Women in Business 2018 launch event
Leadership and inclusion is the theme of this year’s Women in Business awards. Previous winners and guest speakers gave an audience of nearly 100 plenty of reasons to get motivated and nominate themselves or colleagues during a special launch event held at Reading’s Apex Plaza.
Vikki Hemming, relationship director at the awards headline sponsor Barclays, said: “The awards provide a wonderful opportunity to celebrate exceptional people, as well as share ideas, network, and grow local businesses together.”
The other award sponsors are Blake Morgan, KPMG, Hitachi Capital (UK) and Thomas International.
Kath Shimmin, partner at Blake Morgan, introduced three of last year’s winners, who shared their thoughts on what the achievement meant to them.
Georgina Hurcombe, founder and managing director, LoveLove Films, said: “It was great to have the accreditation. I’ve had international clients say they’d heard I’d won. It’s been great for PR and has inspired my team.”
Sarah Chapman, technical manager at 3M, said: “Women in Business provides a ready-made network that I know I can call on.”
Nick Sassow, co-founder with last year’s winner Sandra Sassow, of SEaB Energy, talked about how the award helps engage men in the diversity debate.
“The most difficult thing for men is to become humble. Winning the award helped propel Sandra’s business forward. Her profile in STEM, energy and waste management makes it easier to open doors, but attracting women into engineering is still an uphill battle,” he said.
Chapman said women shouldn’t undersell themselves in the workplace and focus on self promotion. While Hurcombe noted: “If you have a dream and passion you should follow it. Navigate around the ‘can’ts’.”
Asked about their role models, Sassow said Sandra drew strength from her family. Chapman said having role models who were within reach was the key. “That’s why awards like this are so important,” she noted.
For Hurcombe, inspiration comes from surrounding yourself with talented people who you admire and trust. “I always say hire people who are better than you. I have a great team who are great role models and doing what they love.”
Kath Shimmin, Nick Sassow, Sarah Chapman and Georgina Hurcombe
Fourfront of change
The evening’s two guest speakers offered their personal views on diversity and encouraging women in the workplace. Aki Stamatis is chairman of workplace design specialists Fourfront Group, a previous Women in Business award winner.
“A lot of what we do is less about the colour of office walls or what the reception looks like and more about ‘re-wiring’ businesses to bring in a female perspective,” said Stamatis, who is one of the Women’s Business Council and Management Today’s top 30 agents of change in gender inequality.”
He added: “A lot of research says that if you start to address gender inequality your profits start to go up. It’s a business driver, yet we still see employers who don’t recognise the potential of women in their workforce.”
Stamatis helped set up his company’s Women in Fourfront initiative. He’s a strong believer in one-to-one coaching to impart ideas that can’t always be taught in the classroom. “We have male colleagues coaching women, who don’t realise the women are coaching them at the same time,” he observed.
Changing cultures in smaller businesses can be a challenge, he thought. “Being an SME can be a double-edged sword. On the one hand you are small and dynamic enough to change things quickly. On the other, you rely on having strong leadership from individuals who are not just paying lip service to your diversity approach.”
Great strides have been made towards diversity in many sectors. But one of the least tapped markets for female talent is probably motorsport. An exception is Rebecca Jackson, racing driver, TV presenter and owner of Prestige Cars, who was the evening’s other guest speaker.
As well as having a supportive family who encouraged her, Jackson also realised getting a business studies qualification under her belt would pay dividends. “I need a business mindset, acumen and experience to do the racing driver side, as well as running my own used car sales firm. Everything I do has a business element,” she said.
What challenges did she face following her dream in a man’s world? “I’ve had cars breaking down and male customers trying to out-geek me on technical details. But the worst thing is when criticism is from other women. We should stick together and support each other.”
She felt the barriers of entering the male-dominated motor racing environment can be overcome. “You have to prove yourself and earn respect. I did that through success on the racetrack. I think a man entering the sport would face a similar challenge.”
But Jackson’s not about blending in. “I was when I first started. I wore hoodies and trainers. Not many people knew about my salsa dancing at weekends and were surprised I wore high heels,” she said. “Now I’m more comfortable in myself and I’d say always be true to yourself.”
As well as presenting ITV4’s I Want That Car and appearing on Fifth Gear, Jackson co-hosts Ali A’s Superchargers on youth channel CBBC. “My advice to the next generation is follow your dream, believe in yourself, and don’t let anybody tell you that you can’t do it,” she said.
The Women in Business awards is on Thursday October 4 at Oakley Hall, near Basingstoke. Chris Stylianou, chief operating officer of Sky UK and Ireland, who is a member of the Women’s Business Council, will be the evening’s keynote speaker.
The eight award categories are Rising Star, Champion of Change, Enlightened Employer, Start-up of the Year, Woman Business Owner of the Year, Board Level & Senior Executive of the Year, Spotlight on Women in STEM and Role Model of the Year.
Entry forms can be downloaded here. Closing date is June 8.