We our proud to announce the judges for WeAreTheCity’s Top 50 Rising Stars.   All of our judges have been carefully selected based on their industry experience and their passion to inspire future role models.

On behalf of WeAreTheCity, our sponsors and nominees we would like to sincerely thank all of our judges for donating their time to judge these awards.

Judging the top 10 shortlist for each category:


[gdlr_accordion style=”style-1″ initial=”0″]
[gdlr_tab title=”Paul Sesay – CEO & Founder, National Diversity Awards”]

Paul Sesay profile imagePaul Sesay is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of The National Diversity Awards, The Excellence in Diversity Awards, The Diversity Group and events company I Spoil U Media Limited since 2006. Paul’s business acumen has mainly been with a social focus.

With over ten years worth of experience within the Diversity, Equality and Inclusion sector, Paul has worked with some of the largest organisations in the world on their diversity and inclusion profiles. He has also worked within local communities to help people from various backgrounds to achieve and empower disadvantaged groups throughout the UK. Paul’s initiatives have helped many thousands of organisations and individuals get recognised for their hard work and dedication to diversity.

As well as putting together several other diversity initiatives, Paul participates in school workshops, which have been set up with the aim of encouraging thousands of kids from inner city areas to realise their career potential.

Paul’s initiative, The National Diversity Awards, was set up to showcase Positive Role Models and Community Organisations and over the past 3 years had generated more than 50,000 nominations from right across the UK. Paul is also the founder of The Excellence in Diversity Awards, which reward companies that are fully inclusive across the UK, and bridge a gap between organisations and the community so organisations can recruit from communities that they find difficult to reach.

I’m honoured to have been asked to become a member of the judging panel for The 2015 Rising Stars Awards. It is a fantastic way of highlighting and promoting young female talent within the corporate world, paving the way for a new generation of future leaders and inspirational game changers

[gdlr_tab title=”Simone Roche – CEO, Founder, NorthernPowerWomen”]

Simone RocheSimone Roche is licensee of TEDx Whitehall Women, founder of NorthernPowerWomen, Managing Director of Events 1st and Director of Women 1st. She is the driving force behind Northern Power Women, which will support the drive to close the economic gap between north and south and create a northern powerhouse of jobs, investment, prosperity and bright futures.

Simone is passionate about connecting people and bringing about positive change. She is also a champion for Government Equalities Office, Think Act Report, Board Director Association of Women Travel Executives & Co-Chair Department for Culture Media & Sport collaboration network.

Simone began her career in the Royal Navy, where she spent nearly four years as a radio operator before being promoted to lieutenant. Simone’s time in the Navy gave her the discipline and commitment to succeed in management roles at Aintree Racecourse, Southport Theatre and Floral Hall Complex, Blackpool Pleasure Beach and the ACC Liverpool Arena as it was undergoing construction for Liverpool’s year as European ‘Capital of Culture’. Simone’s professional background also includes roles at People 1st and LOCOG (the London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games and Paralympics), where she looked after the sponsors and transport logistics.

The Top 50 Rising Star awards is a welcome and much needed celebration of female talent and I am delighted to be a judge in this inaugural event. It is essential we invest in our future and through these awards we now have a way to make these inspirational women visible for others to see as role models across all industries.



[gdlr_tab title=”Birgit Neu – MD of diversity and culture change consultancy Neuchange and co-chair, The Network of Networks (TNON) for Gender.”]

Birgit NeuPrior to launching Neuchange, she was Head of Private Banking Initiative in Global Commercial Banking at HSBC, and also held COO roles within Corporate Communications & Marketing and Corporate Development in HSBC’s Global Banking and Markets business.  At HSBC she was a founder of its “Balance” employee network and a founding member of the Women on the Wharf initiative.  Previous financial services roles include communications at Atos Euronext Market Solutions (now NYSE Technologies) and business development at Instinet.  Outside of financial services Birgit was UK Director for the Center for Talent Innovation and has also worked in digital agencies, book publishing, and retail management.

Birgit is also a trustee for the legal charity Advocates for International Development (A4ID), a leadership committee member for the LGBT financial services initiative Out on the Street. and she writes a weekly career advice column for Harper’s Bazaar UK.

Through The Network of Networks for Gender, we know that more effort is still required on multiple fronts so more women rise all the way up through their organisations for better gender balance at the top.  The Rising Star Awards provide a brilliant new opportunity for women below management level to be recognised for their talent in their industries and for their contributions to broader society.  It’s also a great opportunity for their industries to get more visibility to what a fantastic female talent pool they have to promote from!


[gdlr_tab title=”Jo Gaglani – Co-Chair – WeAreTheCity India”]

Jo GaglaniHaving worked in UK as a Communications Consultant for over a decade, with numerous management teams to define and implement communications strategies relevant to the particular business including T-Mobile, Symantec, Cisco Systems, BT Operate, Accenture and Vodafone group Jo Gaglani ventured in the Spa world to set up her own business in India.

Her knowledge in the spa business in terms of products, formulations, training, marketing and connections with top hotel chains has enabled her to provide a unique platform for international beauty brands that wish to enter the growing Indian Market.

Gaglani works with international brands that want to enter the Indian market with their registration, route to market strategy and manages their key accounts in India.  Her company represents leading brands such as Aromatherapy Associates, The Refinery and Iford Manor Collection. Clients include JW Marriott Sahar, Ravissant, Park Hyatt Hyderabad, The Leela group, Jean Claude Biguine – Paris to name a few.


Judging the top 5 winners for each category:


[gdlr_accordion style=”style-1″ initial=”0″]
[gdlr_tab title=”Heather Melville – Director for Strategic Partnerships, RBS & Global Chair of RBS Focused Women”]

Heather MelivilleHeather Melville was appointed as the Director for Strategic Partnerships in 2013, a role that will see her leveraging her vast global client relationships together with her sector specialism especially within the Retail and Textile industry.

A graduate of the IBM business school, together with a wealth of international experience secured over a 36 year career in the world of finance, with the last 7 years primarily focused on the SME client base, positions her in a strong place to meet the evolving global challenges of our clients.

Heather is also the Founder and Global Chair of the RBS Focused Women’s Network, which is managed by volunteers and today has Circ 12,000 members in 33 countries. She also sits on a number of internal and external diversity boards and in 2010 was awarded the prestigious Women in Banking & Finance Award for Achievement, under the category of Champion for Women. In 2012, she was awarded the World of Difference 100 Award (TIAW) recognising her as one of the top 100 women worldwide who have made a difference to the economic empowerment of women.

Outside of the financial industry, Heather mentors and coaches young women and recently took part in the governments Parligender cross mentoring scheme. Heather also serves as a JP, and represents RBS as a Non-Exec Director for Enterprise Enfield, a business consultancy funded by the Government to help small businesses. She is also a Career Coach, having completed an executive coaching programme. As an established speaker, Heather also regularly speaks at number of global forums. In June 2015, Heather was also invited to join Everywoman’s prestigious Corporate Advisory Board.

Heather is a mother of 2 sons and a grandmother of 4 girls and also enjoys driving fast cars!

I’m delighted to have been asked to be one of the judges for this years We Are The City Top 50 Awards. This is a wonderful initiative showcasing the very best female talent across all industries. We hope that by raising the profile of our short list and winners, we’ll also encourage organisations to consider how they strengthen the development of their female pipeline in the future


[gdlr_tab title=”India Gary-Martin – Ex-Chief Operating Officer, Technology & Ops, Entrepreneur”]

India Gary MartinIndia Gary-Martin’s career in Financial Services spanned twenty five years and three continents; North America, Europe and Asia. She worked at some of the world’s leading financial services firms including Deutsche Bank and JPMorgan. During her Investment Banking career, India held a number of CIO and COO roles both regionally and globally. She has significant expertise in mergers, integration and growing new businesses. In her final role at JPMorgan, India was Managing Director and Chief Operating Officer of the Investment Bank’s 15,000 person Global Technology and Operations division.

For her work regarding women on boards, India has appeared on BBC Breakfast, BBC Newsnight, Women’s Hour, Radio 4 and Bloomberg TV. During the course of her career, India has been awarded numerous awards including: Outstanding Contribution to Diversity (Women in Banking and Finance); World of Difference 100 (TIAW); and the Top 50 Business Women in Europe (WIE). India has also featured for multiple years on the Powerlist100 (100 most influential people of colour in the UK). She is the former Chair of the Board of Trustees of Making the LEAP Charity, the President Emeritus of the City Women’s Network and is a steering member of the British Red Cross’ Tiffany Circle.

Focus on the pipeline is integral to growing women into senior management roles. I am a huge advocate of women on boards but I’d like to see targets placed where they will have huge impact and that is at the middle management layer. Let’s address the problem at its root. The We Are The City awards recognises women who are in the layer that we need to support. It is a wonderful mechanism to push women forward but also a starting point to focus on sustainable change.


[gdlr_tab title=”Kayleigh Bateman –  Editor, Computer Weekly”]

Kayleigh BatemanKayleigh Bateman is the special projects editor for Computer Weekly and editor of CW Europe. She covers stories about women in technology, IT education, skills, jobs, recruitment and startups. She looks after Computer Weekly’s Top 25 Most Influential Women in UK IT list and event and manages the site’s women in IT blog WITsend. She is also responsible for the CW European User Awards. Kayleigh has a BA in English literature, journalism and media cultures. In her spare time she is learning web development, visualisation and data journalism.

WeAreTheCity’s Top 50 Rising Star Awards highlight the incredible up and coming female talent in this country, making the necessary space to show case those who are yet to reach senior positions. I am delighted to be involved with these awards and excited to review entries from so many gifted future leaders.

[gdlr_tab title=”Catherine Spencer –  Ex England Women’s Rugby Captain & founder of Inspiring Women”]

Catherine Spencer

Catherine is a former England International Rugby player and captain having won 63 caps for her country. She played in two World Cup finals, eight 6 Nations championships, as well as a number of Nations Cup competitions and European Cup tournaments. She won England player of the year in 2006 and picked up the Rugby Union Writers Club Award in 2010 recognising outstanding achievements within the sport both on and off the pitch; in 2011 Catherine was awarded the Linda Utley Award marking outstanding contribution to sport away from the pitch.

Since international retirement in 2011 Catherine has developed her career away from the sports pitch using the skills and experience gained as an International athlete and captain. After 4 years working for a Leisure Trust and  3 and a half years working for the Rugby Football Union alongside her playing career she left employment to set up and establish her own company called Inspiring Women.

Inspiring Women is a platform to encourage female speakers, mentors and ambassadors from the sports and adventure world to provide insight and share valuable lessons learnt with the business world.  Alongside this Catherine also regularly undertakes a number of different media engagements including regular studio pundit work with Sky Sports throughout the Women’s Rugby World Cup; she has also had her own articles published in the Independent on Sunday and Sports International Magazine as well as contributing to the Sunday Times.

With experience in international leadership, elite performance, goal setting, confidence building, sport to business transition, re-motivating and challenging Catherine has learnt to love telling her story and has come to understand and recognise the value of sharing skills and experience from the sports world to the business world.

I feel extremely honoured and proud to be on the judging panel for the We Are the City Rising Stars award. As a former International Rugby Captain I understand the need to nurture leadership development over a period of time but I also know that reward and recognition of developing talent is key throughout this process. I am really excited to read about the nominations throughout the different categories and I have no doubt that I will be inspired, motivated and encouraged by what I read


[gdlr_tab title=”Sarah Boddey – Head of Diversity and Inclusion, AIG”]

Sarah_Boddey_AIGSarah joined AIG in September 2013 and is responsible for the strategy and implementation of a wide variety of diversity and inclusion programmes and initiatives in the Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region. As part of the Global Office of Diversity & Inclusion she is responsible for supporting the business to recruit, develop and retain a diverse and inclusive workforce.

Before joining AIG, Sarah headed up the Diversity and Inclusion team at Barclays Wealth and Investment Management. Prior to this she held a variety of HR roles at US investment bank Morgan Stanley and law firm Simmons & Simmons.

Sarah holds a BA in International Management and Business Administration with German from the University of Reading. Additionally she holds an MSc in Human Resource Management and an MBA from the Open University.

She is a Fellow of the CIPD (Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development) and is bilingual English/German. Sarah is also a Magistrate, serving in the East London Local Justice Area across three Magistrates’ Courts. Additionally she sits on the board of the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts, advising them on diversity and inclusion.

I’m delighted to be judging these awards – stars can be found at every level in an organization, it’s fantastic that We Are The City have recognized this by honoring talented women of any age in the levels below management


[gdlr_tab title=”Jo Glynn Smith – Retail Director at Harper’s Bazaar”]

JoJo Glynn-Smith is the Retail Director at Harper’s Bazaar and Program Director for Bazaar at Work. She writes a monthly work style column called Work Book, a weekly online column called Work it Out and hosts numerous Bazaar and Bazaar at Work events. Jo also works as an independent retail consultant, educating, motivating and inspiring staff through her bespoke style guides, trend talks and styling workshops www.joglynnsmith.com.

In my job we try to promote as many women as we can from all walks of life, but often it’s the ones who have already ‘made it’ that get the column inches.  I was honoured to be asked to be part of this panel so that we can recognise the up-and-coming stars and future achievers which will hopefully inspire a new generation of game changers


[gdlr_tab title=”Tanya Channing – HR Director, Worldpay”]

Tanya ChanningTanya is HR Director for Group Technology and Engineering and joined Worldpay in May 2011 as Organisational Capability Director.  Prior to this she was HR Director for North West Europe for Burger King Corporation.  Tanya has over ten years experience in both generalist HR and specialist leadership roles within organisation change, culture and leadership development.  She spent the earlier part of her career in various HR roles in the Omnicom Group (Global Advertising & Marketing Communications) and at Red Bull (FMCG).  Tanya holds a degree in Japanese from Durham University.

I’m honoured and excited to be involved with judging the Rising Star awards. It’s a fantastic platform for up and coming future leaders to showcase their abilities and achievements so far in their careers. They should all be proud to have achieved all that they have so far and I look forward to watching their careers progress from here.


[gdlr_tab title=”Funke Abimbola – Managing Counsel, Roche UK (UK & Ireland)”]

FunkeFunke Abimbola is Managing Counsel (UK & Ireland) for Roche, leading the legal team that supports Roche’s pharmaceutical operations in the UK, Ireland, Malta and Gibraltar.  She is also Data Privacy Officer for the UK.   She is a practising solicitor who graduated from Newcastle Law School with honours and is qualified to practice law both in Nigeria and in England & Wales.

A recognised legal expert working within the UK life sciences sector (Legal 500, Chambers directory, Who’s who in the Law, Black Letter Law publication, GC Powerlist etc..), Funke is also a notable diversity champion within the UK legal industry. She has received multiple awards, nominations and other recognition for both her legal and her diversity work.

A renowned public speaker, she speaks regularly at legal and diversity conferences in the UK and abroad. She speaks to and advises state school students as part of Speakers for Schools and also supports University students as a Professional Ambassador for Aspiring Solicitors, an organisation devoted to breaking down entry-level barriers for future solicitors from under-represented groups. She is an experienced and expert mentor and sponsor.

Funke is passionate about the law, diversity, education and the healthcare sector. She is a keen fundraiser for various charities including Cancer Research UK and Rennie Grove Hospice, has served as a school governor in the past and is a former board director of Luton City Growth, a government-backed economic regeneration project in the Luton and surrounding area.

It is a real privilege to be judging the first ever WeAreTheCity ‘Rising Star’ awards. Supporting, encouraging and recognizing the pipeline of future female leaders is the absolute bedrock of nurturing and harnessing talent.


[gdlr_tab title=”Victoria Darragh –  Award Winning Executive Assistant, Hays PLC”]

Victoria DarraghVictoria Darragh is a multi-award winning PA – ‘Outstanding Contribution to the PA Profession 2011’.  She is currently Executive Assistant to Group CEO and Group Finance Director at Hays PLC. In addition to this is also the Co-Founder of the Hays PA Network – an internal PA network for the PAs within the Hays business, which shares best practice and common goals amongst the group. Victoria has organised events for PAs and been involved in the wider industry for the last 12 years.  In December 2015, she will be leaving her career as an Executive Assistant to take up the CEO position of EPAA – Executive & Personal Assistants Association.  EPAA will be dedicated to raising the profile and championing the rights of EAs and PAs across the UK.

I am absolutely delighted to be a judge on these very special and inaugural awards.  For me personally, I am even more excited that my own profession is counted amongst the UK’s Rising Female Talent Pipeline – as Executive & Personal Assistants this is a dream for us!  My profession is currently 97% female to 3% male and one of the most female dominated professions in the UK.  Whilst we hope to change that over the coming years, for now it is thrilling to know that we count amongst the working world and these awards indeed recognise our contribution.


[gdlr_tab title=”Duncan McRae –  Director, Flying Colours Marketing and Advertising Director, Brummell”]

DuncanStarting his working life as the only man at SHE magazine, Duncan then spent 13 years at The Economist under CEOs Marjorie Scardino then Helen Alexander. In 2006 he conceived and launched the highly successful Brummell magazine for City professionals, distributed with Financial News. In 2010 Duncan launched Flying Colours Marketing to create stylish networking events ‘bringing the world of luxury to the City’. Simultaneously he formed the ‘Top Women in the City’ networking group with six “champions”, which five years and 20 networking events later numbers 600 of the most influential women in Banking and Finance. Now a husband and wife team (Duncan calls it the “50% Club”), Flying Colours creates fun and informative networking events for the Top Women in the City, as well as City men, young high-fliers, EAs and PAs, LGBT networks, Chinese City networks, Women’s networks, banks and alumnae.

In 2012 Duncan launched the annual ‘Inspirational Women in the City’ series for Brummell’s new owners Show Media. These have included ‘Inspirational Women in the City, Inspirational Women on Boards and Inspirational Women Entrepreneurs’ to showcase some of the most successful women currently working in the City, in the hope of inspiring other women (and men) to do similarly good things.  Duncan is currently coordinating and researching the ‘Brummell Inspirational Women Champions of Diversity’ to be published in September.

I am delighted to be judging WeAreTheCity’s Top 50 Rising Star awards.   I am passionate about developing young people’s careers in the City of London, particularly those women who are in the pipeline and on their way to senior roles. There are so many amazingly talented and driven young women who are making a real difference within our companies, it will be great for these individuals to be recognised.


[gdlr_tab title=”Nicola Brown –  Global Installations and Customer Support Manager, Bloomberg”]

Nicola Brown-BloombergNicola Brown is the Global Installations and Customer Support Manager at Bloomberg, as well as the Co-chair of the Bloomberg Women’s Community in London. She has over 10 years of management experience in the Technical  Operations arena, managing teams across the globe.


As part of my role as Global Manager, I have opportunities on a daily basis to promote women within our organisation. As Co-chair of the Bloomberg Women’s Community in London, I feel it is part of my responsibility to be doing this. Diversity within teams and across regions is extremely important in understanding our customer needs, in order for us to deliver the excellent customer service that is critical to the success of our business.  It will be great to be part of the panel which will recognise so many achievements and create positive role models for the next generation of inspiring leaders.






Rising Star-2015-logo