14. Justine RobertsA former sports journalist, Justine Roberts left a job in the City to start Mumsnet from her bedroom. She also recently created Gransnet. One of the reasons behind this decision was the fact that she never saw [her] partner and that she her now previous career wasn’t very family-friendly . But now, according to BBC Radio 4s Womans Hour, Roberts and her co-founder Carrie Longton are the seventh most powerful women in the UK. And during last year’s general election they were dubbed Britain’s most powerful women . This is partially due to the fact that the Mumsnet community of 1.3m was believed to have the ability to saw the outcome of an election. This led to a surge of politicians surfing the Mumsnet web chat. And according to Rebecca Harrison, qualitative insight director of Added Value, the daily posts have had a phenomenal impact on people’s behaviours and attitudes towards brands . In a Real Business interview, Roberts said: I started out in very male-dominated circles in banking and then in sports journalism where there seemed to be total acceptance of the idea that family life was a disadvantage in the workplace and women of a certain age were inevitably less reliable employees or less serious about their jobs. The vast majority of the staff at Mumsnet are women, many of whom work flexibly, and all of them are serious about their jobs. A culture where employees have to brush aside their family life to get on just means youll lose key staff; I’ve found that a flexible, honest approach makes good business sense and helps retain talented staff. Whats more, you get lots of flexibility back in return which is what most modern businesses need.
15. Alice BentinckBentinck was originally a management consultant for McKinsey & Company, where she got her first taste of technology businesses. Realising that it was the sector she truly wanted to be in, she left her job and launched the UK’s first startup accelerator for graduates in 2011. When she noticed the lack of females who were attracted to the tech sector, she started Code First: Girls in 2012. In a TEDx Talk, she said: We created 11 startups, and theyre now worth 22m. Not bad for a years work. And we were feeling pretty proud of ourselves until we looked at the roll call of who was in the cohort. You might have to look twice to find the girls. There were only three. She added: Women usually represent a tiny ten per cent of the tech industry. Im in a lucky position in that Im working very closely with almost sixty guys on the [EF] programme, and I think that gives me a unique opportunity. I heard one of them saying the other day x is being such a girl and I just said to them and whatis wrong with being a girl If I can start beating out the latent sexism in them, then thatll make a difference. Its a fantastic place to work and has loads of benefits for women: it’s very flexible, you can work pretty much wherever you want, and work whatever hours you want. Yes theres sexism, but the only way we can counter that is getting more women into tech, rather than putting women off.
16. Martha Lane FoxIn 1998, Fox co-founded lastminute.com, Europe’s largest travel website. She then went on to create karaoke success story LuckyVoice in 2005. Fox was appointed a crossbench peer in the House of Lords in 2013 and is chair of Go On UK. The tech sector is a very very new sector, and it was a sector that came out of deep technology, people who were programming and coding, and for lots of reasons that are more obvious to explain that was mainly a sector created by men,” she said. So were partly going through this sort of cultural shift of the tech companies becoming bigger, growing up, reaching beyond their very deep technical roots to having maybe more marketing expertise represented on the board, more customer facing expertise, finance functions, operations, perhaps areas that werent so associated so deeply with men. I think that culturally, there is still a phenomenon about boards that is more male culturally dominant. So Im not for one minute suggesting that boards are overtly sexist, although some are, but there is a kind of latent culture that was created by men, where men feel more at home, where the decision making happens in a more male way, and that takes time to change and break through, it doesnt happen with one board member, it starts happening when youve got three or four that are women. Of course, in a very small business, to have had five senior leaders who are all women all go off and get pregnant at the same time, that is a headache, and it’s not something thats ideal. But at the same time, misrepresenting a founders belief and passion for wanting to start a business, who is a woman, as perhaps them wanting to take some time out at some time in the future, thats completely unacceptable. If somebodys coming to you and they want to start a business, they want to start a business. Its not easy to become an entrepreneur and we should support women to do that, and then they will work out for themselves the best way of making that business grow, we should trust people.
17. Joanna ShieldsShields is perhaps best know for her role as Chairman of Tech City. She worked as VP and MD of Facebook Europe and served as president of people networks at AOL. But since then she’s served as the prime minister’s adviser on the digital economy and is NED of London Stock Exchange. According to Shields, businesses don’t do enough to attract women to tech in the first place. I have recently been looking at this issue of part-time employment for women, and I think that as managers and executives we have to be flexible in the options we provide,” she said. Women especially tend to have their second child and then leave the workforce. Thats a shame because of all the knowledge and experience we lose, so we need them to come back – we need to create opportunities for them to return in a way that works for their lives. “Women are 51 per cent of the population so we need to be represented in every part of life and I think teams are an excellent example of that. You need well-rounded experience, not just in terms of the sexes but also in age. By Shan Schutte
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