Innovating a Diverse Workplace: Keynote & Panel

Boosting growth through a focus on diversity.

At VentureFest North East 2017 we started to explore issues linked to a lack of gender diversity in business. The failure to engage, support and recognise the value of women has been identified time and time again as a key barrier to business growth, regional growth and investment opportunities. Since announcing our Women in Innovation programme in partnership with Innovate UK, the North East England Chamber of Commerce and the Northstar Foundation, we’ve been working with SMEs from across the region to look at how businesses can tackle an unconscious bias to maximise business growth.

What to expect: In the first of a two-part focus on diversity in innovation, the session will be led with a keynote by Dr Margo Thomas who will draw on her experience at the World Bank Group and UN to unpick the importance of diversity in business. The session will examine how more diverse business practice could significantly improve regional productivity and economic growth.

Session keynote

Dr Margo Thomas

World Bank Group

Throughout her career spanning more than two decades at the world’s premier development organization, the World Bank Group, Margo Thomas has provided policy advice to over 50 national and sub-national governments.

With a doctoral degree in Public Policy and Private Sector Development, her areas of focus include trade and competitiveness, women’s economic empowerment, business environment reform, regulatory reform, and investment policy.

Margo will provide a global perspective on the diversity agenda in the context of her roles as part of the World Bank Group, the United Nations and the Women’s Economic Imperative.

Speakers & Panel

Pippa Hall

Intellectual Property Office

Pippa is Director of Innovation and Chief Economist at the UK Intellectual Property Office (IPO). Her role is to ensure that the IPO’s policy development activity focuses on key issues and is based on a robust evidence base. She is also responsible for developing strategies and policies to engage businesses and raise awareness of the importance of intellectual property rights.

Dr Amy Stabler

Newcastle University

Amy is a Senior Lecturer in Leader Development and Organisation Futures at Newcastle University Business School.  She has been co-creating action research with the Innovation SuperNetwork about their Women in Innovation programme.

Amy started her career as a civil servant in central government, and has over twenty years’ experience providing leadership development consultancy, facilitation and executive coaching to a range of national and international public, private and voluntary sector organisations.

John Dudgeon


Jon Dudgeon, (BA Hons, FCA) at Blu Sky, Chartered Accountants is an entrepreneurial accountant who loves SEIS, R&D, scaleup, tech, fund raising and specialises in helping SME businesses grow their cash.

Adam Hill

Consult and Design International

Adam is CEO of Consult and Design International, a software development company based in Sunderland working on ambitious projects that connect people with technology to improve the way we live and work. Adam has over 20 years of experience in managing innovative projects in technology, the arts and education.

Since working on groundbreaking projects with young people from across Europe approaching the topics of cultural and gender diversity, Adam has always had a passion for trying to bring some of the things he learned into his more recent work in the Digital sector. As an evolving challenge, Adam is keen to work with others in the region to find ways to increase accessibility and diversity within our sector and ensure that nobody feels excluded or alienated.

Joanna Barnard

Virgin Media

Joanna is a Senior HR Business Partner providing strategic HR support to the  CFO, Corporate Development, Legal and Social Enterprise functions at Virgin Money. She is the HR lead on gender balance activity for Virgin Money, contributing towards the company’s strategic aim to achieve a gender balance workforce by the end of 2020.

Amongst other activities Joanna lead the first senior female returners programme for the organisation which is now building a significant alumni of female talent.

Abi Ridley


Abi is a Sales Origination Analyst with Accenture, accountable for bringing new business to the Technology Centre. Working closely with the company’s Client Service Groups to bring  work to Newcastle and drive sales. Abi has created and developed the Equality Allies network at Accenture. The network is made up of 200 employees (and growing!) who actively work together to tackle inequalities in the work place and the local community. The network is currently rolled out within The Advanced Technology Centre Newcastle, and is being delivered UK wide, and globally, throughout Accenture.

Eve Little


Eve is Scheduling Lead at Accenture’s Newcastle Technology Centre, responsible for continuous staffing and strategic rotation of around 800 Accenture Technology resources.  Eve is passionate about driving forward the company’s gender diversity work, striving towards a gender balanced organisation. Bringing more women into tech has allowed Accenture to diversify its teams, providing more opinion, a difference in perspective and an encouraging environment to promote work-life balance for everyone.

Kajal Hirpara


Kajal is a Certified Scrum Master and a leading agile project management expert in Siemens Plc. Her work challenges the architectural designs of a technical software solution and deals with the delivery and engineering challenges for a MindSphere application centre project. A qualified and competent Software Engineer, she has rounded expertise in developing mobile and web applications using cutting edge technologies.  Within Siemens, she is responsible for aspects of application development and business support, which include IT strategies, data analysis, gender diversity, recruitment, learning, development and supporting the evolution of the company’s culture.