Lean In Leeds, a women’s networking group in Yorkshire, has celebrated the incredible women of the region with its inaugural Women of Excellence Awards. The winners were announced at a packed-out ceremony at Bruntwood, in Leeds City Centre, on 22nd March.

“When women rise, they bring other women up with them,” explains Claire Ackers, chair of Lean In Leeds. “That’s the mission of our community, and the vision behind what’s made these awards so different. We’re so proud we’ve given a spotlight to women who are excluded from typical awards criteria. We’re thrilled that our inaugural attempt has been successful beyond our wildest dreams.”

The winners were: Polly Price from Axiologik for The Yorkshire Rose Award for rising stars, Jenny Taylor-Smith from Asda for The Sending the Lift Back Down Award, Dr Maiedha Raza for The Grit and Graft Award, Yorkshire Businesswoman partner Georgia Halston from Halston Group for the Tribe Leader award, Sarah Wilde from Chapeltown Nursery for the Grassroots Champion and Diane Watson from She Can Prosper was the Overall Gold Winner.

The entries were judged by an independent panel made up of Anna Sutton, CEO of the Data Shed and the Data Refinery; Eve Roodhouse from Leeds City Council; Juliette Atkinson, IT director of University of Bradford; Karen Landells from Deloitte and Tracy Fletcher, MD of Campbell and Fletcher.

Sponsored by a raft of Yorkshire-based businesses including Deloitte, Leeds University Business School, Glean, Panintelligence, XSEM, Bruntwood, Reward Finance Group and Art of Cloud; the Women of Excellence Awards were fundraising in aid of Smart Works Leeds, which helps women get back into employment.

“We were blown away by the response to the awards. We received over 125 entries from a really diverse range of nominations,” continues Claire Ackers. “The quality of the entries was extremely high and we were humbled by the incredible contribution women in our region are making - we were often in tears reading the submissions.

“It’s also been brilliant being able to support the work of Smart Works Leeds with the awards, and we’re thrilled to have raised almost £2000 for a charity which is extremely close to our hearts.

“We’ve already had lots of businesses and individuals wanting to get involved next year, so this is just the start for the Women of Excellence awards!”

Lean In Leeds is a not-for-profit organisation run entirely by volunteers. Founded over seven years ago, it has over 1100 members and has run over 60 free events in Leeds and the surrounding areas, supported by local businesses. It also has a thriving mentoring scheme and welcomes anybody who supports their primary focus of gender equality.