Interview with Simone Roche, Northern Power Women
Simone Roche is founder of Northern Power Women, a collaborative campaign that recognises the North of England as a force for good in achieving gender balance. Bringing gender equality in the workplace and female entrepreneurialism to the forefront, the campaign engages women and men in business as ‘agents of change’.
We caught up with her following last night’s Northern Power Women Awards for a quick chat about Northern Power Women and the importance of diversity in the Northern Powerhouse.
How and why did the Northern Power Women campaign start?
With more than 1,500 similar networks in London alone I was aware that the North of England – where I am from and live – should have more of a voice. Growth has been meteoric. The Northern Power Women campaign started because of the power of social media and a single tweet using #NorthernPowerWomen.
Just ahead of this I had curated Women Inspiring the Economy as part of the International Festival for Business 2014 and realised that there was something we could do collaboratively to drive change from across the North. The power of social media led the way and the Northern Power Women community is 10,000 strong today.
What benefits does a diverse workforce bring to a business?
More and more companies recognise that a strong, diverse talent pipeline is a smart way to work. It’s clear that simply increasing gender diversity in the talent pipeline encourages latent potential, increases profitability, reduces recruitment and staff turnover costs. More importantly, it contributes to a pro-social culture and reputation which is essential for building wider commercial connection and engagement. Further to this, the North of England elects our first mayors soon, which will eventually lead to Northern devolution. If we want to secure our economic future, women and men need to understand how we shape business and our work environment.
The Northern Powerhouse economy grew faster than the UK average in 2015 – 3.3 per cent – faster than the UK average of 2.6 per cent. We are making good progress, but what more do you think needs to be done to keep up the momentum?
There are some massive growth hot spots in the Northern Powerhouse right now – but to continue to compete on a UK or global basis, we need to attract and retain amazing talent and leadership. The most straightforward way to achieve this right now is to focus on strengthening the gender talent pipeline.
Today is International Women’s Day. How will you be celebrating?
We celebrate women every day, but today I am recognising and celebrating the nominees and winners of last night’s second Northern Power Women awards. It’s about recognising the fantastic achievements of individuals and organisations across the Northern Powerhouse who are accelerating equality across the North.
You hosted the Northern Power Women awards last night. Were there any winners from the awards who struck you with what they’re doing to build the Northern Powerhouse?
It was a brilliant evening with nine winners selected from more than 500 nominations as well as expanding our Future and Power lists. I’m blown away by the whole community – they are an incredible example of how ordinary women can change their small part of the world.
Simone and Northern Power Women are official Northern Powerhouse partners. To find out more about becoming a partner, contact NorthernPowerhouse@communities.gsi.gov.uk.