35 Women Under 35: Meet your next boss

MT's 2013 line-up of brilliant young talent are set to grab the helm of UK plc.

by Emma De Vita
Last Updated: 07 Jul 2014

This year’s group of 35 Women Under 35 are the myth-busters of business; shaking up the perceptions of what it takes to be a leader in every sector, from Premier League football to mining,  to engineering and technology.

No, you don’t have to be a foul-mouthed autocrat like Sir Alex Ferguson or a socially inept male geek to make it to the top of some of the UK’s most competitive businesses.

Instead, as our women show, so long as you are ferociously intelligent (all our five cover stars went to Oxbridge), hard working, ambitious and confident, it doesn’t matter whether you wear a skirt or trousers, have a beer belly or a pregnant bump.

The only judgement MT makes of the 35 women listed here is how talented and ambitious they are…


As partner and head of the talent department at reputation specialist law firm Schillings, which she joined in 2006, Cambridge graduate Afia manages privacy and defamation claims for the firm’s most high-profile clients, including Madonna, Michael Bublé and Katherine Jenkins, as well as business professionals. Afia, who was named Young Solicitor of the Year in 2008, recently founded The Partnership, a networking group for new partners.


As an associate structural engineer at WSP Group, Agrawal has designed bridges, skyscrapers and sculptures with leading architects but has spent the past six years working on the Shard, for which she designed the foundations and spire. The Oxford graduate was the only female structural engineer in her team for much of the project, and also the youngest. A multiple award-winner, she promotes engineering to young people and women.


Named Young Woman Engineer of the Year 2012, the Nigerian-born environmental services engineer at Arup, which she joined in 2007, is now on secondment to its offices in China. Akinola studied engineering at Warwick University and sustainability at Cranfield, and was involved in the brownfield redevelopment of Central Saint Giles in London. She works in Arup’s building design group.



Ballard and her husband swapped London media careers for a move to Worcestershire in 2008 to set up Muddy Boots Real Foods. They made £248 from their first market stall selling top-quality, ethically farmed beefburgers in 2009. Now the business turns over half a million pounds and makes 10,000 burgers a week, which are stocked by Waitrose, Budgens and Ocado.



Made one of PwC’s youngest partners at 32, Australian-born Blackburn leads an Inbound and FTSE tax team of 50 people, working with some of the largest businesses in tech, pharma and consumer goods. Specialising in (controversial) transfer pricing, the internationally recognised Blackburn helps businesses simplify their tax payments. She is currently advising US firms on investing in the UK.


Oxford graduate and McKinseyite, Bower spent three years at buyout firm BC Partners (where she was the only woman in its London investment team), completing the £640m acquisition of Phones 4 U and overseeing Fitness First’s financial restructuring, before being headhunted to private equity firm Vitruvian Partners, aged just 26. A vice-president, she is the firm’s first-ever female investment professional.


Hoping to turn the advertising industry on its head, Butcher is co-founder and CMO of multimillion-pound Blippar, an app that lets smartphone users interact with adverts without the need for QR codes. Blippar, launched in 2011, has already teamed up with, among others, Cadbury, Guinness and Justin Bieber. The app has had 2.5 million downloads and turnover is expected to quadruple this year.


Starting as club secretary and in-house lawyer of Sunderland AFC in 2007, Byrne rose to become CEO of the Premier League club in 2011. The lawyer from Northern Ireland has overseen more than 200 player contracts since becoming CEO, and manages the club’s innovative commercial deals. She was the first woman to be voted onto the Council of the Football Association.


After joining family waste management firm Cawleys as business development manager in 2006, Cawley set up the UK’s first commercial food waste recycling service to use anaerobic digestion, winning Waitrose as a client. She is now creative director at WasteSolve, an environmental management business, whose clients include Westfield and Red Bull Racing. Turnover has tripled in two years.


Cunningham joined Softwire Technology, which provides bespoke software solutions, as a coder in 2000 and was made MD last year, leading a team of 80. She founded the Small Software Association this year and is CEO of Tech Talkfest, a networking event in London’s Tech City. She is also on the steering group for Teen Tech, and is also Ladies’ World Backgammon Champion 2010.


The Italian-born, part-time senior manager in Accenture’s health and public sector team juggles working a four-day week and managing teams of up to 50 people with looking after her two children. Cuomo recently project managed the delivery of a major software release for a government department, leading 50 team members for a year-long project with a £9m budget.


Oxford graduate da Costa began her career in Parliament as a researcher, before becoming a special adviser, then a lobbyist. At 26 she became the youngest person at outsourcer Serco to be appointed head of UK government relations, and in 2010 was headhunted to join comms firm Bellenden. Now MD of public affairs, she manages 15 consultants and, under her, the division has grown 35% year on year.


Made senior client partner at just 26 at Coutts, Dauriac-Stoebe was one of the four founding members of the Coutts private office, advisers to the super-rich. In 2010 she set up her own wealth management boutique, Signia Wealth, where she is CEO, and within a few months collected more than £1bn of assets under management (now £2bn). She also helps run her family’s vineyards in France and South Africa.


A City slicker who saw the light, Dawson – who used to work in institutional sales at Odey Asset Management – is the founder of social enterprise Rubies in the Rubble. Her small team produces jams and chutneys using fruits and vegetables discarded by London markets, while providing jobs and training for low-income women. Her products are stocked at Fortnum & Mason, Selfridges and Waitrose.


After seven years editing In Style and Glamour magazines, Elliott co-founded beauty brand Neom Luxury Organics in 2005. She launched with five products, offering candles made from a blend of vegetable waxes and essential oils without synthetic scents or additives. Neom now sells 115 products across 20 countries and counts Kate Moss as a fan. Turnover is expected to pass £5m this year.


As head of consumer PR for the Sainsbury’s brand, Ellis’s responsibilities include communicating the retailer’s values to customers and looking after its Nectar loyalty scheme. The MBA graduate was previously head of content at Barclays, has worked in business development at Boots and has had stints at GSK and Barclaycard. Last year, she launched not-for-profit Magpie Marketing.


Ferguson joined media planning and buying agency MediaCom at 24; by 27 she was on the board. She became a managing partner at 32, overseeing the planning and entertainment divisions (responsible for 150 staff) and is also head of client services. She counts one of her biggest achievements as running the £200m BSkyB business for five years – MediaCom’s single biggest account in the UK.


A social media strategist at multimillion pound SEO and digital agency Branded3 (just bought by St Ives Group), Halston runs its social media platforms, works with brands such as Npower, Iceland and Warner Music on their social media audits, and pitches for new business. Halston had previously worked for the winning bid for Leeds’ local TV station, and is a public speaker on all things social.


Diageo’s youngest global marketing director oversees its massive Baileys brand. Joining the multinational after Oxford, she masterminded Diageo’s pan-European launch of premix spirit and mixer cans, creating a multi-million-pound growth category. After a stint in Russia, Healy was promoted to interim regional brand director for Guinness in Africa at 31. She is now leading the global relaunch of Baileys.


Co-founder and CEO of management consultants Unleash, Kinal is a serial entrepreneur. Before her current 2011 start-up (which is set to turn over more than £1m), Kinal worked as a principal for niche consulting firm NovaSecta, founded her own independent consultancy Zenitia in London, and co-founded a property development business, Vizions Group, and an English language business in Tokyo.


Joining Moshi Monster’s parent firm, Mind Candy, seven years ago, Knowles has helped build the games business into a $250m global brand. The CFO/COO was promoted to the board in recognition of her operational and financial achievements. Previously, Knowles worked for Howe London on large commercial and residential interior design projects (Madonna and Mick Jagger were both clients).


As Microsoft UK’s social media lead, Lewis is tasked with shifting its marketing strategy from one of broadcast to a social and collaborative one. She was responsible for the operational set-up and management of a social command centre that forms the foundation of all social marketing for the UK business. Recognised by Microsoft as a future leader, Lewis is an eight-year veteran of the business.


Ad agency Karmarama’s group marketing director is also its longest-serving employee. Matthews joined in 2004 from Ogilvy’s graduate training scheme and has run campaigns for Amnesty, Diageo and Heineken. She now has responsibility for marketing and new business for all of Karma Comms Group, which in 2012 had an 80% strike rate on new business pitches, increasing billings by £71m.


After completing her PhD in virology at Cambridge, McMaster joined strategy consulting firm LEK in life sciences before going on to Apax Partners’ healthcare team, where she worked on global M&A. She left to do an MBA at London Business School, where she started The Fold in 2011, a fashion brand for professional women that also serves as a networking community.


An investment director at Virgin Management, Richard Branson’s holding company, Ng sits on the boards of a number of Virgin’s health and wellness companies. She previously worked as an investment banker at Goldman Sachs and a strategy consultant at OC&C. The Cambridge maths graduate and Wharton MBA (pictured five months pregnant) also rowed for Cambridge, swam for Hong Kong and is a PADI scuba dive master.


In 2011, Cambridge graduate Parsons co-founded Decoded, a business that teaches people to code in a day, and for which she has won numerous awards. She currently oversees the international expansion of the business, including the launches of Decoded NY and Singapore, as well as new products such as Data Visualisation in a Day. Parsons began her career at Ogilvy and set up her first business in 2006.


With a salon in Shoreditch and a concession in Oxford Street’s Top Shop, Reid is founder of nail art bar Wah Nails. The Central Saint Martins graduate and former magazine fashion stylist (and consultant to Nike and Levi’s) started the business in 2009 with a £17,000 loan. The Wah brand also encompasses networking events, workshops and ’zines for women in fashion.


The Australian mining executive is chief of staff for the CEO of Rio Tinto’s diamonds and minerals division, across eight countries. Rennick, the youngest person at her level, started out in its iron ore business before being promoted to chief of staff to the president of international operations, where she was a senior leader on the (controversial) $20bn Simandou iron ore mine project in Guinea.


As founder and MD of London private tutoring business Enjoy Education, Shand is at the forefront of a booming industry. She started the business in 2005 and now has 5,000 tutors on her books, and 4,000 clients. The Oxford graduate started tutoring following a serious skiing accident that left her with a broken back. Her business provides everything from one-to-one tuition to mentoring and undergraduate help.


Promoted to CEO of Handicap International UK (one of eight country organisations in the network) in 2012, Shivji had been country director for HI’s largest global programme, in Haiti, following the 2010 earthquake, with an £11m budget and 550 staff. She has worked in 13 countries, including Pakistan, South Sudan and Palestine. As UK CEO, she is responsible for a predicted 2013 turnover of £3.2m.


Joining HR services business the Curve Group (predicted to turn over £4.8m in 2013) as co-owner in 2007, Simpson now sits on the board of all five constituent businesses, and was responsible for setting up two of them: Curve Outplacement and Curve Contractors. She previously worked in the City, having spent eight years at Barclays in sales, strategy and M&A.


The MD of Taylor Wimpey’s central London office joined George Wimpey’s graduate scheme after Oxford in 2001. By 2010, she was asked to head the housebuilder’s move into the centre of the capital. Skinner, who has just joined the main board and is tipped to be a future leader of Taylor Wimpey, says her ambition is to have her division turning over £100m within the next six years.


As one of three managing partners at marketing agency Archibald Ingall Stretton, Stratford is jointly responsible for a team of 75 and a turnover of £10m. Her focus is on strategic direction and client services, and she has helped increase the client base from five to 16, including Vodafone and Mitchells & Butlers. Stratford has also won an IPA Effectiveness Award for her work with O2.


Tredget, holder of a PhD in inorganic chemistry from Oxford, spent two years in Ferrari’s Formula 1 garage managing the Shell trackside laboratory. She is now bringing her expertise to the wider market as a technology manager in the passenger car division. She manages programmes involving more than 50 scientists and engineers, and contributes to Shell’s mentoring programme for women.


The MD and co-founder, with Harriet Vine, of jewellery business Tatty Devine, Wolfenden received an MBE just last month. Tatty Devine, which was founded by the two Chelsea School of Art graduates in 1999, turns over £1.5m, has a team of 40 staff and is stocked in over 250 shops worldwide. Celebrity fans of the UK-made jewellery include Björk, Katy Perry and Noel Fielding.




Russian-born Igumentseva was a City high-flyer until she came across ‘superfoods’. After postgraduate study at Cambridge in developmental economics, she decided to combine both her interests to launch Organic Burst in 2012, selling supplements made from such superfoods as acai berries and baobab. Organic Burst has already won four awards and is supplied to more than 100 stores in the UK.

Former private banker Klein left JP Morgan to start student-staffed tech support company Student@Home in 2012. The social enterprise employs 60 IT students at university to tackle tech problems at several hundred homes and small businesses across London. Students benefit from well-paid, flexible work and experience, while small businesses benefit from a cost-efficient support service.

The Cambridge graduate spent her early career at Ernst & Young before spotting a gap in the market for time-poor, sleep-deprived City professionals in need of wellbeing advice and support. In 2011, she decided to set up Spinach Health & Wellbeing, which delivers tech-supported health programmes to individuals and teams, and now counts E&Y, Bain Capital and the Home Office among her clients.

- See pictures of the photoshoot here. Watch the video here.


- Additional research by Elizabeth Anderson and Rachel Cramond.

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