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Advocates for Change


“When you get these jobs that you have been so brilliantly trained for, just remember that your real job is that if you are free, you need to free somebody else. If you have some power, then your job is to empower somebody else.” – Toni Morrison



Forward Ladies is thrilled to honour incredible individuals who have made a profound impact:

  • – Using their positions to champion inclusion and gender equality
    – Leading campaigns to drive gender equality and raise awareness of women’s issues
    – Building thriving communities where women can flourish
    – Donating time and expertise to charities and social enterprises supporting gender equality

Join us in celebrating these remarkable advocates who are transforming the landscape of gender equality.

All the individuals recognised in this inaugural Forward Ladies Advocate of Change list are championing and accelerating gender equity and the inclusion agenda by leveraging their power and network to drive impactful change within their organisations and the wider industry.
It is important that all people feel a sense of belonging and feel empowered to succeed and achieve career success at all levels of an organisation and from all communities. That is the way we create a future that is sustainable and works for everyone. These advocates are the real drivers of change, without whom real progress will not be made.

Griselda Togobo - CEO,

Anne Boden mbe

CEO, Starling Bank

Anne Boden founded Starling in 2014 after a distinguished, 30-year career at some of the world’s best-known financial heavyweights, among them Allied Irish Banks, Royal Bank of Scotland and ABN AMRO. She sits on the board of UK Finance and is chair of the government’s Women-led, high-growth enterprise taskforce. She was awarded an MBE for services to financial technology in 2018.

As CEO, she oversees the Executive Leadership Team and is a member of Starling’s Board of Directors.

Dame Anne Richards DBE

Chief Executive Officer, Fidelity International

Anne joined Fidelity International as CEO in December 2018 and was appointed a Director of FIL Limited in September 2019. Anne has three decades of experience as an analyst, portfolio manager and CIO in the financial sector with global names including JP Morgan, Merrill Lynch Investment Managers, Aberdeen Asset Management and M&G Investments. Anne is a Chartered Engineer and began her career as a research fellow at CERN. She is a former chair of the UK Financial Conduct Authority’s Practitioner Panel and was appointed a board member of the Institute of International Finance (IIF) in December 2020. Anne was appointed chair of TheCityUK in June 2022. Anne was appointed a Dame Commander (DBE) in June 2021 for services to Financial Services, Women, Education and Science. Anne holds an MBA from INSEAD and a BSc (Hons) from the University of Edinburgh. She is a fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh and holds honorary degrees from Edinburgh and Heriot-Watt Universities.

Gordon Pitman

Chief HR Officer, GKN Aerospace

Gordon has been leading the global HR function at GKN Aerospace since 2016 and is a member of the Aerospace Executive team. GKN Aerospace is a global tier one supplier into all the major Aerospace OEM’s and has business lines covering Civil Airframe, Defense Airframe and Engines. With over 40 manufacturing locations and 16,000 people it is an exciting, globally diverse organization.

Previous to joining GKN Aerospace Gordon spent 11 years in coatings and chemicals manufacturing with ICI and AkzoNobel and lived in Canada, The Netherlands and USA. Gordon holds an Msc in Organizational Psychology from the University of Birbeck in London and now lives back in London with his husband and two cats.

Catherine Asta


Catherine Asta is a Psychotherapist and impassioned champion of women and their stories, and over the last 8 years has worked with hundreds of women. 

She launched her podcast ‘The Late Discovered Club’ in 2022 to help deconstruct stereotypes and give visibility to the next generation of autistic women with listeners in over 65 countries.  

Catherine is a featured expert across the media, and her first book ‘Rediscovered’ will be published early 2024 with Jessica Kingsley Publishing. 

Listed in the Top 50 Influential Neurodivergent Women in the UK 2023 and also a consultant and trainer on the NHS National Autism Trainer Programme.  

Jacqueline de Rojas cbe

President Emeritus, techUK & co-chair, the Institute of Coding

Jacqueline is President Emeritus at techUK and the co-chair at the Institute of Coding. She sits as a Non-Executive Director on the board of Rightmove plc; Costain plc and professional services provider FDM Group PLC.  

Jacqueline is an advisor to fast moving tech businesses and a business mentor at Merryck offering board and executive level coaching. She is a passionate advocate for diversity and inclusion.  

In 2016 she entered the @Computerweekly Hall of Fame after being voted Computer Weekly’s Most Influential Woman in IT 2015; she was listed on Debretts 2016 500 People of Influence and named in Europe’s Inspiring Fifty most inspiring female role models for 2017. Presented the 2017 Catherine Variety Award for Science & Technology.  

2018 Women in Tech Award for Advocate of the Year acknowledging her contribution to diversity | #IB100 – Most influential BAME leaders in tech | Awarded the Digital & Technology Award at the Asian Women of Achievement Awards 2019. Included in World’s 100 most influential people in digital government 2019 | Woman of the Year awarded by Women in IT Excellence 2019  

Listen to her life and music choices on Desert Island Discs podcast March 2019.  

Jacqueline was acknowledged in the Queen’s New Year Honours list 2018 with a CBE for Services to International Trade in Technology.  

“If we are to thrive in our digital future, all our voices must be heard when designing technology. If not, we risk creating a world for the few and not for the many.”  

Happily married to Roger Andrews, they have three children, three grandchildren and two dogs. Yoga is how she finds her balance…  

Nazir Afzal OBE

Chancellor of the University of Manchester

Nazir Afzal OBE, was Chief Crown Prosecutor for NW England and formerly Director in London. He was Chief Executive of the country’s Police & Crime Commissioners and most recently, National Adviser to the Welsh Government. During a 30  year career, has prosecuted the most high profile cases in the country & advised on many others and led nationally on several legal topics including Violence against Women & Girls, child sexual abuse, and honour based violence. He had responsibility for more than 100,000 prosecutions each year. His prosecutions of the so called Rochdale grooming gang and hundreds of others were groundbreaking and changed the landscape of child protection.  

He is the Chancellor of the University of Manchester 

His memoirs “The Prosecutor” published in 2020 are currently being adapted for a British multipart drama. His new book “The Race to the Top” was published in Sept 2022. His BBC R4 ‘Desert Island Discs’ programme was the 3rd most listened to in 2021  

Tessy Ojo CBE

Civil Society Leader

Tessy Ojo CBE is passionate Civil Society Leader who has spent over two decades driving change for children and young people in the areas of social justice, youth leadership and social equity. 

She is also the Founder of Tessy’s Brunches; a mentoring forum for female self-improvement. 

In 2020, Tessy was recognised in the Queen’s Birthday Honours with a CBE – Commander of The British Empire for her services to children and young people. 

She is the Chief Executive of The Diana Award – the only charity that bears the name of Diana, Princess of Wales and through it has developed internationally recognised programmes that give young people skills to thrive and create positive change in their communities globally. 

Tessy has had the honour of working with Their Royal Highnesses, The Duke of Cambridge and The Duke of Sussex for over 20 years, who both support the Charity. She was also privileged to be a Chapel guest at the wedding of The Duke and Duchess of Sussex. 

With over twenty-two years in third sector leadership and expertise in redefining outcomes for with young people, Tessy played a founding role in the building and sustainability of the charity, bringing strategic clarity and innovative approaches leading to a 360-degree turnaround of the charity’s growth and global industry recognition.  

Pinky Lilani CBD DL

Founder & Chair, Women of the Future Programme 

Pinky Lilani CBE DL is a trailblazing advocate for gender equality, diversity and inclusion. She is renowned worldwide for her pioneering Women of the Future Programme, a portfolio of events, initiatives, and networks designed to support the next generation of leaders – a programme that has impacted thousands of women across the globe over the last 25 years. Pinky’s dedication to social and charitable causes has earned her numerous accolades and honours, including being named one of the 100 most powerful women in the UK by BBC Radio 4. She is a Fellow of the GSA; Patron of DIL, the Westminster Society, and Frank Water; Associate Fellow of Saïd Business School; Ambassador for the Tiffany Circle of the Red Cross, and serves on the boards of Global Diversity Practice and the Character Project at the University of Oxford. For her exceptional service to charity, Pinky was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 2007. In 2015, she was honoured as Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) for services to women in business. She is currently Deputy Lieutenant for Greater London. 

Jhumar Johnson 

Chief of Staff to the Vice-Chancellor, The Open University

Jhmar is passionate about diversity & gender equity, developing talent, and education.  She is an  Executive coach and mentor. Throughout myher career and in a voluntary capacity, she has worked with women in helping them develop their careers and their self-belief. 

She has a background in raising major gifts, both in-house and in a consulting capacity. In addition to her role as Chief of Staff at The Open University, she serves on John Lewis Partnership’s Advisory Board for Happier Futures and on the board of the National Emergencies Trust. She is a member of the Chief of Staff Association and a founding member of Chief UK.


Senior Global Executive & Board Director, Aviation, Aerospace, Defence & Space 

Anna has held CEO and global executive leadership roles for over two decades across the Aviation, Aerospace, Defence, and Automotive sectors. Highly motivated, curious, and creative, she is a recognised organisational change agent with extensive international experience gained from working across 30 countries and living in Australia, Switzerland, Poland, France, and the UK.  

Beginning her career in the Automotive industry in Australia and Asia, Anna held senior engineering, commercial and programme management roles within global organisations including Hexcel Corporation, Cytec and GKN Aerospace, successfully building and leading high-performing global teams within complex technical and multi-cultural businesses. In her most recent role as Vice President and Managing Director of Boeing Defence UK where she led 2,600 staff, Anna was responsible for the growth, alignment, and business development of Boeing’s significant in-country defence programmes. 

A Fellow of The Royal Aeronautical Society and holding degrees in Aerospace Engineering and Business Administration, with an MBA from the University of Melbourne, Anna is passionate about the importance of STEM as well as advancing diversity, inclusion, and gender equality. Anna actively supports female talent development within the global corporate environment and was named one of the 100 Women to Watch in The Female FTSE Board Report.   

ANN cairns

Experienced global executive and Chair

Ann Cairns started life as a research scientist and was the first woman to work offshore with British Gas. She moved into investment banking in her 30’s and rose up the ranks in Citibank.  

After 15 years at Citi, she enjoyed a number of senior roles at other financial institutions before finishing her career as Executive Vice Chair at Mastercard.  

Ann believes that women should rise to the top of the corporate world in equal numbers to men, has chaired both the 30% Club and the Financial Alliance for Women.  

She is a strong advocate for women in STEM. 

Roni Savage

CEO & Founder, Jomas Associates

Roni Savage is CEO & Founder of Jomas Associates, an Engineering Company serving the Construction Industry since 2009. Named Most Influential Woman in Construction 2022, Roni, is a Honorary Fellow ofRoyal Institute of British Architects, a Chartered Engineer, Fellow of Institution of Civil Engineers, Chartered Geologist and SiLC (Specialist in Land Condition). A graduate of University of Portsmouth with a BEng(hons) in Engineering Geology and Geotechnics, she also holds a Masters’ (with distinction) in Environmental Management from University of Exeter, she has worked on many major construction schemes, including the widening of the A406 and M25, as well as various buildings and structures across the UK. She has been involved in designing sustainable remediation solutions to enable the reclamation of several brownfield sites, which would have laid derelict otherwise. Multi-award winner, and mum of three boys, Roni is a passionate  diversity champion, speaking internationally on matters relating to diversity in business, engineering and construction. Roni is policy chair for construction for the federation of small businesses, with an advisory role to the UK government, and vice chair of YMCA SPG, a charity committed to empowering young people. 

Prerana Issar

Chief People Officer and Head of corporate Affairs, Sainsbury’s

Prerana is inspired by her mother’s work and values, and driven by her daughter’s clarity and impatience, to do something every single day to create a positive change for women and girls. Her contribution includes mentoring and coaching women ranging from 18 to 60 years of age; increasing the number of women humanitarian leaders; driving changes for the one million women working in healthcare in England’s national health service as well as focusing on addressing the specific challenges facing women of colour. Although at heart an activist, Prerana channels that energy to enable teams, organisations and institutions across sectors to make things more equitable for women and girls. 

Akima Paul Lambert

Litigation Partner, Hogan Lovells

Akima has significant experience acting for financial institutions, corporations and professional firms in litigation and arbitration proceedings arising out of commercial, banking and financial disputes.   

According toBenchmark Litigation Europe(2020), Akima is “professional, brilliant and dedicated to the task,” and “a very responsive and diligent lawyer” who is “very capable of handling complex matters and always delivers what she promises.” She has also been listed as an EMpower Ethnic Minority Future Leader Role Model 2020 which recognises worldwide future senior leaders who are making a significant contribution to ethnic minority inclusion at work.  

Akima is significantly involved in pro bono and has worked on and co-ordinated a range of pro bono matters in relation to international economic development and human rights. 

professor Eleanor Shaw obe

Associate Principal( Pro Vice Chancellor) at University of Strathclyde

A values-led, inclusive entrepreneurial leader with more than 25 years’ experience of working with entrepreneurs, complimented by a portfolio of entrepreneurship research that has informed the design and delivery of entrepreneurial education, influenced entrepreneurial policy, and guided the development of successful growth interventions which have supported the scale up of numerous Scottish ventures. Eleanor is a senior leader within the Higher Education sector and is passionate about using her knowledge, expertise, and networks to unlock entrepreneurial potential across Scotland’s economy. She holds an MA and a PhD from the University of Glasgow and was awarded an OBE in the New Year Honours List 2022 for her services to Entrepreneurship and Education.  

Eleanor holds a number of board and external appointments including, she sits on the Executive Team of the University of Strathclyde and on the boards of the Beatson Cancer Charity, the Chartered Association of Business Schools and the Small Business Charter. She also sits on the People, Talent & Leadership Committee of the ScaleUp Institute and on the STER Academic Advisory Group. 

Lisa kelly

Head of BTC UK & Ireland

Lisa assumed the role of Head of BTC UK & Ireland in January 2016. She is also a member of BASF Plc Leadership Team. Her working career started as a Laboratory Technician at Magnesium Elektron (part of British Alcan) and then as Sales Correspondent at Degussa Ltd. 

Having joined BASF plc Fine Chemical Sales in 1989, Lisa was delegated to Switzerland between 2001-2004 where she was North Europe Aroma Chemicals Manager. On her return to the UK she became Head of Sale Detergents and Formulators for BTC UK, BASF’s in-house chemical distribution company.

Having a strong passion for diversity & inclusion, Lisa represents BASF with WISE (Women in Science and Engineering) and leads their Gender Action Group. She is also a member of the Executive Committee for BCA (British Chemicals Association) and current chair of the Diversity Committee at BCF (British Coatings Federation).


Lisa is married with two children. Born in Bolton, Lisa attended the Farnworth Grammar School and studied Chemistry at Manchester Metropolitan University.


Sahar Hashemi obe

Founder of Buy Women Built, Entrepreneur

A Sahar is the Co-founder of Coffee Republic, the UK’s first US-style coffee-bar chain and Founder of Skinny Candy, the low-fat confectionery brand. She is also the author of Anyone Can Do It, a bestselling book demystifying entrepreneurialism and Start Up Forever encouraging larger companies to behave more like entrepreneurs. 
Sahar’s current project, founded in March 2022, is Buy Women Built, a movement to fight the entrepreneurial gender gap and boost economic recovery by bringing consumer support to female founded businesses.

Vanessa Vallely obe

Managing Director,  WeAreTheCity

Vanessa is one of the UK’s most well-networked women and has provided keynotes on a variety of career related topics for over 500 companies worldwide. Vanessa is also one of the UK’s most prominent figures in gender equality and often provides guidance and consultancy to both government and corporate organisations who are seeking to attract, develop and retain their female talent. Vanessa was awarded her OBE in June 2018 for her services to women and the economy.
At the height of her successful 25 year career in the financial services, Vanessa launched the award winning in 2008 as a vehicle to help women progress in their careers. now has over 120,000 members and provides resources/conferences/awards/jobs to women across the UK. Vanessa is the also the -founder of UK wide diversity forum Gender Networks. Gender Networks (formerly The Network of Networks) brings together diversity leaders from 85 cross sector firms to share best practice on a quarterly basis.
Vanessa is also the author of the book “Heels of Steel: Surviving and Thriving in the Corporate World” which tracks her career and shares 13 chapters of tips to succeed in the workplace.
Vanessa is an avid charity worker and sits on the board for Cancer Research UK as one of its Women of Influence. She also sits on the Centenary Action Group founded by Dr Helen Pankhurst CBE.

Claire-Marie Boggiano

Director and Coach at Lurig Ltd

Claire-Marie Boggiano is a Director and Coach at Lurig Ltd, specialising in leadership development and business changeShe lectured in Leadership at the University of Salford Claire-Marie is a Chartered Engineer and works to support Women in Business and Women in STEMShe curates and hosts, the monthly Women Leading in Business guest speaker and networking seriesShe is a member of WIN (Women’s International Network) and founded WIN ManchesterShe is also an ambassador for Women on Boards UK and Queen Bee Coaching, which is a Pankhurst Trust Service that provides free leadership coaching to women across Greater Manchester. She is an active volunteer on GM4Women, a 10yr project convened by Prof Helen Pankhurst focussing on using Data, Dialogue, Deeds & Determination to improve life for women and girls across the Greater Manchester city region and is on the steering group of Manchester City Council’s annual IWD Walk for Women Claire-Marie believes organisations succeed by working with the talents and imagination of all their people.   

Richard Pickard

Chief Executive Officer, Inclusive Search

Equality, purpose and mission are important to me. I want to give back more than I take from life. I have 20+ years experience personally delivering exceptional recruitment solutions, both on a contingent & retained search basis, to start-up & scale-up tech firms through to FTSE100. Exciting and engaging teams with empathetic leadership, launching new business units for international recruitment organisations. Having served as a Board Director for 10+ years, I created a business with a clear purpose & mission to represent a broad talent pool of diverse candidates. 
Businesses with diversity have a greater balance of voices that enable them to create innovative solutions. Diverse companies achieve better commercial results, with most successful companies now viewing equality, diversity & inclusion as essential to their business performance and growth. Also…surely it’s just the right thing to do. My company Inclusive Search works with the highest quality diverse candidates in the market and with clients who value, reward, respect & celebrate everyone’s diversity – and who wish to be proactive in recruiting, retaining & developing high-performing diverse talent. 

I am an advocate for GTA Black Women in Tech, The 30% Club, and a judge of the WeAreTheCity Rising Star awards, I am actively involved in creating leadership dialogue around equity and allyship, and also advising & mentoring candidates. 

I am the author of the ‘Exceptional Female Role Models’ interview series on LinkedIn – championing the achievements and excellence of inspirational females trailblazing in business. I won the LinkedIn ‘Best Talent Voice UK’ award for 2021. I was listed in the ‘Top 50 Trailblazers in Gender Equality 2021’. I was a winner of the ‘Men for Gender Balance Award’ in 2022. 

Simone Roche MBE

CEO of Northern Power Women

Simone Roche MBE is founder and CEO of Northern Power Women, and the Power Collective CIC. A community of 95,000, organically grown by Simone herself, spans all sectors, genders, and socio-economic groups. With the growth of this community, Simone founded the largest celebration of gender equality in Europe: The Northern Power Women Awards, celebrating role models and trailblazers living and working across the North. The Power Collective has enabled 50k conversations and created £1.5m in social value through running Power Up mentoring and networking sessions open to all.  

Simone joined the Royal Navy at 17 as a radio operator before quickly scaling the ranks up to Lieutenant. After leaving the Navy, Simone took on roles within the large-scale events space at the likes of Aintree Racecourse, Blackpool Pleasure Beach, and for the build of the new Echo Arena in Liverpool. Simone led on sponsors as Client Services Manager for the 2012 London Olympics and then moved into a role as Director for the Women 1st conference.  

Simone was awarded an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours in 2018 for services to gender equality and was appointed Lieutenant Commander in the Royal Navy in June 2020 before being promoted to Captain in July 2021.

Mary Ann Sieghart

 journalist, broadcaster and author

Mary Ann Sieghart is a journalist, broadcaster and author of the bestselling book, The Authority Gap: Why We Still Take Women Less Seriously Than Men, and What We Can Do About It. She spent most of her working life as a national newspaper journalist, at The Times, The Independent, The Economist and the FT. She presents programmes on BBC Radio 4 and is a Visiting Professor at the Global Institute for Women’s Leadership in King’s College London. She was a founding committee member of Women in Journalism and chaired the judges for the Women’s Prize for Fiction in 2022.  


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