Eleven of the UK’s most inspirational trailblazers were named “First Women” at a glittering First Women Awards ceremony in London on June 12. Held at the London Marriott, Grosvenor Square and hosted by sports personality and broadcaster Clare Balding, hundreds turned out to celebrate the ground-breaking women.
Morella Kayman, co-founder of Alzheimer’s Society, was presented with the First Women Awards’ prestigious Lifetime Achievement accolade, in recognition of her tireless commitment to improving the lives of people affected by the disease over the past 40 years.
After her late husband was diagnosed with dementia in 1972, Morella was shocked at the lack of support and advice available. She started to gather support and launched the Alzheimer’s Society from her spare bedroom. Today the charity raises £70m a year and provides 86,000 people with support across England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Judges described Morella as an “incredible, vibrant woman with a truly inspiring story” and added “she is not just a role model for young women today, but also for older women too. She is still active within society; she is still fundraising and shows no sign of stopping.”
The First Woman in Tourism and Leisure Award went to Dawn Elson, the first female head of engineering at Gatwick Airport. Described by judges as “an exceptional candidate who is very passionate about supporting other women”, Dawn was presented with the honour for her outstanding career throughout which she become the first female flight commander on the aero-engine repair and overhaul facility, 8 Squadron as well as the first female engineering officer on the 216 Squadron.
Triumphing in the Manufacturing category was Judith Hackitt, the first female chair of the Health and Safety Executive. Describing her as a “natural communicator and inspirational speaker”, judges felt she was a clear winner for “probably doing more to promote manufacturing and the manufacturing industry in the UK than any other woman.”
In a year dominated by horsemeat scandals, Waitrose’s buying director Heather Jenkins was named First Woman of Retail & Consumer for her work in supporting the supermarket group’s supplier network.
Now in their eighth year, the First Women Awards were created by Real Business and the CBI to recognise trailblazing women – from finance and the media to engineering and public service – whose achievements are inspiring future generations.
Awards were also presented to:
- Jan Flawn, founding chair, PJ Care (First Woman in Business Services). Working as a registered nurse, Jan came up with the idea of creating a specialist neurological care centre for adults with progressive or acquired neurological conditions. Launched in 2000, she now has eight care centres and rehabilitation clinics in the South East.
- Ellvena Graham, chief operating officer and head of Ulster Bank Northern Ireland (First Woman in Finance). The first woman to be appointed as executive director in the organisation of 7,000 people, Ellvena is responsible for the day to day running of the bank in Ireland. Championing other women in business, she founded Ulster Bank’s Women in Touch network aiming to inspire other women in managerial roles.
- Jane Wernick, director, Jane Wernick Associates (First Woman of the Built Environment). After becoming the first female structural engineer at Arup, Jane worked on some notable projects including the construction of the Millennium Wheel. An innovator in her field, she founded her own firm in 1998 and is also an internationally renowned lecturer.
- Lucy Dimes, CEO, UK & Ireland, Alcatel-Lucent (First Woman in Science and Technology). In 2011, Lucy became the first female CEO of Alcatel-Lucent where she led the firm’s financial turnaround. She also pioneered the company’s diversity forum, launching the ‘StrongHer’ women’s network.
- Joanna Kennedy, director, global leader of programme and project management, Arup (First Woman in Engineering). Starting out at Oxford University, Joanna was just one of three girls on a course of over 100 students. Today she has had an inspiring career which has spanned more than 40 years, throughout which she has worked on a number of major engineering projects.
- Nora Senior, executive chair of Weber Shandwick in the UK and Ireland (First Woman in the Media). Nora began her career at Saatchi and Saatchi and became the youngest managing director of a UK plc when she was appointed head in 1987. Her current role at Weber Shandwick began in 1998 after she merged her own successful PR company, the PR Centre, with the agency.
- Sarah Weir OBE, CEO, The Legacy List (First Woman in Public Service). Sarah led a successful career at Lloyd’s of London where she became the first female managing director and one of only two senior women. Switching paths, she decided to pursue her passion for the arts and founded the Legacy List in 2012.
Fiona Cannon OBE, Director of Diversity and Inclusion at Lloyds Banking Group said: “These awards are crucial in showcasing some of the exceptional female talent we have here in the UK and our long term commitment to them demonstrates our strong belief that recognition of this talent is essential and not simply the ‘right thing to do’. These trailblazing winners demonstrate how forward-thinking, hard work and determination can result in a pipeline of successful women.
“We often read about glass-ceilings limiting women in their careers, but these awards illustrate how women can thrive and lead in even in the most male-dominated of sectors such as aerospace, health and safety and engineering.
“On behalf of Lloyds Banking Group, I’d like to congratulate every nominee and winner on their success.”
Katja Hall, chief policy director of the CBI, said: “All of this year’s winners are true role models for future generations of women. They are proof that the sky really is the limit when it comes to achieving and we are proud to sponsor an awards programme that plays such an important role in championing their successes.”
Matthew Rock, co-founder of Real Business, said: “The discussion about boardroom quotas sometimes diverts attention from the extraordinary, pioneering achievements of many different women across the UK. The First Women Awards are a powerful reminder that Britain’s economy, and its companies, are changing fast and for the better, driven often by super-talented, entrepreneurially minded women.”