LEADING LADIES: WOMEN UNDER 35

LEADING LADIES: WOMEN UNDER 35 - A mountaineer, an amateur jockey, a triathlete and a martial arts expert ... You'll find all these and more among our selection of the businesswomen aged 35 and under who are forging impressive careers in a wide range of sectors. For although they have demonstrated precocious skills and remarkable determination in their daily work roles, this new breed of entrepreneur and executive is determined to live a well-rounded life in and out of the office and to express their true personality through their work aspirations. Rebecca Hoar reports.

by Rebecca Hoar
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

A mountaineer, an amateur jockey, a triathlete and a martial arts expert ... You'll find all these and more among our selection of the businesswomen aged 35 and under who are forging impressive careers in a wide range of sectors. For although they have demonstrated precocious skills and remarkable determination in their daily work roles, this new breed of entrepreneur and executive is determined to live a well-rounded life in and out of the office and to express their true personality through their work aspirations. Rebecca Hoar reports.

There's a new type of woman emerging in British business. MT's latest 35 under 35 list is dominated by women who are as active outside the workplace as in it. If success was once measured by how many rungs a woman had climbed up the corporate ladder, now it's about finding work that complements your own lifestyle rather than compromising it. As our cover woman, entrepreneur Sahar Hashemi, puts it: 'The new woman no longer leaves her persona at home when she goes to the office. What you do reflects who you are.'

Two years after MT's first '35 under 35' feature, this new list shows that women are indeed carving new roles in business. They are succeeding in all industries, from advertising to manufacturing. And they are succeeding beyond the office, too. This year's list includes women who run marathons, do charity work, bring up children and complete MBAs, all outside their day-to-day work.

To help identify Britain's new high-flyers, MT called for nominations from some of the UK's most successful businesswomen, as well as from headhunters, think tanks, bankers and academics. Alongside MT's editors, the nomination panel also included Carolyn McCall, MD of Guardian Newspapers Ltd; DeAnne Julius, former member of the Bank of England's Monetary Policy Committee and co-author of a report on women in business; and Professors Val Singh and Susan Vinnicombe of Cranfield University's Centre for Developing Women Business Leaders.

Getting onto the list is not easy. Just over half of the women on the 2001 table - 54% - have not made it the second time around. Some had simply passed the cut-off age of 35. Others were deliberately not re-selected - such as Elisabeth Murdoch, whose independent film and TV production company, Shine, has yet to produce a big hit since its launch in 2001. Shine may have tied up a big deal with HBO, but we have still to see the results.

We are confident that those who have survived our vigorous vetting process are the female role models of the future. The achievements of women such as Rebekah Wade at the Sun, the designer Maria Grachvogel and Katherine Garrett-Cox of Aberdeen Asset Management need no explanation.

There are 19 new entries on the new list. As before, entrepreneurs make up the largest group, taking nine of the 35 places. This may be because, in Hashemi's words: 'Being an entrepreneur provides the chance for women to run their lives as they want to.'

The corporate sector had the biggest increase in representation. In 2001, only three of those listed worked for a big blue-chip company. That figure has doubled this year. The number of women working in finance has also risen. In 2001, 17% of the women on the list had a financial role; this year it's 20%.

This is all good news, but there's a warning note. Younger women often do well in corporate life, but their numbers fall as they move up the ranks. According to Julie Mellor, chair of the Equal Opportunities Commission: 'Women are walking because they don't want to sacrifice their families and their life outside work. Their talents are being lost to the corporate world.' The message is that the private sector should consider providing flexible working patterns for employees at all levels of the organisation, however senior.

Women continue to perform well in the public sector. In particular, the number holding senior positions within the NHS continues to rise. Elisabeth Davies and Claire Scott demonstrate the levels of seniority that women are reaching in the health service.

The youngest woman on the list is 24-year-old Caroline Plumb, founder of Fresh Minds, a company that matches undergraduates and MBA students to short-term project work with clients like Unilever. Although she set up the company in 2001 just as the dot.com bubble burst, it is growing in size and is making a profit when many better-established companies have gone under. Here, special mention should also be made of Martha Lane Fox, co-founder of lastminute.com. Many predicted that the company would fail, but last year it celebrated its first operationally profitable quarter.

There are two lawyers on the list, two MPs and three designers. The media and advertising sectors remain a good choice for women, with seven entries this year.

Although gender prejudice may be low in areas such as advertising and the public sector, manufacturing remains a male- dominated arena. This may explain why Charlotte King, managing director of packaging firm Britton Gelplas, is its only representative on our list. 'If I go to a client meeting with two male colleagues, the client or buyer automatically directs their attention to the men I'm with. They assume I'm the secretary,' she says. The flip side is that King has the advantage when she speaks up.

'It takes them by surprise when I open my mouth and they realise that I run the company.' King is clearly used to this type of situation, but it will come as news to many that such assumptions still exist.

To prove herself in a male-dominated industry, King feels she has to work doubly hard and do twice as well as a man would. It has meant making sacrifices in her life outside work. This is perhaps where she would part company from other women on the list. Says Hashemi: 'Previous female role models were saying that they had great jobs but that they'd given up their life, whereas the new generation want and have far more balanced lives. We don't have to be superwomen and dress in power suits any more.'

Perhaps, as she says, it's a new kind of having it all.

ANN HAND 34

The scale of Hand's role as business unit leader of BP Liquid Petroleum Gas - 11 countries, 1,200 employees, dollars 1bn turnover - eclipses that of many a fully fledged CEO. With stints in marketing and strategy at McDonald's and Mobil in her native US under her belt, she joined BP five years ago and is heading for the top.

SAHAR HASHEMI 35

In 1995, Sahar and brother Bobby opened Coffee Republic. Five years on, it was worth pounds 30 million. Sahar recently published the best-selling book Anyone Can Do It, and has launched a consultancy of the same name. She also lectures at London Business School's entrepreneur summer school.

LARISSA JOY 34

A media and entertainment lawyer by training and former vice-chairman of Ogilvy & Mather, Joy is now chief operating officer for UK and Ireland at Weber Shandwick Worldwide. She was selected by the World Economic Forum earlier this year as a Global Leader for Tomorrow.

DIDO HARDING 35

Harding is commercial director for added-value foods at Tesco, responsible for half the company's food business. She joined the retailer in 2001, following spells at McKinsey, Thomas Cook and Kingfisher. An amateur jockey, her horse Cool Dawn won the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 1998.

KAREN BLACKETT 31

Now marketing director of Mediacom, Britain's biggest media buying agency - which last year managed pounds 610m of ad spend - Blackett is responsible for winning or retaining clients like VW and Direct Line. A black-belt kick boxer, she has been on the Mediacom board since 1999 and took on her present role last December.

MARTHA LANE FOX 30

The Brit.com poster girl has grown up, impressing rivals and the City alike with a pounds 60m string of acquisitions last year and Lastminute's first ever operationally profitable quarter. Despite mixed financial fortunes in 2003, the spending continues - in March the company made a pounds 39.7m bid for HolidayAutos.

ZOE APPLEYARD 29

As MD of Durlacher Ventures, Appleyard's role involves raising capital for private companies. An ex-Merrill Lynch and NM Rothschild employee, Appleyard set up her own company, Life Capital, which she later sold to Durlacher. She also founded and chairs the Life Neurological Research Trust, raising money for research into diseases such as CJD.

LISA HARKER 34

In her three years as deputy director of the Institute of Public Policy Research (the PM's favourite think tank), the impeccably networked Harker helped shape government social policy. A former academic and poverty campaigner, Harker is now finding jobs for the homeless as a director of Aspire.

RUTH KELLY 34

Financial Secretary to the Treasury, MP Kelly has been outspoken on pension issues - and, more recently, the Higgs Report - since being promoted from economic secretary in June last year. A former economics writer for the Guardian, she is now expecting her fourth child, setting a record for serving MPs.

NATASHA CLARKE 31

Former recruitment consultant Clarke set up the Pathway IT Resourcing recruitment agency in 1997. The business confidently held its own during the tech downturn, and has successfully expanded from London to Bristol and Leeds. Clarke is now on maternity leave with her first child.

ALISON CHADWICK 33

It has been a smooth rise through the ranks for Chadwick, who joined advertising agency AMV BBDO in 1993 and was appointed to the board in '99 aged 29. Chadwick is now development director at AMV, responsible for improving agency performance and keeping AMV's 300 employees happy.

CLAIRE SCOTT 30

Tackling NHS management is a tough job, and Scott runs the Leadership Centre in the South, training the NHS managers of the future. It's one of only four such posts in the UK. She has enjoyed a rapid rise through the NHS since starting as a service manager in 1996.

REBEKAH WADE 34

As the first female editor of the Sun, Wade hits the headlines almost as often as she writes them. She made the leap from the top job at the News of the World in January, where she had made her name as the youngest-ever editor of a national newspaper.

MICHELLE MONE 31

One of Scotland's brightest stars, Mone is the woman behind the Ultimo bra, which was developed at MJM International, the company she founded with redundancy money from a factory-floor job at a Labbatts brewery. She includes the Queen's corsetiere, Rigby & Peller, among her customers.

DEBBIE MILLS 28

A Lloyds TSB fast-tracker, Mills is head of business development at Lloyds TSB Private Banking, which has pounds 9bn of funds under management and 36,000 clients. She manages 60 staff spread across five teams that cover everything from client acquisition to product design and monitoring the competition. She's also in training for a triathlon.

STELLA MCCARTNEY 31

With 24-carat backing from Gucci, fashion designer and Beatlechild Stella quit couture house Chloe to go it alone in 2001 and hasn't looked back. She opened her first store - in New York - last year, followed in March by a London boutique in glitzy Mayfair. An ad deal with Absolut Vodka and a branded perfume are among her latest ventures.

ELISABETH DAVIES 30

Davies takes up the position of associate director of partnerships at the National Patient Safety Agency in July, adding to an already impressive portfolio of roles that includes a non-executive directorship of the NHS. She is also the first chief executive of the UK Breast Cancer Coalition.

KATHERINE GARRETT-COX 35

The chief investment officer of Aberdeen Asset Management, nicknamed Katherine the Great, continues to impress despite losing her seat on the board after a shake-up. Tipped as the next Carol Galley, she is unfazed by a split-capital investment trust debacle at the firm last year.

LISA MORGAN 32

Deputy chief executive designate since March of The Game Group, Europe's largest video game retailer, Morgan had joined the 389-store chain in 1997 and first won a seat at the top table the following year as commercial director. She was previously a senior buyer at Dixons.

CAROLINE PLUMB 24

The youngest on our list, and the youngest female member of the IoD, Plumb set up Fresh Minds straight after university. The profitable company has a database of 500 undergraduates, MBA and PhD students, who can be hired by clients such as Diageo and Unilever for short-term project work.

HELEN SMITH 31

Group finance director of stockbroker Collins Stewart since the age of 27, Smith not only handled the firm's pounds 122m MBO in May 2000 but also its flotation six months later. Collins Stewart is now capitalised at around pounds 650m and in March Smith closed another deal, the pounds 250m acquisition of Tullett plc.

JENNIFER TIPPIN 28

From an unpromising start in telesales, Tippin worked her way up through British Airways, becoming general manager of BA Flight Training within four years. Having cut costs by 50%, she joined Invensys as director of key global accounts, with responsibility for managing long-term customer relations.

NICOLA SCHINDLER 34

Reappearing in our under-35 list, Shindler has continued to develop primetime TV drama through her Red Production Company, including two more series of the Bafta-winning Clocking Off and the Liza Tarbuck vehicle Linda Green. Red has more projects on the go with BBC1 and 2, Channel 4 and ITV.

CLAIRE WILLS 34

As corporate partner at international law firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Wills has worked on the Tesco bid for Safeway and Pearson's disposal of the Tussauds Group. As a Freshfields associate, she spent two years in Hong Kong and was admitted to the bar there in 1995.

KIRSTY BRIMELOW 33

A criminal barrister since 1991, Brimelow is the young spokesperson for the Bar. She represented Vinnie Jones in an appeal, and her more recent work has been on rape and murder cases. Off duty, she has provided free legal aid to a charity helping the people of Bosnia, and has climbed Kilimanjaro.

ANNA SEELEY 32

Now group property director, Seeley's meteoric rise has taken her from senior surveyor at commercial property business CLS Holdings in 1997 to main-board member in 2002, via real- estate roles with GE and BT. She manages a portfolio worth pounds 848m in the UK, France and Sweden, which last year generated pounds 60.3m in rent and a profit of more than pounds 17m.

MARIA GRACHVOGEL 33

Probably the only fashion designer ever to have passed the Stock Exchange exams. Equally at home on the catwalk or in the high street (her G range for Debenhams now sells in more than 50 stores), Grachvogel's creations have clothed Angelina Jolie and Victoria Beckham.

BRIDGET WALSH 31

As assistant director of Ernst & Young's Transaction Tax Group, it's Walsh who advises private equity houses and acquisitive corporates on the tax aspects of their potential transactions. She worked on BP's disposal of its chemicals division, and 3i's acquisition of Shepperton Studios. Tipped as a possible E&Y partner.

SUNITA GLOSTER 33

Gloster began her high-speed career in advertising in Australia, where she was account director for Mitsubishi Motors from the age of 23, before joining the Sydney start-up team for TBWA in 1997. She moved to London in '99, rising from European to worldwide business director at Lowe & Partners.

RACHEL BELL 34

Bell shot up from secretary to account director during her five years at Fleishman Hillard before leaving to found her own PR agency, Shine Communications, in 1998. The company now boasts a pounds 3m turnover and its clients include Stella Artois, Qantas Airways and Timberland.

YVETTE COOPER 34

The MP for Pontefract-Castleford continues to shine in the Labour party. The former junior health minister is now enjoying her second junior ministerial position as parliamentary secretary in the Lord Chancellor's department, where her responsibilities include criminal justice policy and party funding.

WENDY FERGUSON 32

Former PWC fast-tracker Ferguson was running the office of Scottish Widows' CEO Mike Ross at 29 and now heads the company's client services division. Following the Lloyds TSB takeover in 1999, she helped turn Scottish Widows into the UK's second-largest pensions and life assurance firm.

CHARLOTTE KING 31

Few women break through the ranks in manufacturing, yet King has made it to the role of MD at Britton Gelplas, a manufacturer of flexible packaging. She became head in 2001 when the pounds 7m company had losses of pounds 300k - it's now making its first profit in years and has achieved 30% growth.

CLAUDIA ARNEY 32

Executive director at Goldman Sachs since 2001, Arney is responsible for the development of electronic information products for the European equities division. Her time as CEO at online news service TheStreet.co.uk, until it folded in 2000, gave her first-hand experience of the dot.com boom.

JULIE DEAN 32

A veteran of our first Under 35 list two years ago, UK equity specialist Dean is one of the country's highest-performing fund managers. She joined Cazenove last autumn to spearhead its attack on the retail fund market, causing a multi-million pound exodus from former employer HSBC's UK funds as institutional clients hurried to follow her team.

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