Women of West Yorkshire

Join us on Saturday 12th March as we conclude the International Women's Day celebrations with our very first event dedicated to showcasing some of West Yorkshire’s most inspirational women.

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Join us as we celebrate the 1,190,248 women and girls of West Yorkshire.

About this event


The event will focus on the accomplishments of women and girls, amplifying the voices of women from across the region whilst exploring the theme of International Women's Day 2022 – Break the Bias. To mark this year’s International Women’s Day, the Mayor of West Yorkshire is hosting a week of events to celebrate the achievements of girls and women across the region.

You are invited to join us on Saturday 12th March as we conclude the week-long celebration with our very first event dedicated to showcasing some of West Yorkshire’s most inspirational women.

From filmmakers to entrepreneurs, prepare to be inspired as we welcome an eclectic mix of speakers and panellists to share their experiences, educate and empower our audience.

Together we can forge women's equality. Collectively we can all #BreakTheBias

Event Programme

Event opens, networking and live music | 10 am – 10:30 am

Sit back, grab a cuppa and enjoy the uplifting music from an all-female jazz trio from Leeds Conservatoire.


Welcome | 10:30 am – 10:35 am

Welcome from Professor Simone Buitendijk, University of Leeds Vice-Chancellor


Tracy Brabin, Mayor of West Yorkshire, opening remarks | 10:35 am – 10:45 am


Creating positive futures for women and girls in West Yorkshire | 10.45 am - 11.30 am

Join this session and hear from inspiring business leaders and girls from West Yorkshire as they share their experiences and challenges along with their advice for future generations.

Session chair:  Baroness Warsi

Panellists: 


Time to grab a drink and reflect | 11.30 am - 11.45 am


Safety for Women and Girls | 11.45 am - 12.30 pm

Join this session and hear from inspirational women who support women and girls and find out how the Police are protecting women from violence.  Hear how we can work with both boys and girls to challenge stereotypes and negative behaviours creating happier, healthier relationships and increasing the future safety of women and girls.

Session chair: Alison Lowe OBE – Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime

Panellists: 

  • Sofia Buncy MBE - Founder and National Coordinator of the Muslim Women in Prison Rehabilitation Project
  • Catherine Hankinson – Assistant Chief Constable Portfolio Lead for local Policing and Safeguarding across West Yorkshire
  • Rokaiya Khan – CEO Together Women
  • Julie Tweedale – Freedom Personal safety community interest company

Lunch | 12.30 pm - 1:00 pm


Welcome to the afternoon sessions and guest speaker introduction | 1.00 pm – 1.05pm


Guest speaker | 1:05 pm - 1:25 pm

Speaker: Noushin Aslam Raja - Founder and director of Moonlight Trust

Noushin Raja, from Dewsbury, was named the coveted Noor Inayat Khan Muslim Woman of the Year for her work as the founder and director of Moonlight Trust. As a motivational speaker, Noushin draws on her own inspirational story of turning a personal tragedy into a faith-powered positive legacy.


Keynote speaker introduction | 1.25 pm – 1.30 pm


Keynote speaker | 1:30 pm – 2:15 pm

Speaker:  Joeli Brearley - Founder and CEO of Pregnant Then Screwed

Joeli Brearley is the founder and CEO of Pregnant Then Screwed. She is also mother to Theodore and Jack. Joeli was sacked from her job when she was four months pregnant with her first child and ever since then she has been on a mission to raise awareness of discrimination and to help other women who are victims of discriminatory behaviour.


Cultural and creative achievements of women in West Yorkshire | 2:15 pm – 3:00 pm

Join this session as we showcase inspiring, innovative women in the arts and culture sector who will be sharing their experiences, challenges and advice for future generations.

Session chair: Professor Katy Shaw

Panellists: 

  • Syima Aslam - Founder and Director of the Bradford Literature Festival
  • Stephanie Hirst – TV and Radio Broadcaster, DJ and Public Speaker
  • Anna Hall - Creative Director & Executive Producer of Candour Production

Thanks and closing remarks | 3:00 pm – 3: 05 pm

Tracy Brabin, Mayor of West Yorkshire


Networking and live music | 3:05 pm – 4:00 pm


Event closes | 4:00 pm

Join the conversation #WoWY

Professor Simone Buitendijk MD, MPH, PhD

Professor Simone Buitendijk MD, MPH, PhD

Simone Buitendijk is the thirteenth Vice-Chancellor of the University of Leeds, a Russell Group University with a commitment to high quality education, a strong and dynamic research base and a track record of social, economic and cultural development. She was previously Vice-Provost (Education) and Professor of Maternal and Child Health at Imperial College London. 

Prior to this, Professor Buitendijk was Vice-Rector at Leiden University in the Netherlands where she was responsible for education, student affairs and diversity.

In addition to strengthening the links between education and research, Professor Buitendijk has extensive experience of driving the digital and online learning agenda.

@SEBuitendijk on Twitter

Baroness Sayeeda Warsi

 A lawyer, businesswoman, campaigner and cabinet minister, Sayeeda Warsi has had many roles – but she is best known for being the first Muslim person to serve in a British cabinet. In August 2014, she resigned from government, citing its ‘morally indefensible’ policy on Gaza. In 2007, she was elevated to the House of Lords aged 36, making her the youngest peer in Parliament. From 2007–2010, she served in the Shadow Cabinet as minister for community cohesion and social action. In 2010, she was appointed by Prime Minister David Cameron as minister without portfolio, becoming the first Muslim person to serve as a cabinet minister. In government, she led the largest ministerial delegation to the Vatican, famously declared that Islamophobia had ‘passed the dinner table test’, and established the Remembering Srebrenica programme. Sayeeda is chair of the Baroness Warsi Foundation, and a trustee of the Savayra Foundation. She’s pro vice-chancellor at the University of Bolton, an advisor to Georgetown University Washington DC, and visiting professor at St Mary's – the oldest Catholic university in the UK. Baroness Warsi has consistently been voted one of the 500 Most Influential Muslims in the world. 

@SayeedaWarsi on Twitter

Heba Bevan - CEO and Founder of UtterBerry 

Heba Bevan OBE, founder of UtterBerry, studied electronics and engineering at university, Heba was the only woman on her degree course, before creating one of the most exciting, multi-award winning, young technology companies in Europe. UtterBerry’s revolutionary low-power smart sensor systems, which are all manufactured in the UK, are now being used on some of the world’s biggest civil engineering projects. Their tiny sensors, which monitor loads on structures and bridges, can be used in disaster scenarios such as were executed during Hurricane Katrina, and UtterBerry are also making inroads into the fields of smart construction, smart hospitals, crowd-sensing, and more.

Last year UttterBerry announced it will be setting up a massive manufacturing and innovation base in the region, creating 800 jobs.  Heba was named as Vodafone Woman of the Year for Innovation 2021.

@UtterBerry on Twitter

Sarah Tulip - Head of Digital Transformation at BJSS and co-founder of WILD Digital

After years in operations at high profile companies like AQL, Software Cloud and Klaxon Technologies, Sarah moved to EY in November 2019, where she was appointed Digital Director across Yorkshire and the North-East. She helped digital start-ups from across the region to launch and scale-up their businesses, before taking on a new role as Head of Transformation at global tech and engineering giant, BJSS.

BJJS’s success stories range from award-winning engineering solutions, to end-to-end digital transformation programmes and was recently recognised as a Financial Times UK leading management consultant for the third year running.

Sarah is a Digital City Ambassador in Leeds and chairs the Leeds Digital Forum, where she champions the voices of less represented groups. She’s also the co-founder of WILD Digital. Their mission is to grow, engage, develop and retain the diverse digital skills and community in Leeds.

@SarahTulip on Twitter

Alison Lowe OBE - Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime West Yorkshire

Alison Lowe is the West Yorkshire Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime (DMPC).  The DMPC works with the Mayor to oversee policing in the county on behalf of the public.  Other key functions include commissioning services to support those harmed by crime and reduce reoffending, consulting the public to ensure that their views and priorities are taken into account, strengthening links such as inclusive growth and community safety and cohesion.

Alison is a proud Yorkshire lass and has worked in the Voluntary Sector for 30 years, combining this with an interest in local politics and community involvement.  Most recently as Chief Executive at Touchstone, a mental health and wellbeing charity based in West and South Yorkshire, she specialised in working with diverse communities. In the 2022 Queen’s New Years Honours List, Alison was awarded an OBE for services to mental health and wellbeing during Covid-19 whilst CEO at Touchstone.

Ms Lowe has also represented Armley on Leeds City Council from 1990 to 2019, as well as serving as Chair of the West Yorkshire Police and Crime Panel for 5 years.  Alison is passionate about inclusion as a Black woman and mother of 2 gay children and she will be working with the police to deliver the Mayor's pledge to recruit more diverse police officers and staff. Alison will also support the force more widely on further developing an anti-racist and anti- misogynistic culture to make West Yorkshire an even better place to live and work.

@DeputyMayorPCWY onTwitter

Sofia Buncy MBE, DL 

Sofia Buncy was born, raised, and educated in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire. She completed her Honours Degree in Behavioural Sciences at the University of Huddersfield and further went on to complete a Postgraduate Diploma at the same institute in Professional Studies: Youth and Community. Sofia continues to have a close affiliation with the town and remains settled within West Yorkshire. 

Professionally, Sofia’s work has centred around gender, race and faith disparities and she has campaigned and worked to mitigate challenges and create solutions in these areas, especially for women and young. In doing so, she amassed over 15 years’ experience of working with communities both within the voluntary sector, local authority as well as at an International NGO which has included her undertaking aid work in Somaliland and Pakistan.  

Sofia is best known for being the pioneering Founder and CEO of the award-winning Muslim Women in Prison Project, a specialist social justice project which documents the experiences of Muslim women coming through the criminal justice system and reasons which have led them there. Sofia was also the first researcher in the country to write about this area of need and has co-authored 3 research reports and is currently collaborating with Leeds Beckett and Sheffield Hallam Universities on research into ‘Muslim women and Desistance’. This is based on the culturally sensitive practice-based model developed by the Muslim Women in Prison project.

She combines her current professional role with her activism and passion for interfaith, youth and community development, charitable work, and social and civil cohesion. 

In November 2020, Sofia was officially appointed as a Deputy Lieutenant in West Yorkshire to serve HRH the Queen. She was also awarded an MBE for services to prisoners and the community of Bradford in the 2022 New Year’s Honours list.  

@MWIPproject on Twitter

Catherine Hankinson - Assistant Chief Constable

Catherine joined West Yorkshire Police as Assistant Chief Constable in May 2017 and has portfolio responsibility for Local Policing and Safeguarding across the county.  Catherine went to University in Hull and has a degree in Criminology and MSc in Criminal Justice.

Prior to moving to West Yorkshire, Catherine served with Greater Manchester Police for 22 years and has worked in a variety of roles including Divisional Commander at Oldham and South Manchester where her key responsibilities were delivering operational performance, managing risk and developing partnerships with stakeholders and communities. As Strategic Partnership lead with Manchester City Council, she worked with partners to develop Early Help & Intervention and Integrated Neighbourhood Working.

Whilst in GMP, Catherine has been an active committee member of the British Association of Women in Policing and supports a number of colleagues as a coach and mentor.

Catherine is a strategic firearms commander and Multi-Agency Gold Incident Commander and is the National Police Chiefs Council lead for Missing Persons. 

In her spare time, Catherine is a keen and valued member of the West Yorkshire Netball Team.  She is married to Chris, a retired police officer, and lives in West Yorkshire with her two children and dogs.

@WestYorksPolice on Twitter

Rokaiya Khan - CEO Together Women 

Rokaiya has been the Chief Executive of Together Women, a charity that supports women and families affected by the Criminal Justice System (CJS) for over 15 years.  The organisation works across the North of England delivering criminal justice interventions to women with vulnerable multiple complex needs.

Together Women was recently awarded the Butler Trust award that recognises outstanding contributions to resettling women leaving custodial establishments.  Rokaiya has led various change initiatives for women in the charity sector including substance misuse, mental ill health, child sexual exploitation including publishing national strategy and evidenced based documents.

Previously Rokaiya has worked in the Charity sector in housing, domestic abuse and sexual violence services across the country. Her work continues to be guided by her values of feminism, sustainability and collaboration, striving to achieve transformational and substantive equality for women. 

A keen Liverpool FC supporter she enjoys watching her team play with her 20-year-old son.

 

Julie Tweedale - Freedom Personal safety CIC

Julie is personal safety specialist with 15 year’s experience and co-founded Freedom Personal Safety, a not-for-profit organisation in 2008. She creates and delivers programmes which empower individuals to take control of their physical and emotional safety and her work is deeply personal. She trained in the US with RAD Systems and radKIDS and specialises in working with women and young people.

Freedom Personal Safety have worked with the NHS, The Refugee Council, Muslim Youth Council, Women’s Aid, Action for Children and universities, colleges, schools, charities and community groups across the UK.

Noushin Aslam Raja - Founder and CEO of the Moonlight Trust 

Noushin Raja, from Dewsbury, was named the coveted Noor Inayat Khan Muslim Woman of the Year for her work as the founder and director of Moonlight Trust, an award-winning international relief charity that helps some of the world’s neediest communities.

The charity’s mission has touched over 5000 people with its community campaigning events and workshops in schools, universities and local community groups.

In 2020, as Moonlight Trust’s CEO, Noushin was shortlisted as ‘Person with Purpose’ in the 2020 Northern Power Women Awards. 

Noushin is a strong advocate and campaigner for refugees. As a motivational speaker, Noushin draws on her own inspirational story of turning a personal tragedy into a faith-powered positive legacy.

@MoonlightTrust on Twitter

Stephanie Hirst - TV and Radio Broadcaster, DJ and Public Speaker

With over 15 awards & 11 years hosting Capital FM’s breakfast show, Stephanie Hirst is one of the UKs biggest broadcasting stars. She’s been fixture on BBC & Commercial radio during the past 25 years and played at the highest level behind the mic in the UK.

She has also presented for BBC Breakfast, ITV’s Lorraine and is regularly seen on C5's The Jeremy Vine Show. Written articles for The Independent, The Telegraph & Huffington Post, and teamed up with Kurt Geiger to promote their brand.

Starting her career aged 12 at Radio Aire in Leeds, securing a slot on the overnight show at 16, this took her on an unbelievable journey hosting some of the biggest commercial radio shows in the UK, including the national Sunday top 40 show ‘Hit40Uk’ for 3 years, along with interviewing some of the world’s biggest stars.

Along with her first love of radio, she now dedicates a huge amount of her time to public speaking, sharing her ‘Believe Achieve’ message.

She is a Trustee & Fellow of the Radio Academy, former Chair of the Student Radio Awards, recipient of an Honorary Degree from Leeds Beckett University & currently broadcasts nationally on Bauer’s ‘Hits Radio’.

@StephanieHirst on Twitter

Joeli Brearley - Founder and CEO of Pregnant Then Screwed

Joeli Brearley is the founder and CEO of Pregnant Then Screwed. She is also mother to Theodore and Jack. Joeli was sacked from her job when she was four months pregnant with her first child and ever since then she has been on a mission to raise awareness of discrimination and to help other women who are victims of discriminatory behaviour.

Syima Aslam - Founder and Director of the Bradford Literature Festival (BLF)

Syima Aslam is the founder and Director of the Bradford Literature Festival (BLF), which she established in 2014. A 10-day literary and cultural celebration, BLF welcomes more than 70,000 visitors to Bradford annually and is celebrated as the most socio-economically and ethnically diverse literary festival in the UK. 

Under Syima’s directorship, BLF has made a significant impact on the country’s literary landscape, hailed as ‘one of the most innovative and inspirational festivals in the UK’, bringing together literature from all genres, promoting intercultural fluency, providing a platform for marginalised voices, and reflecting the changing face of contemporary Britain through a programme which celebrates diversity, empathy and artistic excellence.

@SyimaAslam on Twitter

Anna Hall - Creative Director & Executive Producer of Candour Productions

Anna has been making films for over 20 years. She's been nominated for 4 BAFTAS and is the only woman ever to be nominated in two consecutive years for the BAFTA CRAFT Best Factual Director Award. She's best known for her 17 year enquiry into gang grooming and broke the CSE story in 2004 with her first feature length doc 'Edge of the City' for Channel 4. Since then she's made a further two films on the subject for Channel 4 and won the hugely prestigious Women in Film & TV Best Factual award and the RTS Journalism Award for "The Hunt for Britain's Sex Gangs" in 2013. She has gone on to make films about forced marriage and honour based abuse; domestic violence and coercive control. In the last year she has directed The Family Secret for 9pm for Channel 4, and A Day in a Life of Coronavirus Britain which was filmed in a day and transmitted 3 days later! In 2021 she won the Women in Film & TV Best Producer Award.

Anna is Creative Director & Executive Producer of Candour Productions and sees the company as fulfilling her life-long dream of providing a home for film-makers in the north. She has three kids, a husband and a dog - and absolutely no spare time!

@CandourTV on Twitter

Dipti Bhise – LEP Enterprise Advisor at Allerton Grange and Processes Engineer at Amazon

Dipti, a Processes Engineer at global tech company and household name, Amazon is also part of the Enterprise Adviser Network. This is a national network of senior business volunteers connected to secondary schools and colleges to prepare young people for the world of work. Dipti works closely with a local secondary school to create strong links between employment and education, influence the careers agenda in schools and inspire the next generation in businesses to help shape the future workforce. Through this role Ditpti is providing a platform where young people are able to see women role models in fields that break stereotypes.

Dipti graduated in Computer Science and Masters in Business Administration after knowing from an early age she liked problem-solving and being challenged creatively. She has worked for a major retail and commercial bank, multinational telecommunications company, British luxury fashion house, big retailers and been practising and advocating to challenge the status quo, think creatively and change the way we do things to improve where we are.