Lead5050, co-founded by LILA Liverpool CEO Leanne Linacre, set up its awards ceremony in 2017 to champion women in and around the education sector – a field that, like others, has previously been dominated by men. 

Susan Fang, who runs Oxbridge Holdings, won the Inspirational Woman of the Year award at the 2023 ceremony. 

“I always refuse to be sidelined and would fight tooth and nail for what I believe to be good and right,” she told The PIE News. 

“With this award I do finally feel, as a female founder of an international student recruitment agency, my contribution to the international education sector is being valued,” she added.

Also on the winners list was the PIE’s own Melissa Palleschi, who was awarded Departmental Manager of the Year for her leadership of the company’s partnerships and marketing team. 

“It is such an honour to be recognised for the work I’m doing at The PIE as head of Partnerships & Marketing by Lead 5050 whose vision is to achieve gender balance in leadership by working together to create inclusive organisations.

“Thank you to Amy Baker, Clare Gossage and Jane Gilham for the support and encouragement over the past [seven] years to take on new challenges and giving me opportunities to grow professionally. Even if it’s been out of my comfort zone!” Palleschi said.

Kathi Gerth from Quality English was named the Unsung Hero and Shorelight’s Kateryna Shapovalova won the Rising Star award. Lucas Chiusoli, who is national director for ELICOS at ILSC Education Group, took home the Champion for Change award.

Jenny Nieveen, CEO and president of UniApplyNow – an ELT provider in South and Central Florida – was awarded the Lifetime Achievement gong and the ceremony.

Lead5050 was launched by Linacre and co-founder Ella Tyler to help businesses gain a better gender balance. 

“Over 50 years after the UK passed equal pay legislation, on average, women earn less than men.

“Few organisations have gender balance in leadership; few fathers take up shared parental leave; few employers have a menopause policy. Isn’t it time that changed?” the organisation says in its mission statement.

Using data to find issues that are affecting gender balance in the workplace, Lead5050 offers a certification that organisations can work towards to achieve better gender equality in business.

“I feel my contribution to the international education sector is being valued”

“I hope this is the start of a more balanced ecosystem where female founders in our agency network feel empowered and appreciated,” Fang added. 

The full list of winners of the Lead5050 Awards:

Champion of Change: Lucas Chiusoli, ELS, ILSC & Greystone College

Charitable Endeavour: Serene Singh, The Serenity Project Charity

Contribution to Gender Diversity: Sophie Creese, MotherBoard

Inspirational Woman: Susan Fang, Oxbridge Holdings

Mentor of The Year: Marzia Bolpagni, Mace & Yves Paradis, OHLA Schools

Most Adaptable Leader: Mia Akanni, Immerse Education

Outstanding departmental manager: Melissa Palleschi, The PIE

Rising Star: Kateryna Shapovalova, Shorelight

Unsung Hero: Kathi Gerth, Quality English

Woman in Tech: Nihan Colak Erol, Wingie Enuygun Group & Erica Surace, the D2 collective

Lifetime Achievement Award: Jenny Nieveen