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Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day – looking back at NTU’s successful Women in Leadership course

In recognition of Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day, Nottingham Trent University (NTU) has been taking a look back at some of our successes in supporting women working in local businesses.

Women in Leadership online learners
Women in Leadership online learners

This support is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund

In recognition and celebration of Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day, Nottingham Trent University (NTU) has been taking a look back at some of our successes in supporting women working in local businesses through the High Level Skills programme.

Women's History Month runs throughout March, and International Women's Day takes place on Monday 8 March, with this year's theme being #ChooseToChallenge, a call to action to challenge gender bias and inequality based on the idea that from challenge comes change.

Since January 2019, NTU has delivered a Women in Leadership course for current or aspiring women managers and leaders in small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). The course is part-funded by the European Social Fund (ESF).

Based on the well-respected Managing People and Organisations module of our Executive MBA programme, our team in Nottingham Business School (NBS) has integrated their vast experience in leadership in business and incorporated the latest thinking about women in leadership, creating a unique and tailored course.

From the beginning, the course was designed with accessibility in mind to ensure that women from different socioeconomic backgrounds and varying levels of experience in education would be encouraged to participate. Individual courses were also structured to allow for maximum engagement for those who had additional responsibilities such as caring for children or other relatives, that have traditionally been barriers to participation.

Over two years later, NBS have now delivered 17 course cohorts and 380 coaching sessions, supporting 269 women from SMEs across Derby, Derbyshire, Nottingham and Nottinghamshire (D2N2).

Looking back, Dr Suzanne Ross, Senior Lecturer in Nottingham Business School, and course leader says: “We have been able to support women managers and leaders to address critical issues facing leaders in SMEs today.

“The supportive and collaborative environment, together with individual coaching, has enabled our participants to develop their confidence and authenticity as leaders. It is so important that we see women leader role models in our organisations and communities, and we are delighted to see this happening with our participants.”

From the beginning, feedback has been positive from the women taking part, especially about the knowledge of our course leaders and the positive steps they felt they could make in their businesses and professional lives.

Tamika Martin, Ucreate PR

Tamika Martin, managing director of Ucreate PR

Tamika heard about the course through word-of-mouth after involvement in other projects at NTU. She says:

“I wanted to sign up straight away. The support was great and I really enjoyed the examination of the culture of leadership roles and equality from a historical perspective, how that translates into today’s business world, and the complexities that come with being a BAME woman in leadership.

“Since the course, I’ve gone on to make some immediate and big changes in my business. We’ve grown from a team of one to a team of six, we’ve got ourselves an office, and I’m currently developing a new project on Black history for children in Key Stages 2 and 3.”

You can read Tamika’s full case study on our website.

The course has also helped to incite some immediate changes for longer-serving managers.

Karen Feely from Nottingham Women's Centre
Karen Feely, Nottingham Women's Centre

Karen Feely, operations manager at Nottingham Women's Centre

Karen is responsible for the delivery of a number of funded projects at the centre, which supports women at various stages of their lives. This includes support for those in financial crises, and women who want to access training, work and education opportunities.

Karen says: “I have been managing people for five or six years, and wanted to make sure I was doing the best I could for those people. If they feel cared about, that makes all the difference.

“I’ve already implemented a new process where I’ll sit with my staff and try to understand the best ways of working together. I’ve also come up with six recommendations about what the organisation can do to continue growth and change, which I hope is going to make a big difference.”

You can read Karen’s full case study on our website.

Reflecting on the course’s success in reaching and engaging women from a range of backgrounds, Melanie Curry, Deputy Dean of Nottingham Business School, said: “The Women in Leadership project was designed to support, nurture and encourage women from diverse backgrounds to further develop their understanding of management and leadership.

“It is important that the course not only provides key insights, but also offers follow up individual coaching to enable participants to reach their goals and aspirations. It has been a privilege to see the participants grow in confidence and wanting to make a difference in their work and communities.”

COVID-19 and going virtual

Since March 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused organisations across the world to re-think the way that they operate, and the Women in Leadership course was no exception.

Following a review of the course content and delivery the team were able to switch to online delivery from summer 2020, continue providing impactful support, and actually support widening participation.

Dr Lynn Oxborrow, Associate Professor in Management, has been a driving force of the course within NBS, and says: “The popularity of this programme has exposed a real need for women to have the opportunity to enhance their leadership confidence.

“Moving the module online has enabled the team to widen the opportunity to participate, enabling women who might otherwise feel isolated in their role to learn new leadership skills, while also surprising themselves in their ability to network and collaborate virtually.”

The impact of this change has been highlighted in the case of Helen from Tank PR, who also runs her own yoga business.

Helen Snugg Yoga
Helen, Tank PR and Snugg Yoga

Helen, senior account manager at Tank PR and founder of Snugg Yoga

Helen enrolled and completed the Women in Leadership course just before the COVID-19 pandemic caused widespread restrictions across the UK. When we spoke to her, she praised how the course has enabled her to think differently about her own business that she was focusing on while in lockdown.

“The whole course was fascinating but, for me, the best part was about the career coaching [which] has pushed me to think more strategically about my own business and how to grow it financially.”

At the time she was exploring growing her yoga class frequency, and forging relationships with charities to achieve her goal of offering yoga and meditation classes to those in palliative care, as well as local businesses and their staff.

You can read Helen’s full case study on our website.

What's in the future?

Although the current Women in Leadership course is due to end in spring 2021, NTU have been successful in securing further funding to deliver two new projects that will have a management and leadership focus for local businesses.

Focusing on leadership and management in SMEs, these projects will continue to support women aspiring to develop in this area through accredited training opportunities at NTU.

You can also find out more about the wider support available from NTU at by signing up to our commercial newsletter, or following us on LinkedIn and Twitter.

  • Notes for editors

    For media enquiries, please contact Joe Boultby-Ward, ESF Marketing Manager by email or on +44 (0)115 878 8899.

    • The High Level Skills programme is part-funded by the European Social Fund (ESF) and is made up of two complementary projects – Priority Skills for D2N2 SMEs, and GRADS for D2N2.
    • The projects have received £2,201,163 (Priority Skills for D2N2 SMEs) and £7,360,994 (GRADS for D2N2) of funding from the European Social Fund as part of the 2014-2020 European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme in England.
    • The Department for Work and Pensions (and in London the intermediate body Greater London Authority) is the Managing Authority for the English European Social Fund programme.
    • Established by the European Union, the European Social Fund helps local areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects which will support skills development, employment and job creation, social inclusion and local community regenerations.
    • For more information, visit
Published on 1 March 2021
  • Category: Business