First Women of Business Services: 2012 shortlists

The First Women of Business Services award is presented in association with Centrica, and this year brings together five outstanding women with an extraordinary set of varied CVs:

Gaenor Bagley is PwC’s head of people, a new board position at the accountancy giant, and to which she’s recently added sustainability and community as part of her portfolio of responsibilities. Under Gaenor’s direction, PwC is hitting record levels of staff and graduate engagement: including being named as the UK’s top graduate employer for nine years in succession. Previously, Gaenor ran PwC’s hard-nosed M&A tax team – a parallel though contrasting world. It all adds up to a unique career.

Professor Hilary Thomas has had a distinguished career in the public and private sectors. As a clinician and former professor of oncology – only the second woman in the UK in a substantive post – and a lead partner in KPMG’s growing public sector healthcare advisory business, she bridges two, very different worlds. She cares passionately about women and diversity issues, and leads KPMG’s public-sector diversity and inclusion task group. During her career in the NHS, she was one of the youngest elected members of the General Medical Council, and chaired the committee on standards and medical ethics. Herself diagnosed with breast cancer in 2006, she became a trustee of Breakthrough Breast Cancer in 2007.

Appointed as managing director of Accenture Management Consulting in the UK in 2010, a colleague said of Aimie Chapple, “She actively sponsors high-potential women in our organisation, and her appointment into a role that, to date, had been a ‘male preserve’, has really helped to break down the barriers to reach the top level of management in the UK.” She’s led a programme to educate Accenture about people with non-visible disabilities – such as depression, dyslexia and stress. Aimie is also president of the Management Consulting Association and sits on the board of the Oxford Business Economics Programme.

As group procurement director of Royal Mail, Kath Harmeston has directed a team to deliver more than £450m cash and P&L savings over the past three years. Coming into an organisation struggling with union tensions, a cash-intensive modernisation programme, large fixed costs and a strict regulatory regime, she is described by her CFO Matthew Lester as “a change agent sponsored to manae large-scale business cost transformation projects”. Indeed, within six weeks of joining the Royal Mail, she took over the £500m-budget facilities management department and identified £40m of cost improvements. Kath is part of the group executive team and is a director of one of Royal Mail’s subsidiaries.

Kim Challis is a rare phenomenon: a woman thriving in the male-dominated utility industry. As the first female managing director of a meter-reading services company, Kim galvanised G4S Utility Services. In 2011, she was appointed group managing director of G4S government and outsourcing services, a £125m-turnover business and with 2,400 employees. Under her leadership, the business has won major contracts such as a £200m project for the Lincolnshire Police. Kim is the first woman on the executive board of G4S UK & Ireland. “I firmly believe in ‘growing your own talent’,” she says. “I have had the opportunity to learn and take on more responsibilities so, as a manager, I also ensure my senior team get this opportunity, too.” 

Winners of the First Women Awards 2012 will be announced at an amazing awards ceremony on June 28, 2012 at the Grand Connaught Rooms, hosted by BBC presenter Clare Balding.

First Women Awards supporters include: BAE Systems, Benenden Healthcare Society, Centrica, COINS, Harvey Nash, ICAEW, the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, Land Rover and the Financial Mail.

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