Warwickshire businesses are being invited to enter a new-look awards dedicated to recognising growth and resilience throughout the pandemic.
The fourth Ladies First Professional Development Awards will celebrate success stories while also raising funds and awareness for two Midlands charities, St Basils and Suited For Success.
Nominations are open in 26 categories, including a host of new categories including Man of the Year, Excellence In Education and Best Family Business.
Established in 2016, award-winning charity Suited For Success helps unemployed men and women in Warwickshire and the West Midlands prepare for a job interview by providing free coaching, employment preparation skills and interview clothing.
Chief executive Patricia White said: “After more than a year of not being able to fundraise due to the face-to-face nature of the work, we’re especially grateful to Ladies First for throwing us this lifeline.
“The pandemic has left a huge negative impact on people’s self-esteem and mental health and we have seen a big increase in people needing our support, from interview coaching and dressing for job interviews to helping people feel confident again, once they’ve got a job, to go back into the workplace.
“This year and next year we’ll still be seeing the after-effects so the continuous work we are doing as a charity to get people back into employment is going to be more important than ever."
St Basils works with young people aged 16-25 who are homeless or at risk of homelessness, to enable them to find and keep a home, grow their confidence, develop their skills and increase opportunities.
Established in Birmingham, the charity now has 42 accommodation projects across the West Midlands, including in Leamington and Coventry.
Barrie Hodge, spokesperson for St Basils said: "We are so delighted to be working with Ladies First.
"Homelessness is an issue that is seen by many as something that mainly impacts men, but 53 per cent of the young people we support are women and there is an increasing amount of women in temporary accommodation with their children.
“More than 120,000 young people presented as homeless in the UK last year.
"This support is vital to us so that we can continue to provide them with the care they need during a critical time in their lives."
Awards organiser and Ladies First Network Leader, Tracey McAtamney from Balsall Common, said they were fitting charities to support in light of the recent challenges.
“There are a lot of awards around and for me it’s about supporting charitable causes that are relevant.
"This year these charities seem a good fit because they align very well with our professional development and encouraging people back to work and there have been so many younger people negatively impacted by Covid.”
The new categories introduced this year are: Excellence in Health and Well-being, Digital Star, Man of the Year, Employer of the Year, Excellence in Education, Achieves in Marketing, Family Business and Service Provider of the Year.
There will also be awards for young people including; Young Person in STEM, Young Entrepreneur, Rising Star in Education and Inspirational Young Achiever.
Tracey, who also runs the Surviving Bereavement charity, said: “It’s not just about women in business, it’s about recognising all inspirational people in our communities.
“Over the past 18 months, some businesses have survived but others have actually thrived and developed. Obviously there were a lot of businesses which were lost but many of those have reinvented themselves into something else which is also inspiring.
“It’s so important to be together again after hosting it online last year."
Finalists will be selected by an independent panel at an event on February 7, ahead of an awards ceremony at Coombe Abbey in Coventry on March 24.