The achievements of women across the Thames Valley and Solent were celebrated in style at the inaugural Women in Business Awards, held at Oakley Hall, Basingstoke, on September 12.
The event was organised by The Business Magazine, in association with Barclays, Blake Lapthorn and Deloitte, and opening proceedings, Ian Workman, head of region Barclays Corporate, said the team had been “overwhelmed” with the quality of entries.
“The quality of the nominations really stood out as being far superior to anything we had seen before, which goes to show just how passionate people feel about recognising the success and achievements of women in business,” he said.
With more than 150 nominations, the judges had a tough task whittling entries down to just five finalists in each category, each of whom was then asked to explain in writing why they thought they deserved to win.
When the names of the winners were announced it was clear the top honours had been taken by three outstanding women:
- Nicola Poole, managing director of Oxford-based Hedges Law won the title of Woman Professional of the Year
- Amanda Phillips, managing director of Wokingham creative communications agency Volume, won the category for Women of the Year in Businesses under £10m turnover
- Shirin Dehghan, founder and now general manager of Newbury-based Arieso took the title of Woman of the Year in Businesses over £10m turnover
All three received a hearty round of applause, and congratulating them Workman said he hoped the 2014 Women in Business awards would be an even bigger occasion, as he called for more sponsors to step forward and become involved in the WIB awards programme.
The evening also saw a break from tradition in that there was a lively panel discussion about the role of women in business, led by Lyndsey Simpson, co-owner of leading HR services company The Curve Group.
The panel featured Liz Peace, chief executive of the British Property Foundation; Dawn Baxendale, chief executive at Southampton City Council; and Patrick Maher, a partner in Deloitte’s Forensic Services Practice, who is involved in delivering the firm’s Women in Leadership agenda.
A wide-ranging discussion covered issues such as how to encourage women with families not to give up their careers during the time their children are young, and it was clear from both the panel and audience comments that a more flexible approach and smarter ways of working were key.
It was, said Baxendale, about encouraging and supporting people back into work and being flexible, but also having an honest dialogue and saying there is a job to be done.
Peace advocated the role of a mentor which was, she said, “hugely important” and she made the point that women shouldn’t feel intimidated or that they were contributing less by having a 9-5 working day.
Maher emphasised the importance of keeping in touch with women on maternity leave so they don’t feel left out. It was, he said, essential to create a welcoming environment for their return, to make sure their role was as interesting as it was before and to have a sponsor to speak up for them.
For interviews with each of the three winners, please see the October issue of The Business Magazine.