Northern insights October 2021


Astute.Work’s managing director, management and PR consultant Sarah Waddington CBE, has just been appointed by the IoD to lead its North East (North) branch. Here she chats about the role of the business membership organisation and issues a rallying cry to prospective members.

When you think about business membership organisations, the Institute of Directors (IoD), is certainly one of the first to come to mind.

Founded in 1903, the IoD obtained a Royal Charter in 1906 and its role is to provide an effective voice and represent the interests of its members to key opinion-formers at the highest levels.

It has a certified qualification for directors – Chartered Director – and its membership includes directors from across the business spectrum – from media, manufacturing and professional services to the public and voluntary sectors. Members include CEOs of large corporations as well as entrepreneurial directors of start-up companies.

Which is why it’s such a privilege to take up the role of branch chair for the IoD in the North East (North).

I’m taking the reins from outgoing chair Ammar Mirza CBE, whose focus on inclusivity and professionalism remains an important one. I know my fellow members will join me in thanking him and vice-chair Natalia Blagburn as they step down to concentrate on other things. Natalia’s Woman On Board events offered a timely and popular addition to the calendar.

The work of the IoD and my own business are well aligned. At my management and PR company Astute.Work, much of our efforts relate to helping organisations build social capital by articulating their purpose and working with their stakeholders and communities to solve joint challenges. I’m a firm believer that businesses, individuals and networks can collaborate to solve some of society’s biggest issues. This fits nicely with the IoD’s agenda that Better Directors Build A Better World.

And this will be our guiding mantra as we look ahead to the coming year and plan activities that help directors be the best they can be and appeal to the widest demographic.

Diversity and inclusion is critical for every successful organisation and is one area in which I am keen to make a real difference for the IoD.

Looking at the members in this area, less than 17% are female and fewer still are black, Asian and ethnic minority colleagues. I don’t have the data to say whether we have any LGBTQ+ colleagues but I’m keen for it to be known that our branch is a place where everyone is welcome. Together we can build on this and grow the fold so no one feels like the odd one out.

My fellow branch colleagues and I are also very open to new ideas – thoughts about any different types of events and content you’d like to see will be gratefully received.

So, my call to action is this: if you’re a member, please look at your network and introduce anyone you think might benefit from being part of a group of dynamic and friendly directors all interested in making connections, professional development and influencing at the highest levels.

If you’re a director who hasn’t yet got involved but would like to know more (with no strings attached), please reach out and drop me a line or give me a call.

And finally, if you’d like to volunteer alongside me and a lovely group of people, our branch is looking for ambassadors. We would particularly welcome someone from the world of education and skills to help us engage with academia and learners, a representative from the digital and creative industries and a director with expertise in climate change and sustainability.

I’m looking forward to getting started and to working with my counterpart Karl Pemberton down in the south to make IoD membership as meaningful as it can be here in the region.

To find out more and to find our latest events programme, please check out our events page here.

To get in touch directly with me, please visit

Better directors for a better world

The IoD supports directors and business leaders across the UK and beyond to learn, network and build successful, responsible businesses.
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