UCFB tutor and Burnley FC Performance Psychologist Jennifer Lace has expressed her delight and surprise after being selected to speak in front of world leaders at the UN to discuss gender equality.

Jennifer was one of a number of females nominated as women of the future in the Northern Power Women (NPW) Top 50 Future list.

The inaugural list recognises the influencers, leaders and change makers of the future who are already making a difference in their environments and communities, meaning Jennifer is one to look out for when it comes to creating gender balanced workplaces.

For winning the category, Jennifer will spend a fortnight in New York City with World Merit, where she’ll visit the UN and discuss the world’s toughest topics with the world’s biggest leaders.

Below, Jennifer tells us about her upcoming trip to New York and the whirlwind experienced since she was nominated for the NPW list.

“I came out of the football club on a Thursday evening back in January to receive an email to say I had been nominated for the Northern Power Women’s Futures competition. I was extremely surprised and started the search for who had nominated me and why. To this day I still don’t know who nominated me but I would like to thank them. Little did I know that this would be the start of one of the best journeys in my life.

“I’m still unsure to exactly why they nominated me but I feel really grateful that somebody has recognised how hard I try to work each day, my commitment to both my professional roles, providing sport psychology and high performance support at Burnley FC Academy, and as an Academic Tutor at UCFB. Because I am so busy every day with the demands of these roles, plus embarking on a journey with British Association of Sport and Exercise Science to become an accredited sport scientist, I guess I never take time to stop and reflect on my work, contribution or progression. So to be nominated really helped me feel that I’m valued and effective at what I do to keep going.

“The awards night to reveal the top 50 future list arrived, a stunning night put on by Northern Power Women where I met so many incredible ladies. People say never doubt yourself and, with my sport psychology support work at the club, I of all people should be the biggest advocate for this, but in all honesty I felt insufficient in the room. The level of achievement by individuals receiving nominations and other awards was outstanding. Simone Roche, who is the owner of the NPW Company couldn’t have made me feel more welcome, relaxed and energised to be a part of this amazing organisation and night. After a delicious meal and sitting with some of the most inspirational people I’ve ever met, a real eye opener to people and how much they’re contributing to the world in all walks of life, I waited patiently for the top 50 list to be announced. There was my name. My heart did a little skip and I was amazed I had made the top 50! After a few quick photographs, and making a few new social media friend connections, it was time to leave the venue. Obviously I was leaving on cloud nine.

“Telling my family I had made the shortlist was a nice feeling and they all really encouraged me to keep working hard and stay focused. Once in the top 50 list, we were invited to complete an application form for a company called Merit 360. This company was going to take the winner of the NPW Futures competition to New York City for 16 days to sit inside the United Nations headquarters to discuss the world’s toughest topics with the world’s biggest leaders. Completing the application form, I will admit I said to my boyfriend: ‘There is no way I’m going to win this, there are some incredible ladies in the top 50 list.’ But I sent it in and got back to my daily work of helping people flourish for high performance. Then at 10.45pm on a Thursday night in June, I got an email to say I had won the NPW Futures competition and that Merit 360 were really impressed by my application. I’m not an emotional person, but I cried. I think it was shock, happiness and excitement all rolled into some tears.

“A few days before, due to the football club being quiet as the season is over, I had had some time to stop and think. I thought: ‘What does being successful look like to me?’’ After mulling over a few ideas I decided that to win the NPW Futures competition and go to New York would be my measure of success as the calibre of ladies in the competition were so amazing to me. ‘Yeah, that will do it’, I thought. Little did I know this was about to become a reality.

“Being involved with NPW has already brought me so many exciting opportunities. I have some great friends that are in the top 50 list and they’re really great women. I was a little apprehensive about announcing I’d won as I feel they all also deserve the trip, but they have been really supportive and I’ve received some lovely messages. They’re great friends and we just want to help each other succeed. As it stands I leave for New York in August for 16 days as one of 360 people from around the world to sit inside the UN and discuss action plans for the planet. Prior to this, I am doing some fundraising for Merit 360. I’m lucky enough to be part of a really supportive football club who are allowing me to do it on August 13th at the first home team game of the season against Swansea, so this is exciting. I am just in the process of liaising with the chief executive, media, stadium safety and the graphic design team to make the fundraiser successful.

“When I go to New York I am looking forward to developing my leadership skills and meeting more amazing people. One of the world’s sustainable development goals I am committed to discussing is gender equality. I am currently doing a national questionnaire which is seven small questions on gender equality to gain insight into our high performing females and males in the country and their experiences of gender equality. The questionnaire is covering as many sectors as possible, with current participants ranging from world champion athletes, GB athletes, sport support staff, airline executives, politicians, teachers and journalists. I hope to get as many people in high performance positions to complete the questionnaire to give me some quality data and real experiences to underpin my discussions inside the UN.

“I cannot thank Simone Roche and Merit 360 enough for this fantastic opportunity, and also Burnley Football Club for fully supporting me alongside UCFB for being flexible in allowing the trip to happen. Without my boyfriend, family and friends, I wouldn’t be able to find myself in such a rewarding positon as they allow me to just work all crazy hours and they just adapt to my non-stop, 24-7 thinking and progressing.”

Those wishing to take part in the questionnaire can do so here.

Follow Jennifer on Twitter: @lacey_jen

Read the Northern Power Women Top 50 Future list here.