A new skills programme has launched a major recruitment drive to build the next generation of women leaders in the Leeds City Region.

Women Empowered Through Coaching and Networking (#WECAN) is a three-year, £1.7 million project supporting women to build on their leadership skills, capabilities and opportunities.
Led by Leeds Beckett University and working in partnership with Edge Hill University and SEYH (Social Enterprise Yorkshire and Humber), #WECAN is welcoming applications from women in the Leeds City Region who are either self-employed, or working for a Small or Medium Enterprise (SME) or social enterprise.

WECAN offers funded support and training to businesses and their women employees to help their progress into and within leadership roles. The programme works to identify participants’ existing skills, current barriers, and future opportunities in order to create an individualised flexible plan.

The project is funded through the European Social Fund with support from the Department of Work and Pensions and aims to improve outcomes for SMEs in the region through collaborative working and knowledge exchange, increasing productivity and boosting the local economy.

WECAN is led by a team of academics and professional development specialists from the Leadership Centre within Leeds Business School, alongside academic experts at Edge Hill University.

Dr Martina Topic (pictured), Senior Lecturer at Leeds Beckett University and #WECAN research lead said: “#WECAN provides a valuable opportunity to women who want to foster career development, as the two teams at Leeds Beckett and Edge Hill are offering coaching training, masterclass sessions and bespoke training based on identified needs. There is something for every woman in the project, whether becoming a coach, obtaining a leadership certificate or upskilling through sessions improving technical and promotional skills, communication, etc. #WECAN does not discriminate and we invite women of all origins and all career aspirations to explore the project and take on this unique opportunity.”

Professor Anastasia Konstantopoulou, Associate Dean for Learning and Teaching in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Edge Hill University said: “#WECAN presents a unique opportunity for SMEs in the Leeds City Region to tap into and maximise the potential of their female employees by enhancing their professional roles and supporting them in their career progression. We’re very excited to now be launching recruitment for the project and to welcome the first cohort of talented women from across the region who want to unlock their potential.

“Edge Hill University has a long and proud history of championing and empowering women, which can be traced back to our origins as the first non-denominational teacher training college for women in England. We believe that #WECAN will continue to build on the legacy created by our community of women, past and present, who have paved the way to inspire future generations of women leaders.”

Professor George Lodorfos, Dean of Leeds Business School, said: “At Leeds Business School we recognise the incredibly important role which small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) play in the Leeds City Region and the significant contribution they make to our economy. We are committed to supporting SMEs across the region to sustainably scale-up and grow, and we truly believe that their resilience and growth can be enhanced by maximising the untapped potential of women in leadership positions.”

If you are interested in supporting women employees to progress into or develop in leadership and management roles, full details are available in the forthcoming edition of Yorkshire Businesswoman magazine, which will also be available online from 2 September.