Photo of Sharon Needle

Sharon Needle

Sharon Needle has been nominated by her team for her dedication to diversity and equality.  They say”One of the founding objectives of her business, Needle Partners, was to create a workplace which recognises, supports and celebrates everyone’s differences, and to challenge the male-dominated traditions of the major law firms she had worked for.

This was not simply derived from an agenda of gender or minority balance but from a managerial belief and recognition of the value of diversity and that talent knows no gender limitation.

Who will the initiative help/who has it helped already?

“The firm is one of very few law firms that has an equal number of men and women and a team that can speak six languages between them.  The firm celebrates its diverse makeup.

Our approach will help all those who may feel in some way disadvantaged in the workplace.  The intention is that the messages we are creating around the subject will resonate in other sectors/workplaces and have a positive impact on the whole diversity and equality agenda.

The overriding message is all about creating a workplace which recognises, supports and celebrates our differences and the belief that we seek equality in many things but most of all the right to belong and succeed despite our differences.”

What’s worked?

“Inspired by the BBC’s 100 Women initiative, Needle Partners, now an international commercial law firm, hosted a very successful event in Leeds on 31 October 2017. The aim was to bring together 100 aspirational, inspirational and influential women from all walks of life to discuss equality in the workplace.

This event has been followed up by a social media campaign, initiated by Sharon, to tie in with International Women’s Day in March 2018 and the #pressforprogress campaign.

Sharon entitled her campaign Purple Stories and invited people to share stories along different themes – level playing fields; being empowered by business; Imposter Syndrome; ‘Hide the Kids’ and ‘He said What?!’

Sharon shared her own stories and experiences and attracted comments and stories from many women and men. She hoped that the sharing has in some way raised awareness of how much more is needed to create a workplace which recognises and supports everyone’s differences.”

What have you learnt? Any challenges?

“We have learnt that this subject is still a very real issue in the workplace, therefore it is important to continue talking about it on many different levels; from women on Boards; encouraging more lawyers from minority communities; to looking at how business can better support women on returning from maternity leave.”

What’s next?

“Following on from this Sharon is now organising a further series of events on behalf of Needle Partners, entitled “Stepping out of the shadow”, which will explore the issues of equality and diversity at work, and further raise the awareness of gender parity.

For Sharon, it has gone beyond doing what is right for her own business; it is now about getting and keeping it on the business agenda.  For this to be driven from within a law firm, a very traditional and male dominated sector makes the message more powerful.

It is clear that these themes really resonate in the professional business community and to widen the audience of such an important topic, close to Sharon’s heart is the real driving force.”

What advice, contacts or resources would help?

“Help with sourcing speakers could be helpful.”

Why we’re sharing these stories

An individual or organisation from each of our five categories will be recognised at our Igniting Inspiration recognition event in November, but we want to publish all relevant stories to spread awareness of all the positive work that goes on in the North!

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