supporting more women into the boardroom

Women on Boards Bursary Programme

The only barrier to the boardroom should be talent. Our Bursary offers our signature support to six women with high board potential.

Women on Boards exists to help women overcome the hurdles to contribute their skills and perspective as non-executive directors.

Our Bursary Programme offers six women, who would not otherwise be able to afford it, places on our signature Boardroom Journey worth over £1500, to help them begin or progress their board careers.

We are extremely grateful to our sponsor:

Heidrick & Struggles board recruitment and executive search headhunter firm logo

They are the premier provider of executive search, corporate culture and leadership consulting services.


Launched on International Women’s Day, our 2023 Bursary Programme attracted over 200 applications.

We were so impressed by the talent, passion and resilience shown by applicants. A final decision of just six places was very difficult.

We have launched our Bursary Programme for applications on International Women’s Day for the past five years. We hope to do so again next year. Keep in touch via our newsletter or social media to hear about it.

annual bursary programme
applications annually

Meet our 2023 cohort

Congratulations to our awardees for 2023!

Bethan Neil

Bethan Neil

As an early career Marketing Professional with a passion for diversity , Bethan is gaining significant experience in a range of marketing areas. Bethan is keen to add value to a board with her broad marketing and branding experience.

With a passion for diversity and inclusion, Bethan is looking to pursue board roles that allow her to share her lived experience as a bisexual, woman of colour and continue her advocacy for the representation and access of people of colour, women, and LGBTQ+ individuals.

Bushra Ahmed

Bushra Ahmed

Bushra is an experienced charity sector leader, named by Charity Times as one of the 15 most inspiring leaders to look out for on #IWD22 and voted this year as one of the top ten most influential fundraisers by Civil Society’s Fundraising magazine. 

Bushra is keen to build on her experience with boards in the charity sector and lived experience as a social justice campaigner, and transfer her skills to the public and/or corporate sector.

Emily Palmer

Emily Palmer

From a background in marketing, in the commercial and charity sector to retraining as a nurse, Emily’s career turnaround came about following a serious accident which rendered her disabled. Alongside adjusting to life as a young disabled woman and achieving her goal of becoming a registered nurse, Emily has also been busy taking on leadership roles on the Student Nursing Council.

Her next goal is to pursue a board role as a trustee in a charity that matches her desire to ensure inclusivity and access to opportunities for disabled people.

Nicky Passmore

Nicky Passmore

With an extensive career in improving customer experience, across both the Higher Education and charity sectors in the UK and Australia, Nicky was just six months into a new position as CEO of a member-led charity when she was diagnosed with a Covid-related disability and had to step down.

Having considered a board career prior to her diagnosis, Nicky is now determined to bring her board value-add to a portfolio career, focusing initially on Housing Associations.

Ruth Ashaye

Ruth Ashaye

As a mature STEM PhD student, a remote admin professional and a working mum Ruth is keen to bring a fresh perspective to conversations at board level, in particular in relation to diversity and inclusion issues.

Ruth is looking forward to exploring the potential board opportunities with local charities and organisations, as well as building a network of peers.

Sian Powell

Sian Powell

Early career success led Sian to be appointed as the Chief Executive of a national news organisation in Wales. Following the birth of her third child, Sian co-founded a communication, strategy and marketing company with the aim of working flexibly whilst engaging her senior-level strategic skills.

Sian is now keen to use her breadth of experience and her understanding of how a board works from a CEO perspective as a non-executive director.

Our Bursary Programme

What's involved?

The final six participants receive a package of support to help them start or shape their board careers. Specifically, this  includes:

  • One year’s Full Membership of Women on Boards UK;
  • Our signature Get on Board workshop;
  • 1-on-1 personal Board CV review;
  • Member-only ‘Check-Ins’ (two per month);
  • A place on our May Peer Support Group cohort;
  • Our Board CV online course;
  • Our Vacancy Board, containing 100s of board vacancies;
  • Access to our growing webinar library, including two chargeable online webinars;
  • A 1-on-1 “board campaign” consultation;
  • Charity Board Papers online;
  • Pre-interview support for every board interview secured.

Thank you to our generous sponsors


Heidrick & Struggles board recruitment and executive search headhunter firm logo

The Women on Boards Bursary Programme 2023 is generously supported by Heidrick & Struggles, the premier provider of executive search, corporate culture and leadership consulting services.

They work for more than 70% of Fortune 1000 companies in virtually every sector and industry around the world. For all of the services they offer, they employ data-driven methodologies honed through decades of relationships and engagements with the world’s largest organizations.  Their expertise enables their clients to find the world’s best leaders, create diverse and inclusive cultures, and transform their teams to achieve the highest levels of profitability and performance.


We also thank John Dembitz, Richard Hooper, Stephanie Liston, Margaret Rice-Jones, Elisabeth Stheeman, and Jenny Watson for waiving their speaker-fee for our ‘Becoming an Effective Chair’ programme (Sep & Nov 22, Jan & June 23 cohorts) to contribute to our Bursary Programme in 2023.

More about our previous Bursary programmes:

We began our Bursary Programme in 2019, to open our impactful support offer to women with high board potential who could not other wise afford it. We have been overwhelmed with the number and quality of applications each year, and selecting a small group of participants has always been tough. Our Bursary Programme winners have been from a variety of different career stages and backgrounds – and have gone on to a variety of roles.

We normally open applications for our Bursary Programme on International Women’s Day, 8th March. Do follow us on social media to hear about our next Bursary programme.