35 Women Under 35 2020: Britain's brightest young business leaders

As the UK heads towards the worst recession for decades, these talented young businesswomen will be helping to rebuild the economy and rebalance the scales.

by Kate Bassett
Last Updated: 30 Jun 2020

For the past 20 years, Management Today has made it a mission to fight for gender equality in business. It all started with the annual 35 Women Under 35 list, unearthing new female role models and spotlighting the contribution of Britain’s young businesswomen - whose voices were still being largely ignored in the media.

Two decades on, we sometimes get criticised for continuing to run these awards. For example, why not have 35 Men Under 35? Why have an age limit? We’re all for fairness, but the simple truth is that women continue to be grossly under-represented, underpaid and under-promoted in the UK.

There are still only five female CEOs in the FTSE 100 and only one in three of Britain’s entrepreneurs is female – a gender gap that’s equivalent to 1.1 million ‘missing businesses’. Even though women are more likely to enter the workforce with higher qualifications than men, they earn less per hour. And the pay gap increases sharply at the point couples have children – by the time their first child is aged 12, the average hourly wages of mothers are a third lower than those of fathers. Any progress that had been made in gender equality over the past 20 years has been reversed by the pandemic.

That’s why Management Today keeps pushing for parity and continues to celebrate Britain's next generation of female leaders.  

This year’s 35 Women Under 35 list, sponsored by Accenture, is as impressive as ever. Among others, there are partners at magic circle law firms, managing directors of creative agencies, the founder of a vegan burger company and a social entrepreneur tackling sea plastic. All of them have achieved extraordinary things in a remarkably short period of time.

Read the full profiles below.

Victoria Anderson, solicitor, Schillings; CEO, Big Voice London – 27

Anderson is a solicitor at Schillings, specialising in reputation management and privacy. Passionate about diversity in the legal profession, she started volunteering for Big Voice London, a social mobility and youth empowerment charity supported by the UK Supreme Court that aims to get a new generation into law. In 2015, she became its CEO. Last year she was recognised in The Attic’s “Lawyers who are changing the world for the better” list.

Freha Arshad, senior manager, Accenture Security – 34

Arshad is leading the way in cyber security – an industry where she has few female role models. She has worked with the police force and central government, among many others – and co-founded 'Women in Security Scotland', as well as the Women in Security group within Accenture. With over a decade of experience, she is a powerful advocate of sharing her experiences and lessons with the next generation. 

Yvonne Bajela, founding member and principal, Impact X – 30

Bajela is a founding member and principal at Impact X, a venture capital fund set up to invest in companies led by underrepresented entrepreneurs across Europe. Prior to Impact X Capital, Bajela was a senior investment manager at Mitsui & Co. where she led investments in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. She is a board member and most recently had exposure to FTSE 250 listed board of HarbourVest Global Private Equity. Bajela is also an advocate for female entrepreneurship and a Shaper for the World Economic Forum.  

Abbie Bates, director of people & culture, DeepMind – 31

Since joining DeepMind in 2017, Bates has risen up the ranks of the Google-owned AI research institution to become director of people & culture, helping to develop the firm's values and culture. In that timeframe, the firm has grown from 200 people to 1,000 across four countries. Bates is a qualified Insights Practitioner, NLP Practitioner & Coach, Predictive Index Practitioner and an Associate Member of the CIPD.

Shabina Begum, associate solicitor, Dawson Cornwell – 33

An exceptional lawyer working with vulnerable and emotional clients, Begum is a pioneer in her field. She leads the way in researching and championing the rights of women and girls, specialising in international child abduction, forced marriage, child marriage, female genital mutilation and gender based violence. Begum is a UN recognised expert of child, early and forced marriages in the UK. She has a relentless commitment to helping those who can't help themselves and changing lives, and law, for the better. 

Mary Bonsor, CEO and co-founder of F-lex Legal – 33

Former lawyer Bonsor is the co-founder of F-lex, an online platform to connect law firms and general counsel to lawyers and law students for a flexible, on-demand service. Today the firm has 4,500 paralegals and lawyers on its platform, more than 350 clients including magic circle firms and FTSE 250 firms, and is set to turn over £6.5m this year. Recognised as a “legal disruptor”, Bonsor is also a school governor and supports other female startups through the Legal Geek and London Young Lawyer Group mentoring schemes.  

Rebecca Burgess, CEO, City to Sea – 33

Burgess is a social enterprise leader, heading up City to Sea, a not-for-profit organisation campaigning to stop plastic pollution at source. She's overseen 763% revenue growth in the past three years and has created a flexible working culture for staff, with an emphasis on personal development and company cohesion. Through effective and purposeful campaigning, Burgess has built an entire ecosystem of supporters for City to Sea.

Bex Carson, chief product officer, Brandwatch – 34

Carson started her career with market research firm Nielsen before joining social intelligence firm Brandwatch as a senior analyst. Within six months she was leading the research team and, when the firm merged with its industry rival in 2018, she was promoted to chief product officer. Brandwatch, which counts Unilever, Whirlpool, British Airways, Walmart and Dell as clients, aims to have a $1bn valuation in the next few years: CEO Giles Palmer says Carson “will be one of the key driving forces in getting us there”. Keen to make a meaningful contribution to increasing diversity in tech, Carson mentors women and is involved in organising women in tech events.

Ana Diaz, head of operations, Henderson Rowe – 34

Born in Mexico, Diaz graduated at the top of her business school, Instituto Tecnologico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey, then gained a scholarship  to do a master’s degree at London’s Westminster University. After working for Santander Bank as a credit risk manager for corporate clients, she joined investment firm Henderson Rowe in 2013 and now heads up its operations. She is also a senior executive at Rayliant Global Advisors, a prestigious institutional investment manager based in Hong Kong.

Elise Dickinson, marketing manager, Budweiser, AB InBev – 32

Dickinson cut her teeth on the sales and trading floor at Morgan Stanley, where she was the only woman on a team of 15. After studying at Kellogg School of Management, she was selected for Colgate-Palmolive’s MBA grad programme in New York then joined consumer goods giant AB InBev. As European head of innovation, she launched Corona beer on draught in Britain’s pubs and introduced an initiative to eliminate plastic rings packaging across the company’s entire UK portfolio. She now manages Budweiser, the world’s most valuable alcohol brand. Dickinson was selected as a Marketing Academy Scholar last year.

Mikela Druckman, founder and CEO, Greyparrot – 32

The former chief commercial officer at tech firm Blippar, Druckman co-founded Greyparrot last year to “digitise waste”. Her London-based AI firm, which raised £1.8m in seed funding in May, has trained a series of machine learning models to recognise different types of waste, such as glass, paper, cardboard, newspapers, cans and different types of plastics, in order to make sorting recycling more efficient. Druckman is a member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Future Council.

Helena Eccles, associate, McKinsey & Company – 26

At 26, Eccles has already had a stellar career at McKinsey, worked alongside Helena Morrissey and Dame Vivian Hunt (legends), she has advised some of the leading UK institutions across the public, private and third sectors, has championed diversity and inclusion, and co-founded a cricket programme for Syrian refugees in Lebanon. Her work both in and outside her direct role shows a dedication to gender equality and the ability to take action to deliver positive change and to lead with kindness and compassion.

Christie Fearnside, managing consultant, PA Consulting – 31

Fearnside is a managing consultant at PA Consulting, specialising in the rail industry. Described as a “future leader” within the global management consultancy firm, she is currently being fast-tracked to becoming a partner. A former international hockey player, she is also the co-founder of ethical ski wear company Red7SkiWear, which launched on Kickstarter in 2015 and was successfully funded within 30 hours. Fearnside has a master’s degree and graduate diploma in law.

Bernie Fischer, COO, Mobkoi - 35

Fischer has taken Mokboi from a startup to a $35m-turnover mobile advertising firm, creating a diverse and inclusive culture along the way – Mokboi has won Campaign magazine's 'Best Places to Work' three years in a row. Working in a service business with a human-centric approach, her soft skills have played a huge role in creating a healthy company culture of fun and excellence. 

Madeleine Goerg, engagement manager, McKinsey & Company – 33

Goerg's career has had a huge impact on society. The Foreign Policy Association recognised her as one of the top 35 non-Africans under 35 making an impact in Africa. She sits on the board of an NGO as well as working for McKinsey in the energy sector helping large corporations navigate complex environments, reassess societal impact and shift toward purpose-driven performance. Goerg is a diversity advocate and champion both within and outside her organisation. 

Cara Hegarty, partner, Linklaters – 35

Legal rising star Hegarty is one of only six partners in the London Employment & Incentives practice at Linklaters, where she leads a team of 40. Recognised by Legal500 as a “next generation lawyer” and “simply the best in the business”, she advises some of the world’s biggest companies on their remuneration strategies and most complex multinational deals. Hegarty is a member of  Linklaters’ ‘Allies with Pride’ network to support inclusion and LGBT issues, and she coaches junior female lawyers as part of the firm’s ‘Stepping Forward’ programme.

Annie Herdman, partner, Kirkland & Ellis International - 32

Smashing the male-dominated world of law, Herdman is the youngest female partner in her field, promoted at the age of 31 following nine months of maternity leave. Herdman is passionate about nurturing young female talent in the legal profession and frequently offers pro bono advice, recently acting for a community, not-for-profit nursery in South East London. She was recognised as a “future leader” in the Who's Who Legal 2020 global competition rankings. 

Rachel Hugh, co-founder, The Vurger Co – 34

After a trip to California, Hugh made it her mission to bring tasty vegan food to the streets of London – and to make veganism mainstream. The Vurger Co. was born. In just four years, the brand has exploded in popularity, growing from a market stall (where Hugh cooked and served every single burger) to a multi-site restaurant company, serving up 100% vegan food and using environmentally friendly, plant-based packaging. Last year, The Vurger Co. raised £1.4m and Hugh was named on the Forward Fooding Top 10 Women in Food Tech.

Amelie Hunton, founder, BrndBx – 25

Hunton proves there’s more than one route to success. She dropped out of uni to pursue a more entrepreneurial direction and now runs her own successful influencer marketing agency with clients including The Body Shop, Boots and Primark. The BrndBx community comprises more than half a million campaign entrants and more than 100,000 followers on social media. Hunton was recognised in The Drum’s 50 Under 30 Awards in 2018, celebrating top young female digital talent. 

Neena Jivraj Stevenson, chief culture officer, Queensway – 32

Jivraj Stevenson is the only woman on the executive team at Queensway and is a leading talent in the hospitality sector, driving strong corporate governance as well as establishing and embedding the Queensway values. Previously a management consultant at Deloitte, she set up the Queensway Foundation in 2018 and completed the Harvard Business School Program for Leadership Development last year. She is a role model to other women at Queensway and actively uses this position to promote gender balance within the organisation and have a positive impact on the wider world. 

Hannah Johnson, managing director, Blue State – 33

Johnson joined Blue State in 2016 and is the youngest MD across the WPP-owned creative agency. On her watch, the UK arm of the firm has grown by 20% and started working with, or grown its remit with, Lloyds Banking Group, the Movember Foundation, UNICEF, the Cabinet Office, Equality & Human Rights Commission and more. The daughter of a builders’ merchant and a computer literacy teacher, Johnson grew up in a village near Leeds and is passionate about class diversity in advertising. She has mentored students on the comms and advertising courses at several UK universities.

Rachel Knight, head of trusts and new markets, ActionAid UK – 33

Knight is a rising star in the charities sector. Promoted into leadership a year ago, she now runs the trusts and new markets team at ActionAid UK, an international NGO working with women and girls in poverty worldwide. She runs a growing team that currently raises over £4m in the UK, Europe, Asia and the Gulf. She's changed the culture with an open, innovative, collaborative and ambitious focus in an all female and flexi-working team. She is a values based leader with an impressive, dynamic and passionate approach.

Jennifer May, customer experience officer, REED – 29

After notching up corporate experience with Dixons, Tesco, Argos and Travelex, May joined family-owned recruitment giant REED as customer experience officer last year. At just 29, she’s the youngest member of the firm’s c-suite team. Earlier this year, she co-founded the ‘Keep Britain Working’ campaign alongside REED’s CEO James Reed. Backed by the likes of Baroness Karen Brady CBE, Rt Hon Penny Mordaunt MP and the CBI, the initiative helps redeploy workers from struggling sectors to in-demand ones and preserve jobs. 

Siobhan Miller, founder, the Positive Birth Company – 34

Miller has created a small but mighty business. She started the Positive Birth Company from her kitchen table in 2016 and it's now the world's largest supplier of online antenatal courses, supporting parents-to-be from over 100 different countries and is on track to turnover more than £1m this year. Miller identified a clear problem that needed a solution and has shown initiative, ambition and grit.

Kate Moore, senior sponsorship manager, Diageo – 31

After running her own equine biomechanics business, Moore pivoted into the world of sponsorship and is now a senior sponsorship manager at Diageo, heading up the drinks giant’s partnerships with the likes of Wimbledon and Cheltenham Festival. She played a leading role in Guinness’ title partnership of the Six Nations and the Women’s Six Nations, and was also behind the launch of ‘Sisters’ - the first ad from Guinness championing female rugby players, which reached more than 10 million adults this year.

Megan Morass, co-founder and director, Full Fat – 32

Morass co-founded Full Fat in 2011. Now it’s the largest festival agency in Europe, with a turnover of £1.2m and a team of 25 delivering creative campaigns for brands such as Russian Standard Vodka, Adidas, Boiler Room and Glitterbox. Morass is also the creator of Flock Global, a female entrepreneurs network with more than 600 members across the UK and the US, and co-host of The Slice, nominated as the best new podcast at The Influencer Awards last year. Despite her impressive accolades, Morass says her proudest achievement is overcoming depression. 

Emily Orton, chief marketing officer, Darktrace – 34

Orton was part of the founding team at Darktrace in 2013, one of the world’s leading artificial intelligence companies that reached a valuation of $1.65bn in under five years. Orton identified the great problem facing software companies (how do you communicate technology like AI to people who don’t have PhDs in machine learning?) and articulated Darktrace’s core message using the analogy of the human immune system, a metaphor that drives the company’s immense growth today. She is engaged in frequent external communications as well as promoting women in the industry.

Livia Paggi, partner, political Risk, GPW – 35

Paggi has gone from junior analyst to equity partner at political risk consultancy GPW (while having two daughters) in the past five years. Paggi blends strong people skills with a tough approach to problem solving. She has advised boards at global companies at critical moments; she has run large international investigation; and she has gathered information from often obscure and closed countries. She also delivered food boxes to 500 local families during the pandemic. You want her on your team.

Oksana Pyzik, global engagement lead & senior teaching fellow, UCL School of Pharmacy – 34

As the youngest female academic in a very traditional (and very male) sector, Pyzik is an astonishing and timely winner of 35 Women Under 35. Her research and teaching focuses on global health issues, ranging from pandemics to digital health interventions around medicines quality. She launched the UCL Fight the Fakes Campaign to raise awareness, drive research, and advocate for victims of fake medicines – this is behind her larger goal of saving 10 million lives. She also mentors disadvantaged students and is a regular contributor to the media on Covid-19.

Rebecca Ridge, MD and founder, Rebecca Abigail PR – 31 

After spending time in rural Zambia working with local communities affected by HIV, Ridge started her own PR agency, Rebecca Abigail. Aged just 23, she bagged Tinder as her first client, launching the brand in the UK market and taking it from an unknown dating app to the highest-grossing app on the Apple app store. Her Soho-based business now has 20 employees and a seven-figure turnover, without external funding or investment. Ridge is currently enrolled on an executive leadership course at Oxford’s Saïd Business school. 

Namrata Sarmah, product director, NED and startup advisor – 35

Sarmah started her career as a software engineer in Bangalore, India, more than 12 years ago. Aged 25, she won a British Council scholarship to study a master's degree at Manchester Business School in the UK and started her product management career shortly after that. She has lead high-growth global teams and launched impactful digital products across a number of sectors such as telecom, media, healthcare, wellness and broadcast. Sarmah’s portfolio of work is broad, ranging from startups such as Babylon Health to conglomerates like ViacomCBS. Last year, she featured on the ‘FT Top 100 Most Influential BAME Leaders in UK Tech’ list.

Trisha Sircar, global programme director, Xaxis – 29

Sircar joined the global programme management team at media and tech firm Xaxis last year. Now she’s leading it, working to super-charge a pioneering culture, build a global climate for innovation and establish a cross-team mentorship programme. Sircar gives motivational talks for young talent at events such as Media Insight Day, holds creative workshops for several London universities and is part of the Bloom network. She won the 2019/2020 WACL Future Leaders Award, a purpose-led grant scheme for the most talented young female leaders working in media, marketing and comms.

Lauren Stewart, founder, Invigorate – 28

Stewart is the founder and CEO of Invigorate, an online platform that connects ambitious startups with experienced advisors on a flexible basis. She doesn’t just support entrepreneurs, she backs them, with an investment portfolio including Monzo, Nutmeg, Seedrs and BlowLtd. Stewart volunteers at TERN (The Entrepreneurial Refugee Network) and homeless service The Passage, and sits on the youth advisory board of the Big Youth Group, a company aimed at improving the odds for young people.

Laura Vipond, managing partner, Karmarama – 34

Leading business development at Karmarama (part of Accenture Interactive), Vipond has helped to put the creative agency at the top of Campaign magazine’s New Business League and ranked as the fastest growing agency in 2019. With an 85% pitch strike rate, this has meant a billing increase of £83.9m, the highest in the company’s history. Vipond joined seven years ago, and is the youngest person to reach Karmarama’s leadership team as managing partner. She's also co-chair of the IPA New Business Group, WACL Future Leaders Award winner and a Marketing Academy Scholar.

Dr Diana Esther Wangari, principal & founding member, Lens Africa Fund – 27

The embodiment of a business leader with purpose, Wangari founded 'Checkups Medical Centre' – a health-tech startup designed to provide medical care to members of the urban and rural communities in Kenya at low cost – and also completed an MBA at Oxford's Saïd Business School winning the Skoll Scholarship, a scholarship for social entrepreneurs worldwide, for her MBA. Forbes also recognised her in the 30under30 Africa 2019 technology category. 

This year's nominations were judged by Jacqueline de Rojas CBE, president of techUK; Amazing If co-founder Sarah Ellis; and Management Today's head of content Kate Bassett.

Co-authors: Ed Craig, Adam Gale and Tasha Sullivan. 

Nominees' ages are listed as of Monday 22 June 2020, when judging closed.