THERE has been a good deal in the media over the past few weeks about the struggle some businesswomen have had, and continue to have, to get equal pay and conditions.

We are working hard to help address these issues and ensure female employees of members around the region are rewarded appropriately for their hard work.

Our aim is to collect examples of best practice and disseminate how organisations are tackling this, to help eliminate any disparities effectively.

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That's why I was delighted to present one of our Chamber Partner members with an award in recognition of their substantial progress on this vital issue.

Virgin Money won the Best Practice award against a strong field, in the Annual North East Business Woman of the Year Awards (WIN Awards).

They are really making great strides in tackling inequalities, to ensure all their employees are rewarded in a fair and appropriate way.

My congratulations also go to the other winners, who can give us great pride in our strong community of North-East businesswomen.

This year’s ceremony, as usual, had a host of success stories.

We heard about the passion for the North-East from Joanna Feeley, of Trend Bible, who won the Susan Dobson Award for Entrepreneurship.

She has built an outstanding business that wins work from major brands such as Bloomingdales, due to her tremendous track record and talented team.

Joining her in achieving top honours were businesswomen of all different ages and sectors.

Looking to the future it was great to see examples of young, innovative acumen from winners such as Sheridan Mordew, of Sunderland, who is blazing a trail with her Shape up with Sher fitness business, and EMG Solicitors’ Jemma Morland, winner of the One To Watch category.

All the winners showed a dynamic vitality, which is such an asset to us all.

Dynamic is definitely the word to describe our guest at next Monday’s Chamber President Club’s lunch.

We are delighted Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, has accepted our invitation to speak at this event.

There are often a number of synergies between Scotland and ourselves, in particular the sometimes disadvantage of being outside of the Home Counties bubble.

We will report on what she says and how she answers questions from Chamber members in our next column.

It promises to be a thought-provoking lunch.

James Ramsbotham is chief executive at the North East England Chamber of Commerce