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Celebrating diversity and inclusion with Northern Power Women

Zoyia Konstantopoulou, MSc Management student, recently won tickets, travel and accommodation to the Northern Power Women Awards 2022. This was a prize for winning a competition ran by award nominees Dr Joanna Berry, Associate Professor of Entrepreneurship at the Business School, and Helen De Montes, Vice Principal of St Aidan’s College and Helen De Montes.

The competition asked students to submit proposals to the question: 'How would you increase wider participation of students from our diverse heritage across the North of England, to apply to study at Durham University?’

Blog post

Below, Zoyia shares a blog post in her own words about the experience of the event on in March and the inspiration that remains with her long after the ceremony:

"I hope you will go out and let stories, that is life, happen to you and that you will work with these stories…water them with your blood and tears and your laughter till they bloom, till you burst into bloom" - Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Women Who Run with Wolves.

On Monday 21 March, something special happened in Manchester.

I attended the Northern Power Women (NPW) Awards. I felt proud to be part of the Durham University guest list that joined Dr Joanna Berry and Helen De Montes to celebrate their nominations in the categories of Mentor of the Year, Agent for Change and Disruptor for Good.

The atmosphere at the Manchester Convention Centre was extraordinary, full of colour and glamour. Fashion choices varied from elegant gowns to classy tuxedos and flashy eccentric dresses that highlighted variety in ethnicity and culture.

Conversation with the other guests was easy; I found myself comfortable to express my ideas and brave enough to ask questions.

I felt inspired by the stories that were shared at our table. I learned new things including what it’s like to teach art in prisons, the challenges of running a social enterprise and how it feels to climb Everest with a group of people you barely know.

This level of conversation was enough to mark my night as a success, but there was so much more.

The achievements of the nominees and winners in the room blew my mind.

Claudia Bartholomeus was building schools in Ghana at the age of 21.

Alison Magdin has been fighting knife crime through her organisation since 2007 after the tragic loss of her daughter.

Nazir Afzal prosecuted some of the highest-profile cases in violence against women and children.

The Rugby Football League was revolutionising sport by supporting social mobility and fostering inclusivity in the game.

These are just 4 out of the 1400 examples that show the North’s commitment to being a force for good.

In her opening speech, Simone Roche, founder of NPW, said something that struck a chord: "Hope stands for Hold On, Pain Ends."

It moved me, and it made me think deeply. What kind of ending can pain have?

Pain does not end in a literal sense. It is the epitome of our humanness - it has guided our adaptive behaviour and made us creative to solve problems.

We all hold the capacity to reconceptualise our relationship with pain. We overcome adversity by truly owning our unique self-narratives that made us who we are. This is what drives us to become leaders and to create meaningful organisations of real impact.

But how do diversity and inclusivity become relevant?

Diversity and inclusivity are not just morally correct; they make sense. They foster resilience and innovation. This is how all complex systems thrive. Differences in perspective and processing styles help groups to leverage from the variety of perceptual lenses. That’s how we maximise our chances to produce workable solutions.

The nominees of the NPW awards came from various sectors, ages, cultures and socioeconomic backgrounds. They are different people fighting for different purposes and yet they are strikingly similar in that they excel in one thing for sure; Owning their self-narrative that sparks their relentless passion for service.

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