First Women

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The 11th annual Real Business First Women Awards produced another stellar crop of leading ladies, including those heading up transformational change at companies such as EY, Quintessentially Events, Unilever and Pai Skincare.

Media trailblazer Clare Balding picks up her Lifetime Achievement Award

Celebrating the achievements of women in business, and supported by the CBI, the prestigious First Women Lifetime Achievement prize was bestowed upon Clare Balding – host for the evening and a long-standing supporter of the First Women movement.

Also joining Balding as winners on the night were Kate Lester from Diamond Logistics, who scooped First Women in Entrepreneurship, and Amanda White from Transport for Greater Manchester, who went home with First Women Young Achiever.

Lester is the founder and CEO of a unique franchised logistics company with 25 sites and was the first chair of the Despatch Association, and was commended for her strong clarity of vision and success in operating in a male-dominated world. White was previously a senior route engineer for High Speed 2, but now heads up rail for Transport for Greater Manchester. She is now running the team for the HS2 routes to Manchester, with all the environmental, political and technical issues that involves. She is charismatic, enthusiastic and lives for the railways, the judges said.

Commenting on the 2015 winners, Caroline Dinenage, minister for women and equalities, said it was “fantastic” to see the achievements of women in so many different areas of industry.

“It is vital that we champion the successes of women, and ensure that all young people have inspirational role models,” she added. “Congratulations to all the winners and nominees. You should be exceptionally proud of these achievements."

Sponsored by BMW, Equity FD, Mini and PEME, the First Women Awards have featured a number of trailblazing female business leaders over the last decade, including Sophie Cornish and Holly Tucker of notonthehighstreet.com, Nails Inc founder Thea Green and technology entrepreneur Vin Murria.

Sector-based awards went to Dawn Ohlson of Thales, who was named First Women in Engineering, Sarah Brown of Pai Skincare, who won First Women of Manufacturing and Lynn Rattigan of EY, this year’s First Women of Finance.

Business of the Year, which was decided on a popular vote conducted by Real Business readers, saw professional services organisation EY rewarded for going beyond statutory requirements in promoting and developing their talented female workforce. Voting was incredibly tight between EY and Arup but EY won because it is leading the way amongst the big four accountancy firms when it comes to its approach to diversity. The firm is on track to hit its 30 per cent target for new female partners and to exceed a ten per cent target for new partners with a black and minority ethnic background.

Read our Business of the Year shortlist profiles:

The evening's winners assemble

Katja Hall, CBI deputy director-general, said: “We’re proud to support the First Women Awards, which is a great way of celebrating the tremendous contribution made by female business leaders across the UK. While this shortlist is an excellent source of inspiration for ambitious women across all sectors of the UK, business still needs to improve recruitment, mentoring and succession planning to help female talent reach the top.

“I look forward to a day when everyone has the best chance to succeed in work, whoever they are, whatever their background. For me, that wouldn’t just represent progress, it would be a real turning point for wider diversity.”

The winners on the nigh came from a shortlist of 70 women, with decisions made by a 20-strong judging panel featuring Dawn Elson, business transformation leader at Gatwick Airport, Harriet Lamb, CEO of Fairtrade International, and Karen Hester, COO at Adnams.

BAFTA-winning broadcaster Clare Balding was the standout winner of the evening. She rose to super stardom in the wake of the London 2012 Olympics, but her commitment to the cause has never wavered.

Working with charities, challenging politicians and spreading the word through her huge media presence, our winner tonight is leading the charge when it comes to women in sport. She is also a long-standing and ardent supporter of the First Women’s movement. Working with charities, challenging politicians and spreading the word through her huge media presence, this year’s Lifetime Achievement Award winner is leading the charge when it comes to women in sport.

Amy Carroll, events director at Real Business, added: “Every year we’re delighted by the amazing calibre of the entrants to the First Women Awards, and this year was no different. With entry levels higher than ever before competition was particularly fierce, so the winners this evening should be particularly proud.

“There were many highlights this evening, but for me it’s all about facilitating networking opportunities for such an amazing, diverse group of women.”

Full list of 2015 winners:

First Women of Engineering – Dawn Ohlson, Thales
First Women of Manufacturing – Sarah Brown, Pai Skincare
First Women of Tourism & Leisure – Anabel Fielding, Quintessentially Events 
First Women of Finance – Lynn Rattigan, EY
First Women of Science & Technology – Yvonne Baker, National Science Learning Network & National STEM Centre 
First Women of Media – Mandeep Rai, Creative Visions Global 
First Women of Retail & Consumer – Leena Nair, Unilever 
First Women of the Built Environment – Sadie Morgan, dRMM Architects 
First Women of Public Service – Safia Minney, People Tree & Helen Milner, Tinder Foundation 
First Women of Business Services – Claire Edmunds, Clarify & Lesley Batchelor OBE, Institute of Export 
First Women Young Achiever – Amanda White, Transport for Greater Manchester 
First Women in Entrepreneurship – Kate Lester, Diamond Logistics 
First Women Business of the Year – EY
First Women Lifetime Achievement – Clare Balding


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