.

Karen Smart, Managing Director, East Midlands Airport (EMA)

Why did you decide to join the LLEP Board? 

“When I took up the post at EMA I quickly realised that, to do my job effectively, I needed to immerse myself into the local scene. The relationship between the region we serve and the airport is a symbiotic one. When the airport does well, so too does the region, and vice versa. It’s important, therefore, that the airport has a voice within local forums that have a remit to shape the local economy.  This is exactly why the LLEP board is great to be part of.”

What activity as a LLEP board member do you undertake?

“I’ve been at the helm of East Midlands Airport since April last year. One of the first things that struck me was the significant potential that this region has.  As a LLEP board member I’m 100% committed to making sure that the airport plays a full and proper role in shaping the regional economy for generations to come.”

How does the LLEP make a difference to local economic growth?

“The LLEP plays an important role in shaping the region’s economic fortunes. From supporting key growth sectors to determining local industrial strategies to boost the region’s desirability as a place in which to invest, grow businesses or live, the LLEP is key to much of this.”

What are you doing to celebrate International Women’s Day?

“I’ve been invited to attend the Transport Select Committee, Women in Transport and the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Women in Transport, International Women’s Day 2019 event. 

“It is a networking event in the Houses of Parliament for members of the Transport Committee and women in the transport industry to share experiences.  The Select Committee wants to increase the number of female witnesses it hears from during its inquiries and they would like to meet women in the transport industry who they may be able to call on in the future to give evidence. Invitations have been given to women across the transport sector.”

Verity Hancock, Principal and CEO at Leicester College

Why did you decide to join the LLEP Board? 

“I want to ensure that further education has a strong voice in economic development.  I am elected by the other local colleges to represent them all on the LLEP board.  Colleges educate 60,000 students a year across Leicester and Leicestershire so it is vital that they have a voice at the LLEP board that represents them and the students they educate.”

What activity as a LLEP board member do you undertake?

“I chair the people board that has responsibility for all the workforce skills element of the LLEP. This board will soon become a Skills Advisory Panel that will continue developing the workforce skills agenda to meet the future needs of employers.”

How does the LLEP make a difference to local economic growth?

“The LLEP stimulates investment in skills infrastructure for Leicester and Leicestershire.  Whether that is colleges, skills providers, people or employers, the LLEP needs to ensure that our region has the right skills in the workforce in the future.

“Secondly, the LLEP commissions and provides labour market information that means we can all plan our skills offer effectively, not just for the next year, but for the next 5-10 years.  There is no other organisation that can do that with such a local emphasis as the LLEP can.

“Finally, the LLEP can harness the employer voice.  As skills providers and colleges, we can only do so much.  We work with a lot of different employers but that can mean a fairly narrow perspective.  The LLEP makes sure that there is a strong collective employer voice which can then be part of the whole planning system.”

What are you doing to celebrate International Women’s Day?

“Each year we organise Leicester College’s International Women’s Day event that is attended by approximately 800 students, staff and visitors. Along with celebrating the achievements of women globally, this annual college event seeks to recognise and celebrate the achievements of women students and staff, which have excelled in various academic, sporting, enrichment and extra-curricular activities.

“The wide-ranging itinerary consists of inspirational speeches about or by women who have worked hard to secure parity for women across various fields, dance and music performances, cultural displays, quiz competitions, group fitness sessions and more.

“This is a really important day, globally, so our event celebrates the role of women in the college, both students of all ages and all levels and the part that women play in supporting the students.  It’s a thrill to walk in to the venue that is full of people, with their families, who are all there to celebrate International Women’s Day.  It is very noisy and has an exciting atmosphere.  I always look forward to this event each year.”

Emma Anderson, Director, Freeths

Why did you decide to join the LLEP Board? 

“I’m interested in promoting the economic agenda across Leicester and Leicestershire.  We have so many positives for our region and being on the board enables me to get involved with projects and decisions that make a real difference to prosperity and growth for businesses and individuals.”

What activity as a LLEP board member do you undertake?

“I am very keen to ensure small businesses access the support and help they need via our Growth Hub.  The skills agenda is also important as careers advice for young people while they are still at school makes such a difference to their futures.  The Careers Adviser Network managed by the LLEP plays a key part in this activity. As a board member I am able to play my part in promoting these initiatives, connect those that can benefit and influence decisions about future support.”

How does the LLEP make a difference to local economic growth?

“Through the Growth Hub local small and medium size businesses can access free help and advice and access the finance they need for growth.  This in turn supports job creation.

“The LLEP takes a strategic view of the local economy and bids for funding to support  large infrastructure and development projects which create job opportunities for local people.  The LLEP identifies our sector strengths and promotes Leicester and Leicestershire as a great place to invest in.”

What are you doing to celebrate International Women’s Day?

“Freeths are organising a TED talk that we invite people within the office to attend and then talk through the content afterwards.

“The theme this year is ‘Balance for Better’ which focuses on how a gender balance can benefit the world, in particular the work place. In addition we are inviting nominations for inspirational women from within the firm to celebrate them.

Following the recent news that the gender pay gap has grown since last year, across many sectors, and particularly in professional and financial services, that makes our event very relevant. 

“In addition female representation in senior roles and at board level is still below where it should be to reflect the gender balance of the population.

“Freeths also run a women in business initiative and host network events throughout the year to focus on key issues and skills that will help women to make the most of their professional career.  The events are very business focussed with key speakers from senior women in business.”