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Yvette Cooper “horrified” her colleagues

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Cooper said she was looked at in horror when she told her colleagues in government that she wouldn’t be able to read through boxes of paperwork in the evenings because she had children to look after.

"We have to inspire the next generation of women to come up with new business ideas," she said. "That’s what will help our economy grow in the future."

And if there’s anyone who knows how to inspire, it’s Fru Hazlitt, who gave a storming speech on her rollercoaster career. Hazlitt made her name at Yahoo, then took the post of CEO of GCap Radio, where she had to deal with the crackle and hiss of an unsolicited takeover bid from Global Radio. She then moved on to be a non-executive director of retailer Woolworths, which drew its final breath last month. "Every time I join a company, it goes into crisis. I’m not sure if it’s something to do with me or not!"

Hazlitt entertained the crowd with her self-deprecating humour (“I’m the type of woman who throws herself into a swimming pool without first checking to see if there’s any water in it” and “I have to take a lot of legal drugs”) and her powerful tale of how she communicated with GCap’s 27,000 employees about the imminent job losses.

"I received an email from an employee accusing me of being interested only in my own job and calling me the c-word. When I read it, I cried. He didn’t expect me to write back but I did – on a Saturday night. He replied to thank me and wished me the best of luck for the future.

"Yes, you have to make ruthless decisions in business. But you have to execute them with empathy."

The event marked the run up to the fifth First Women Awards, which will be held on 11 June and is sponsored by Lloyds TSB. Guests included Jane Dyson of The Network, Nahid de Belgeonne of Good Vibes and Diana Brightmore-Armour, CEO of corporate banking at Lloyds Banking Group. With special thanks to Investec for hosting the lunch.

Read City A.M.’s coverage of the event hereRelated articles:Fru Hazlitt on the GCap dealAsian entrepreneur makes fat sales

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