Meet the women undertaking life-changing work for other people

Amazing Women Award winners Professor Sharon Peacock and Melanie Waters OBE are saving countless lives with their invaluable work

Amazing Women Award winner Professor Sharon Peacock
(Image credit: woman&home/Future)

Amazing Women Award winners Professor Sharon Peacock and Melanie Waters OBE are saving lives with their incredible work. By learning more about the physical and mental well-being of those they seek to help, they're laying down the framework for future generations to have a better quality of life too.

Woman&home magazine's Amazing Women Awards, in partnership with No7, celebrates women over 50 who are making a difference to the people around them. Reaching the top of your game is no mean feat. Whether it's in sustainable enterprises, sport, science, music, culture, conservation, or charity—these amazing women are inspiring people everywhere with their revolutionary ideas and work.

Some of the award winners, like Sharon and Melanie, are changing the lives of people they will never meet—for generations to come. 

Melanie Waters OBE, 54, CEO of Help for Heroes

Winner of the Charity Head Award at the Amazing Women Awards 2022, Melanie

(Image credit: Future)

Winner of the Charity Head Award at the Amazing Women Awards 2022, Melanie has been at the helm of Help For Heroes (opens in new tab) since 2016.  Her dedication to her work has seen her receive an OBE for her service to the Armed Forces. "Being awarded an OBE is without a doubt something I had never dreamed of," she says. "To be honored for my service to the Armed Forces was quite overwhelming."

Since day dot, she has worked to transform the way the charity operates, to ensure life-changing support is available to wounded veterans and their families for as long as they need it.  

She has overseen the shift of the charity’s services from Recovery Centre-based support to community and online. This savvy move has meant it's possible to reach and deliver more value from every pound donated to the organization.

Melanie's work, alongside a predominantly female Executive team, has ensured the remote operating model supports flexibility in the way colleagues work across the organization. It was her female colleagues that nominated her for the award, which she says left her, 'humbled.'

Melanie reveals she's inspired most by the women she works with supporting veterans and their families, and women working in the armed forces. She also pays tribute to those women in Armed Forces families, "supporting their loved ones to serve our country and to keep us safe."

Beyond the realm that she works in, Melanie says she's also inspired by those whose selflessness helps others. "There is also a special place in my heart for women who give up their dreams to enhance the lives of others," she says. "Her Majesty the Queen is a good example."

Help for Heroes has, to date, changed the lives of more than 26,500 people and counting and Melanie's mission is clear. "That every person who leaves the Armed Forces lives well and feels valued."

Melanie's advice for her fellow females in midlife is something she says is easy to say, but hard to do. "Be kind to yourself," she says. "You are the route to happiness and confidence."

Professor Sharon Peacock, CBE, 63, leading micro-biologist and Executive Director of the COVID-19 Genomics Consortium (COG-UK)

Professor Sharon Peacock, CBE

(Image credit: woman&home/Future)

Currently Professor of Public Health and Microbiology at the University of Cambridge, Sharon Peacock (opens in new tab) is a world authority on the use of pathogen genomics. 

In response to the Covid-19 pandemic, she helped establish and now directs COG-UK, collaborating on the genome sequencing of the virus and identifying and tracking new variants. "We needed to be able to understand how the virus was evolving, particularly once variants began to emerge," she explains.

Discussing how much of a career highlight this achievement has been she says, "through the efforts of the consortium’s members, we achieved great things." Adding, "I am also proud of our Women in COG initiative, which has highlighted the incredible contributions made by women during the pandemic."

Despite this incredible work, that has saved innumerable lives, Sharon remains humble, saying, "I was in the right place at the right time to apply what I’ve learned to make an important contribution during the pandemic."

The Amazing Women Awards 2022 Science and Medicine Innovator award says of her win, "It means a great deal to be recognized as a woman working in Science and Medicine, and to serve as a role model for women in STEM." Adding, "Science can only be enriched through balanced representation, and is vital as we confront global challenges."

In 2015, she received a CBE for services to medical microbiology, in 2018 she won the Unilever Colworth Prize for outstanding contribution to translational microbiology, in 2021 she was awarded the MRC Millennium Medal.

Throughout her career, Sharon has raised £60 million pounds in science funding and has trained a generation of scientists. Her message to other women in midlife is all about looking forward and considering the legacy they want to leave. 

"We have a responsibility to our children and their children to create change so that we and they live in a more equitable society," she says. Knowing that it's absolutely possible, she adds, "Women can do anything, don’t be afraid to set your sights high, don’t forget to lift up other women along the way, and be prepared to speak out if you come across inequity in your daily life."

The woman&home Amazing Women Awards are brought to you in partnership with No7.

Aoife is Junior News Editor at woman&home.

She's an Irish journalist and writer with a background in creative writing, comedy, and TV production.

Formerly Aoife was a contributing writer at Bustle and her words can be found in the Metro, Huffpost, Delicious, Imperica, EVOKE and her poetry features in the Queer Life, Queer Love anthology.

Outside of work you might bump into her at a garden center, charity shop, hot yoga studio, lifting heavy weights, or (most likely) supping/eating some sort of delicious drink/meal.

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