Telling the truth about SME life today

Women will bulldoze through the recession

“The recession hasn’t affected us at all!” said one respondent. “We’ve experienced 50 per cent growth on 2008,” said another. The positive responses kept rolling in. And, interestingly, 59 per cent felt that female business leaders are better placed than their male counterparts to successfully steer a company through a downturn.

But the survey also uncovered some real worries. Just under two thirds thought the recession would force women’s issues off the radar. Six out of ten businesswomen felt that paternity leave should be extended to provide greater flexibility for working parents: “I’m expecting my first baby in October and hope to return to work as the main breadwinner,” commented one respondent. “It seems crazy that I cannot (yet) transfer some of my maternity leave to my husband.”

The survey was sent to 100 members of the First Women Awards “alumni” – previous winners, shortlisters and entrants.

And the buzz around this year’s event, on June 11, is building. Confirmed VIP guests include former Dragons’ Den investor Rachel Elnaugh and Space NK founder Nicky Kinnaird.

The shortlisted candidates were announced last week. They are:

Business ServicesDr Afnan Al-Shuaiby, Arab-British Chamber of CommerceThe first woman and the first Saudi to occupy the position of secretary-general and chief executive of the Arab-British Chamber of Commerce since the company was founded in 1975. Dr. Al-Shuaiby has worked as Advisor to the President of the US Saudi Arabian Business Council in Washington DC since 1998. Her previous career has included running a small business. She is a board member of the Arab International Women’s Forum.

Irena Edwards, EvershedsIrena Edwards emigrated to Britain from communist Czechoslovakia in 1980, long before the first signs of change in eastern Europe. On joining Lovells, she became probably the first trainee solicitor from a communist country ever employed in the City. Today she is head of central and eastern Europe at “magic circle” firm Eversheds, a trailblazer in UK-Czech business relations and serves on various UK-based commercial, governmental and City of London bodies.

Catherine King, Adecco GroupThe first female CEO of Adecco Group UK and Ireland, Catherine’s career spans senior management roles at some of the world’s largest recruitment organisations. With a proven track record of driving revenue, growth, market share, and profitability, Catherine is also dedicated to creating a spirit of community and inspiration in the workplace.

Angela Mortimer, Angela Mortimer Eponymous founder of pan-European £40m-turnover recruitment consultancy Angela Mortimer Plc in 1976, Angela is one of Britain’s best-known women entrepreneurs. She has furthered the careers of more than 250,000 women, and her predominantly female workforce of 150 is deployed across the UK and Europe. Always ahead of the curve, she introduced a ban on smoking in the workplace in 1981 – decades before the rest of the country.

Claire Sandbrook, ShergroupThe “first woman of debt recovery”, qualified solicitor Claire Sandbrook is a trailblazer in debt recovery and high court enforcement. As CEO of the UK’s largest high court enforcement agency, she is the only female CEO in her industry. She was the first ever female Under-Sheriff of a county (Surrey), a position she held until 2005.

Deirdre Trapp, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLPDeirdre Trapp has been partner at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer since 1995 and was global co-head of the firm’s antitrust, competition and traded (ACT) group from 2000-2006. The Lawyer, the leading legal publication, cites her at one of the top ten most influential lawyers of the next decade – the only woman on the list.

FinanceJann Brown, Cairn EnergyJann Brown is finance director of Cairn Energy, one of a handful of female finance directors of listed companies. She is also a rare woman at executive level in the UK oil and gas industry. She has an unconventional career background, starting out in the arts and only turning to finance in her thirties. She spearheaded Cairn’s flotation in India in 2006, the largest public offering in India at the time.

Ann Cairns, Alvarez and MarsalAs head of the European financial industry advisory group at restructuring consultancy Alvarez & Marsal, Ann Cairns is the woman leading the restructuring of Lehman Brothers in Europe. She was previously CEO of transaction banking at ABN-AMRO, reporting to the group board and serving on the bank’s executive committee, a rare position in continental Europe for a British woman.

Marion King, VocaLinkThe “first woman of payments”, Marion joined payment solutions business VocaLink as CEO in 2002 as the first female, first non-banker to lead the company. She is responsible for revolutionising payments in the UK and transforming VocaLink from a domestic back-office supplier into an international payments transaction specialist. She was previously CEO of the clearing house BACS.

Frances Lagerberg, Grant ThorntonFrancesca Lagerberg is Head of Tax at Grant Thornton UK LLP – the first female to head the firm’s tax practice.  She is also the first woman this century to chair the Tax Faculty of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW).  She has also chaired its Technical Committee for the last two years – again, the first time a woman has done so.

Isobel Sharp CBE, DeloitteThe first female member of the Accounting Standards Board, Isobel Sharp CBE has been at the forefront of accounting debate during her remarkable 25-year career. A partner at accountancy giant Deloitte, she is also visiting professor at the University of Edinburgh and president of the Institute of Chartered Accountants Scotland.

MediaYasmin Jetha, Financial Times Yasmin is chief operating officer of the Financial Times, having previously been appointed the first female executive director in Abbey National’s 150-year history. She was the first Asian woman to be appointed executive director of a FTSE 100 company.

Emma Scott, FreesatThe “first woman of free TV”, Emma Scott led the BBC bid for the Freeview licence and then launched the ground-breaking service. She has since gone on to launch and manage the highly successful Freesat service where she is managing director.

Carole Stone, YouGovStoneBritain’s best connected woman” Carole Stone joined the BBC as a copy-typist and became producer of BBC Radio 4’s Any Questions” Later Carole built a business bringing politicians and business people together with print and broadcast journalists to debate important issues of public interest. Carole is now MD of the opinion research company YouGovStone.

ManufacturingHelen Barratt, BAE Systems“The first woman of submarines”, Helen Barratt is the most senior of only four executive managers working within operations at BAE Systems Submarine Solutions. She joined BAE in 1985 as a trainee administration assistant and has worked her way up to become construction capability manager working for the head of construction and responsible for £100m-plus budgets and more than 1,500 employees.

Dr Mah Gambles, Saaf SkincareA pioneer of ethical skincare, Dr Mah Hussain-Gambles has formulated the first western beauty products to be both Halal and organic certified. A qualified homeopath and pharmacologist, her Saaf Pure Organic Skincare was born from her desire to create a range that her family and friends could safely use.

Nikki King OBE, Isuzu Truck UKNikki King OBE is managing director of Isuzu (UK) and the first female managing director of a UK commercial vehicle manufacturer. An active member of the commercial vehicle industry and has held a number of senior industry roles. She was the first female president (and vice-president) of the Society of Operations Engineers.

Penelope Lloyd, Clifford Jones Timber“The first woman of timber”, Penelope has worked in the traditional, rural industry for more than 20 years. She is director of the mid-sized family timber manufacturing company Clifford Jones Timber, responsible for purchasing 100,000 tonnes of timber across two sites.

Public ServiceMary Hardy, Transport for LondonMary Hardy has been director of internal audit at Transport for London since 2001, where she developed the internal function from sratch. Prior to joining TfL, Mary held similar roles in the private sector with Heron and Diageo. Mary trained at a Big Four accountancy firm (where she was one of the few women) and made partner at the early age of 31.

Alison Nimmo CBE, Olympic Delivery AuthorityIn January 2000, Alison Nimmo became the first woman CEO of an urban regeneration copmany (Sheffield One). Today she is director of design and regeneration at the Olympic Delivery Authority and is playing a central role in delivering one of the largest projects in Europe.

Benita Refson OBE, The Place2BeBenita Refson OBE, a qualified counsellor, established The Place2Be in 1994 in response to increasing concern about emotional and behavioural difficulties displayed in primary schools. Through Benita’s vision The Place2Be has grown to reach 47,000 children in 146 school across the UK. Benita works full time in an entirely voluntary capacity.

Alex Ritchie, Make your MarkAlex Ritchie is Head of Women’s Enterprise at Enterprise Insight, the organisation behind the Make Your Mark Campaign. She developed the Girls! Make Your Mark Campaign to inspire young women in their teens and twenties to be enterprising and make their ideas happen. Her team manage Spark, the national women’s enterprise ambassador network, consisting of approximately 1,200 female entrepreneur-volunteers from all backgrounds and ages.

Jasvinder Sanghera, Karma NirvanaJasvinder Sanghera is director of Karma Nirvana and a national campaigner and leader on the issues of forced marriage and honour-related abuse. A highly respected media voice on the issues, she has been instrumental in campaigning for changes in law, particularly the Forced Marriage Act.  

Julie Spence OBE, Cambridgeshire ConstabularyJulie Spence is chief constable of Cambridgeshire Constabulary and president of the British Association for Women in Policing – in short, one of the most senior and influential women in the UK police. She describes her daily motivation as “maximising the potential of all staff and delivering a first class service to the public”.

Retail & ConsumerHolly Tucker & Sophie Cornish, Founders & MDs, Notonthehighstreet.comHolly Tucker & Sophie Cornish, By creating virtual marketplace with single basket innovation, notonthehighstreet founders Holly Tucker and Sophie Cornish have developed a platform whereby small businesses can thrive in a retail environment dominated by high-street giants. The entrepreneurial pair have raised two rounds of venture capital funding.

Beatrice Hatherley, Mr SiteBeatrice Hatherley is the co-founder and director of Mr Site Takeaway Website – UK’s first retail product allowing consumers to create their own professional dotcom website with an easy-to-use and jargon-free approach. Since establishing in 2004, Beatrice has helped make the web accessible to 75,000 businesses.

Madeleine Milne, EMusicMadeline Milne is European managing director of eMusic with overall responsibility for the development and marketing of the business in Europe. Milne launched eMusic’s pan-European service in September 2006 and built a wide range of corporate partnerships, helping to establish eMusic as the number two digital service in Europe.

Mich Turner, Little Venice Cake CompanyThe “first woman of cake”, Mich Turner worked as a buyer at Harvey Nichols before founding Little Venice Cake Company in 1999. She has established herself as an authority and expert on cake having had three books published internationally. In 2006 Mich was named Harpers Bazaar and Chanel “Entrepreneur of the Year”.

Anne Walker, International Dance SuppliesThirty years ago, dance teacher Anne Walker started making leotards in her bedroom for her students. Other teachers asked for costumes, too, and International Dance Supplies was born! With a £7m-plus turnover and 60 staff, IDS is now UK’s largest B2B dancewear mail-order company supplying dancewear as far afield as Australia.

Science & TechnologyMary Assimakopoulos, The Research PartnershipMary Assimakopoulos co-founded The Research Partnership, a global market research agency specialising in healthcare, in 1997, fusing her scientific background with her expertise in analysis and strategy. Mary’s hard work, vision and strong leadership have seen the company grow to £12.5m turnover, with five offices over three continents. Two-thirds of employees are women.

Paula Bell, Ricardo Paula Bell’s career is littered with firsts: youngest ever director at Rolls-Royce (aged 26); first female director of Anglian Water; and first woman to be appointed director at automotive group Ricardo, where is now finance director.

Lyndsay Menzies, BigmouthmediaAs chief operating officer at bigmoutmedia, Lyndsay Menzies has played a pivotal role in the creation of Europe’s largest digital marketing agency. She was instrumental in winning the agency’s first blue-chip client and has become one of the most influential figures in a sector worth $1.2bn worldwide.

Karen Paterson, CEO, Patersons Global Payroll & HRKaren Paterson is CEO of Patersons HR and Payroll Solutions and the designer of the world’s first internet payroll management system. In 1996, she formed Patersons with a view to solving the significant gaps in the global payroll market and has since built a hyper-growth, global business.Tourism & LeisureVicky Brown, Legoland WindsorVicky Brown is general manager of the family theme park LEGOLAND Windsor and the only woman to be running an attraction of this size.  She has worked across the leisure industry, working for the Tussauds Group for 11 years in the UK, Australia and Singapore.

Gaynor Coley, Eden ProjectGaynor Coley is managing director and deputy CEO of The Eden Project, which has attracted over ten million visitors to date and added more than £900m to the Cornish economy. Her many career firsts include being the first female chair of Cornwall and Plymouth Chartered Accountants.

Doreen McKenzie, Knock TravelDoreen started Knock Travel on the April 1, 1990 with two retail travel shops, four staff, a turnover of under £1m and no technology. She now has two retail agencies, a motivated team of 23 staff, an annual turnover of £8m, and is a very active spokesperson for the travel industry.

Wasfi Kani OBE, Grange Park OperaWasfi Kani is the creator of her own rural opera festival, Grange Park Opera. In 2003 Wasfi also set up the Nevill Holt Opera Festival in Leicestershire. She is also a prisons pioneer, having taken her touring company Pimlico into countless prisons including, most recently, Les Miserables to HMP Wandsworth.

The awards ceremony takes place on June 11 at the London Marriott Hotel, Grosvenor Square. The First Women Awards, hosted by Real Business and supported by the CBI, will be a wonderful opportunity to network with the 500-plus of the UK’s most successful businesswomen and entrepreneurs. Book your place here.


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