EDITORIAL: Women on the verge of heroism

EDITORIAL: Women on the verge of heroism - It says something about contemporary Britain that it is so difficult to find more than a handful of business heroes. And if you narrow your search down to female exemplars you'll be in real trouble. The count won

by RUFUS OLINS, Editor-In-chief, and Matthew Gwyther, Editor
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

It says something about contemporary Britain that it is so difficult to find more than a handful of business heroes. And if you narrow your search down to female exemplars you'll be in real trouble. The count won't even get from your thumb to your ring finger.

Why not? Is it because such women are not out there, or because few people have taken the trouble to identify them? At MT we suspected that the country was full of ambitious, talented women who had yet to achieve heroic prominence, and so we set out several months ago to find out who they were. We sought help from some of the most accomplished men and women in Britain. The result is our '35 women under 35' cover story. As well as some more familiar names, we have brought you some that you won't have heard of. Each of them has already made their mark in their industry and are judged to have the potential to go to the top of their chosen field.

It is no coincidence that, with a cut-off point of 35 years, we've chosen women at a critical stage in their careers. Most of them are just two bounds from the Big Time - although for Martha Lane Fox her early arrival in the Big Time brought more than she bargained for. These are women with difficult choices around the corner. They are not like the pioneers of the previous generation, that half-handful of women role models we are so familiar with. They are the generation that is expected to achieve 'it all' in numbers.

The realities of life being as they are, this not going to be easy or even desirable for all of them. Something may have to give. Indeed, 'Wanting It All' is the title of our regular new column, written by Debbie Sandford, who was, until a year ago, like those on our '35' list in every way. There is now one difference: she doesn't have a job any more - at least, not in the conventional sense. A former McKinsey and Random House high-flyer, she has taken time out to raise her children and, with the flame of corporate ambition subdued for the time being, she appears to be loving her life at home. We hope her column will provoke a reappraisal of life patterns - and not just for women.

Even so, as a result of the enormous social changes that have taken place over recent decades, more women will be fighting for the top slot. One who has recently made it to the pinnacle is a book reviewer for MT this month, 3i's Baroness Sarah Hogg, the first female chairman of a FTSE-100 company. She remains optimistic: 'New first female ascents are being recorded almost daily,' she says.

It will be interesting to return to '35 women under 35' before long, to see who has walked away, who has crashed to earth and who has made it to the summit.

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