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Women of the Year Awards celebrates inspirational women from the fields of health, tech and music in a unique virtual afternoon tea event that paid tribute to key workers and NHS staff.

Women of the Year hosted their 66th annual event online, to recognise and celebrate 400 women from across the UK who have achieved remarkable things this year. The event champions women from all walks of life and each guest is nominated by a member of the Women of the Year Council in recognition of her personal achievement or inspiration and attends the gathering as a ‘Woman of the Year’.

Five of these outstanding women were honoured with Women of the Year Awards for their selfless dedication to their fields of work. Special honours went to:

  • Sylvia Mac, burns survivor and body confidence activist;
  • Poppy Gustafsson OBE, cyber-security CEO;
  • Adwoa Dickson and the Amies Freedom Choir;
  • Julie Budge, domestic abuse activist;
  • and Joan Armatrading CBE, legendary British musician.

The event was hosted by celebrated actor, comedian and TV presenter Mel Giedroyc, and awards were presented by TV presenter Lorraine Kelly CBE, actor Georgina Campbell, and actor and presenter Tamzin Outhwaite in a small pre-recorded studio setup at Anna Valley Studios in Feltham in October.

400 women tuned in for the virtual celebration this afternoon, joining together for an Afternoon Tea and honouring the achievements of so many. 200 years after Florence Nightingale’s birth, 2020 has proven to be the ‘Year of the Nurse’ in more ways than one, and Women of the Year paid tribute to key workers, charity workers and NHS staff who have had to work so hard to keep us going through the pandemic, many of whom joined this afternoon.

Notable figures who joined the tea included Julie Bailey CBE, Cure the NHS; Dame Carol Black, Adviser to NHSI and PHE on Health and Work; Dame Louise Casey, Chair of the Institute for Global Homelessness; Manjit Darby, Director of Nursing; Lizzy Hall, Founder of The Hygiene Bank; Dr Jennifer Harries OBE, Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Department of Health and Social Care; Dame Donna Kinnair, Chief Executive and General Secretary, Royal College of Nursing; Ruth May, Chief Nursing Officer for England; Julie Platten, Chair, Critical Care Networks National Nurse Leads and Gillian Prager, President of the Nightingale Fellowship.

Other high profile figures joining the afternoon’s celebration included Sonita Alleyne OBE, Master of Jesus College Cambridge; Edith Bowman, broadcaster; Vicky Featherstone Artistic Director, Royal Court Theatre; Celia Imrie, actor; Lynette Linton, Artistic Director, Bush Theatre; Abi Morgan, writer; Dame Esther Ranzen DBE, broadcaster and campaigner; Claire Teal, musician and broadcaster, and Charity Wakefield, actor.

Adwoa Dickson accepted the The Women of the Year Community Spirit Award, presented by Lorraine Kelly, for her work with Amies Freedom Choir. The unique choir aims to develop the musical and cultural awareness of young women who have survived trafficking, by exploring songs and musical styles from each others’ cultures and languages.

Adwoa Dickson said, “I am overjoyed that the women of the Amies Freedom Choir have won The Woman of the Year Community Spirit Award 2020. It pays great tribute to the resilience and determination of our participants who have overcome so many obstacles and despite facing such adversity, find the strength to build beautiful friendships by coming together to sing.”

Vodafone’s Woman of the Year Innovation Award was presented by last year’s winner Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock MBE, to Poppy Gustafsson OBE, Chief Executive and Co-Founder of Darktrace. Darktrace is a cyber-security firm which provides governments and companies with tools to fight digital bad guys, many of whom work on behalf of hostile nations. The importance of Poppy’s work has been highlighted this year, with the pandemic raising the threat of cyber attacks to critical levels as remote workers are targeted by increasingly elaborate scams, and hackers preying on loneliness and desire for information.

Poppy Gustafsson said, “I am honoured to receive Vodafone’s Woman of the Year Technology and Innovation Award. The phenomenal success that Darktrace is experiencing is testament to the passion, fearlessness and hard work of our brilliant team of over 1,300 employees, which is over 40% female strong, as well as the world-class mathematicians behind our autonomous response technology. It is an honour every day to lead an organisation committed to solving the cyber challenge with cutting edge innovation.”

Anne Sheehan, Business Director, Vodafone UK said, “We were delighted to present the Women of Technology and Innovation Award to Poppy Gustafsson OBE. She is such an inspiring person and her work in cyber security – an area that has become so integral to businesses – is incredible. We hope Poppy’s success will inspire more women to pursue careers in this important area of technology.”

Founder and CEO of My Sisters’ House, Julie Budge accepted The Barclays Woman in the Community Award from actor Georgina Campbell. My Sisters’ House is a sanctuary for domestic abuse survivors and women’s support centre, embedded in the Bognor Regis community but working across the coastal area of West Sussex. As a result of the sharp rise in domestic abuse cases over lockdown, the work of organisations like My Sisters’ House is more vital than ever.

Julie Budge said “I am both honoured and proud to receive The Barclays Woman in the Community Award. It has been the most amazing journey so far from an idea around my kitchen table in 2014 to the Women’s Centre we have today. This would not have been achieved without all of the incredible women who have been part of our journey, either volunteering or working for us or indeed the 1,300 women who have accessed our centre. The need for our services is even more important today than ever before and it is vital that more women centres like ours exist in every town.”

Jes Staley, Barclays Group CEO said: “Gender equality is of upmost importance to all of us at Barclays and we are proud to be part of these awards which celebrate extraordinary women and their remarkable contributions to society. This is especially pertinent in a year where many have faced great hardship, and we applaud both this year’s winner, Julie Budge, and the outstanding nominees for their steadfast commitment to ensuring help reaches those most in need in our communities.”

Body-Equality Activist and Child burns survivor Sylvia Mac accepted the The Boots Wellness Warrior Award from Tamzin Outhwaite. As a child, Sylvia was burned and subsequently scarred down her back after falling into a bowl of boiling water – today, she campaigns to challenge the fashion industry, media and society to represent and accept people who look “different” through her ‘Love Disfigure’ work.

Sylvia Mac said, “I am proud and honoured to receive a The Boots Wellness Warrior, Woman Of The Year Award. I hope this award can show all those women who struggle with their mental health as I did for many years, that anything is achievable.”

Helen Normoyle, Boots UK Marketing Director and Women of the Year judging panellist said: “All of us at Boots are proud to champion the achievements of diverse real women and we are delighted to sponsor the Wellness Warrior Award for the second year in a row. Sylvia is hugely inspirational and her dedication to campaigning really stood out. We have offered Sylvia a mentorship and a day with our specialists in our inhouse content agency to help Sylvia to take Love Disfigure to the next level, and plan for how we work together in the future.”

Finally, the Women of the Year Lifetime Achievement Award 2020 went to British musical legend Joan Armatrading CBE. A three-time Grammy Award nominee, Armatrading has also been nominated twice for the Best Female Artist BRIT Award, and received an Ivor Novello Award for Outstanding Contemporary Song Collection in 1996. In a recording career spanning nearly 50 years, Armatrading has released 19 studio albums, as well as several live albums and compilations.

Joan Armatrading said, “Thank you. I’m glad I’ve lived long enough to receive a lifetime achievement award from Women of the Year and I have to say yes, I was President of Women of the Year. It’s really an honour for me to accept this award because Tony Lothian was a visionary and she had the brilliant idea of honouring very ordinary women who have done extraordinary things. From founding the first children’s hospice, to making new laws that protect women and other people. From meeting somebody like Vera Lynn who had sung to the soldiers in the war and at 100 years old having a hit record. Who does that?! It’s an amazing organisation and I’m really proud to have been a part of it and to have been able to have been a part of highlighting some of the women that Women of the Year have shown to the world. So thank you very much. It is my pleasure to accept this. Thank you.”