IWD2022 – Celebrating women who are breaking the bias at Hertfordshire LEP

07 Mar 22

From sustainability to life sciences, bridging the gap between employers and education to boosting business and regenerating our places, there are a lot of fantastic women underpinning our work.

On International Women’s Day today we are celebrating the achievements of women on our LEP Board, Programme Boards and within our Executive Team who are helping to #BreaktheBias in Hertfordshire. 

Stevenage Bioscience Catalyst CEO and LEP Board member Dr Sally Ann Forsyth was appointed OBE for services to business and science in last year’s New Year’s Honours list.

Her sterling career includes galvanising cell and gene therapy as a key sector in Hertfordshire. When she joined the Hertfordshire LEP Board in 2018, it was clear that rapidly growing companies in the new field of cell and gene technology were leaving the area due to a lack of suitable accommodation.

The LEP and Stevenage Bioscience Catalyst (SBC) worked together in a 50:50 partnership to deliver the Spark building at a cost of £2.4m, a temporary facility delivered within six months and providing the much-needed accommodation until more permanent space was in place.

Dr Forsyth OBE said: “One of Herts LEP’s priorities is maintaining and supporting the growth of internationally significant sectors, notably life sciences.

“Through collaboration and innovative thinking, the partnership between the LEP and SBC has supported these companies to stay in Stevenage. These businesses provide employment and attract significant investment to the town. They have helped to maintain Stevenage’s position as a leading location for cell and gene therapy companies in Europe.”

Since 2012, companies based at the Catalyst have attracted £2.8bn in equity investment, of which 72% has been in companies with a focus on cell and gene therapies. Research published by the LEP in 2021 shows that the total private equity investment in biotechnology raised in Stevenage between 2017 and 2020 is now similar to that of Cambridge, Oxford and London.

LEP Board member Cllr Linda Haysey has been Leader of East Herts Council since 2015.

She said: “The LEP brings together members from business, academia, and local authorities.  I’m privileged to serve as representing the districts and boroughs. The biggest achievement has been to be part of the decision-making process bringing growth and economic benefits to the residents of Hertfordshire, whether it’s approving the funding for a new bridge in Broxbourne to regeneration of Stevenage town centre.” 

The New River Bridge, Hoddesdon improved access to a business park, helping to support the local economy while the £1bn regeneration scheme for Stevenage will transform the town centre and improve its offer.

Marina Hop sits on the LEP’s Enterprise and Innovation Board and advises on innovation and investment to support sustainable business growth. She is also the founder of Viveo Consulting which supports bioscience businesses with business and marketing strategies that have impact.

“My biggest achievement as a LEP Board Enterprise and Innovation Member has been to be a voice for bioscience companies and start-ups,” Marina said.

Board member Professor Julie Newlan MBE has been Pro Vice-Chancellor (Business and International Development) of the University of Hertfordshire since 2011 while her career there began in 1996. She was appointed MBE in 2014 for her services to higher education.

 “Working with the LEP to support our SMEs during the pandemic has been my single biggest achievement as a LEP Board member,” she said. “The LEP in conjunction with the University of Hertfordshire galvanised the county and provided over 75 mentors who supported over 325 businesses. This work continues and we are now working with companies to support their growth as we move out of the pandemic.”

Tracy D’Souza is Associate Director at AECOM and leads the MEP (mechanical, electrical and plumbing) Science Sector team within Building Engineering in the South East. She leads the MEP Training & Development programme for UK&I which provides a technical training framework to support AECOM’s apprentices, graduates and developing engineers become professionally registered. She is the sponsor for AECOM’s work experience programme within the St Albans office, which provides placements to school students across a variety of engineering disciplines. Tracy has been on Hertfordshire LEP’s Skills Advisory Panel for three years and promotes engineering skills across the county.

She said: “My biggest achievement as a LEP Board member is influencing the strategic growth of engineering within Hertfordshire by providing support and advice to the board initiatives, such as developing AECOM’s profile on the LEP’s Hertfordshire Opportunities Portal website; supporting the Herts Virtual Employee Encounters; providing Enterprise Advisors to a range of schools within the county. All of these fantastic initiatives provide the ability to make engineering accessible for all young people, regardless of background.”

Helen Spencer has been with STEM educational charity SETPOINT Hertfordshire, trading as STEMPOINT East, since 1998 and became Managing Director in 2016. She is on the Steering Committee for the LEP Careers Hub and recently joined the Skills Advisory Panel.

“I am proud to help raise awareness of the diverse organisations in Hertfordshire that can provide a fulfilling career within all STEM disciplines,” she said. “The LEP’s Skills Strategy is an important way for us to work towards employment targets in the varied STEM industries that exist in Hertfordshire and to help raise awareness of the skills required for the future workforce to local students. It is my privilege to work with many inspirational people from STEM industry and academia.”

Among the LEP’s inspiring women is our team member Helen Pollock, Herts IQ Project Executive, who drives our sustainable ambitions forward through her support for businesses in reaching net zero and developing their green credentials. Helen is the author of the recently published Clean Growth Strategy for Hertfordshire.

We also have office manager Sally Stanley, who quite literally keeps us running by handling the administration of the LEP relating to finances, contract management, events, HR and recruitment, and ICT.

Sally also provides support to the LEP's Executive Team, Board and Programme Boards with the tremendous support of Mara Hubbard, our business administration assistant.

When Mara was 42, she joined the LEP as a business administration apprentice, epitomising completely our values of life-long learning, upskilling and embracing opportunities for a rewarding future at any point in your career.

These are just some of the amazing women who make up Hertfordshire LEP.  We would also like to celebrate the achievements of our other LEP Board Members:

  • Tina Barnard, CEO, Watford Community Housing and LEP Board Member
  • Cllr Sharon Taylor OBE, Leader, Stevenage Borough Council and LEP Board Member
  • Dianne Lee, Founder and Director, DRLC and LEP Board Member
  • Ceri Humphrey, Chief Financial Officer, SPIE UK, LEP Board Member and Chair, Programme Management Committee

Women leaders across business, education, local government and the charitable sector also sit on our Programme Boards which support our priority areas: Enterprise and Innovation Board; Skills Advisory Panel (formerly the Skills and Employment Board); and Enterprise Zone Partnership Board.

Finally, we would like to say thank you to all the women who make a difference every day to Hertfordshire LEP and are helping to #BreaktheBias:

  • Lucy Gravatt, Head of Communications, Hertfordshire LEP and Senior Management Team member
  • Caroline Cartwright, Head of Skills, Employment and Apprenticeships
  • Rashmi Pillai, Communications Manager
  • Vickie Holland, Assurance and Monitoring Manager
  • Lisa Bishop, Project Executive
  • Molly Curtis, Team Co-Ordinator/Project Support Officer