Nominations for the 2020 Merseyside Women of the Year (MWOTY) awards have this week officially opened, with organisers promising special celebration of a decade of exceptional women and unsung heroines from the region.
Its annual launch event at the Hope Street Hotel on Wednesday 6th November, was attended by the Lord Mayor of Liverpool Councillor Anna Rothery sponsors, as well as supporters and past winners.
At the event, MWOTY organisers Ellen Kerr and Jean Gadsby spoke of their pride in being able to provide a platform for women making a difference in Merseyside and their plans for the event’s future. Next year’s ceremony is set to take place on Friday 26th June 2020 at the Crowne Plaza in Liverpool City Centre, with nominations closing at 5pm on Wednesday 29th April 2020.
Inaugural Merseyside Woman of the Year (2003), Ellen and co-organiser, Jean, officially took over the event in 2010, transforming it into one of the most eagerly anticipated events in the city’s social calendar and creating a community affectionately known as the “MWOTY Family”.
Renowned for shining a spotlight on unsung heroines, quips from its irreverent commère, Pauline Daniels, tongue-in-cheek entertainment and emotional speeches from its winners, the event has grown in popularity and impact over the past 10 years.
“When we took over the awards we had no idea how it would grow,” said Jean. “Our only aim was to provide the region with an event that had heart. An event that allowed us to find the amazing women working hard in our community to make a difference – the ones that ask nothing for themselves – and shine a spotlight on them.”
The event has doubled in size over the past decade, with a waitlist in action ahead of last year’s sold-out event, which welcomed 500 to the Crowne Plaza.
Ellen added: “We aimed to do things differently. Small things like bringing finalists together ahead of the big event and network, providing them with free tickets instead of expecting them to buy them and allowing our winners – not just our sponsors – to speak on the night, so they could use the platform to promote their work to an audience that could help them move forward and expand their connectivity.
“Over the years we’ve been criticised by competitors about the need for tissues at MWOTY as it is too ‘soft’ and not a ‘serious’ awards event, but you only need to look at what our winners have achieved to see that just isn’t the case. They’re changing our city and people’s lives every day and make a significant economic impact in the City region.
“It takes a lot of guts to be gentle and vulnerable nowadays. We believe it’s a sign of strength and emotions are the driving force behind so many of our MWOTY stories. They are valuable tools of life and these traits are what makes women so unique, so why should we hide them – we celebrate them!”
The impact of MWOTY’s winners has been felt far beyond the boundaries of the Liverpool City Region. Angela Samata, winner of the overall title of Merseyside Woman of the Year 2015, now sits on the All Party Parliamentary Group for Suicide Prevention in England and Wales, while 2014 winner, Sara Lawton’s social procurement approach to construction works and services through her company, Community Impact Framework (CIF), is improving lives and communities across the UK.
Sue Connerty, 2018’s winner of the accolade, supports parents from across the globe whose children are affected by a rare condition known as Microcephalic Primordial Dwarfism (MPD) and 2019 joint winner, Laura Hughes is visible and vocal campaigner in the national fight against knife crime.
Speaking after the nominations launch event, the Lord Mayor of Liverpool, Councillor Anna Rothery, said: “Our region is filled with so many amazing women working hard for their communities every day, never asking for anything for themselves. It is fantastic that the Merseyside Women of the Year awards provides a platform to celebrate that work and propel it to new heights. It was an honour to join MWOTY as it launches its tenth anniversary awards and meet so many wonderful supporters and past winners. I’d urge anyone who knows a woman deserving of recognition to nominate them for the MWOTY awards 2020.”
In the run up to the 2020 event, the organisation will be looking back at the stories of past overall and category winners, bringing supporters up to date on the work they have done and how the MWOTY platform and “family” has supported them on their journey.
The annual independent awards ceremony, which celebrates the achievements of women from across Merseyside features categories including Arts & Culture, Business Leader, Community Change, Entrepreneur, Inspirational, Social Impact, Women’s Group, Women Making a Difference, Women of Courage and Young Female Apprentice.
The overall Merseyside Woman of the Year 2020 will be selected from all finalists, following a public vote (contributing 50% of the overall score) and being marked by the organisation’s judging panel against its criteria, which can be viewed here, contributing the remaining 50% of the final score.
The coveted top prize will once again be presented by Michael W Halsall Solicitors, who return as headline sponsor for the seventh consecutive year.
Speaking at the launch event, Collette McCann, Solicitor at Michael W Halsall, said: “We are honoured to be supporting the Merseyside Women of the Year awards as they celebrate ten fabulous years of recognising the incredible women in our region.
“We have been proud to stand with them for the last seven years and we can’t wait to see what hidden gems this year’s nominations will reveal!”
Other category sponsors for 2020 include Leonard Curtis, Community Foundation for Merseyside, Courage & Sparkle, Knowsley Chamber, Curtins, The Learning Foundry, Everton FC and FPC Financial Services.
Nominations will be open until 5pm on Wednesday 29th April 2020. The shortlist will be announced and the public vote will open on Monday 11th May 2020. You can nominate online, via email or in writing by post.