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The Female Lead – Inspiring The Next Generation of Women In Business

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AT UA92, WE ARE FORTUNATE TO BE SURROUNDED BY EXCEPTIONAL FEMALE ROLE MODELS, WHO ARE INSPIRING THE NEXT GENERATION OF WOMEN IN BUSINESS.

Guest blog by BA Media and Communications students, and UA92 Insider podcast hosts Beth Cooper and Asila Tuan Farezuddeen Ahmad. We invited Sara Prowse (UA92 CEO) and Dr Marnie Millard OBE (UA92 Chair of Board) for a chat on our podcast series ‘UA92 Insider’, about creating opportunities for future female leaders, and levelling up the playing field so more women can follow in their footsteps...

INSIDERS: What’s your go to place in Manchester?

SP: There are so many amazing places in Manchester but I particularly love the Manchester Art Gallery.

MM: I love Manchester Cathedral. It’s right on the border of Manchester and Salford, which is where Vimto was born.

Marnie’s obvious love of Vimto comes from her time as CEO of Nichols PLC, and a notable career in the soft drinks industry, which spans over 25 years. Her contribution to International Trade in the North West led to her being awarded an OBE in 2018. Marnie recalls;

MM: When I was presented my OBE at Buckingham Palace, I was thrilled when Prince William awarded my honor. But then he told me that he was brought up on Ribena. I still can’t believe the future King of England has never tried Vimto.

SP: You should send him a crate of it [laughs]

Sara was an absolute powerhouse in the consumer retail space. With a remarkable career that spans 30 years, working for big-name brands such as Debenhams, River Island, Hotter Shoes and Shop Direct. She explains what brought her to UA92;

SP: It was a deliberately different choice for me. It was about wanting to do something very different and use my consumer skills and experience within the higher education sector. Strangely, I’ve found there are a lot of similarities.

MM: I’ve found that too. At Vimto we were always striving to be ‘refreshingly different’ and stand up to some of the big names in the drinks industry. UA92’s concept is to be ‘deliberately different’.

We could happily sit and listen to them talk about their incredible careers for hours. The stories are fascinating, and you learn so much from their experiences. But it’s never all plain sailing, so we asked Sara and Marnie to reflect on the challenges they’ve faced.

SP: I’ve been lucky in that I’ve never felt any barrier in terms of my gender. The companies I have worked for have always been progressive in that respect. There have been occasions throughout my career where I’ve had, what they call, imposter syndrome, particularly if it’s a male-dominated environment. You start to think ‘am I right’, ‘should I be here’ and ‘do I have the experience’. What I’d say to the next generation is, be confident in yourself and don’t feel that bias. You’re there for a reason.

MM: I still find networking challenging. It’s something I’ve had to push myself to do. But it’s so important and I’ve found many opportunities have come through my network.

UA92 empowers you to go beyond your comfort zone. The UA92 Insider podcast is a prime example. We wouldn’t have had the confidence to present a podcast when we first started, but now we’ve got a show we are really proud of.

MM: It makes me proud to sit here with you and know you’re almost ready to fly the nest, so to speak, as our first set of graduates. You’re part of the DNA now and you make this place what it is. Not just achieving academically but growing as people.

SP: I am really looking forward to our first graduation. That’ll be a special moment.

Before we sign off, we ask for any final words of wisdom and we are not disappointed.

SP: Before you can be a leader of people you need to be a leader of yourself. That’s why Character and Personal Development at UA92 is so important.

MM: It’s helpful if you say yes more than you say no. Be determined to achieve what you want to do. Always be curious and ready to learn, whatever age you are.

Want to hear more? Listen to the UA92 Insider Podcast in full here.

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