MT's 35 Women Under 35 2007: Bright young things

Glass ceilings? The confident alpha females on MT's latest list have stormed male bastions or skirted round them. But mixing career and children is still a tough call.

by Emma De Vita
Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013

Here, for starters, are interesting facts about five of the 35 young women on our 2007 list. One was promoted to be the youngest partner of the world's largest law firm while on maternity leave. At the age of 23, another was made the youngest-ever board director of a plc. One was a single-mum taxi-driver, chucked off TV's Dragons' Den, whose business is now worth £5 million. A fourth, while at university, was poached by boxer Chris Eubank to promote his fights, before working with Sir James Dyson and Sir Bob Geldof. And the other is one of the youngest female private-equity professionals in Europe.

Impressed? Meet all the 35 women who MT thinks have the potential to rise to the very top of their game. Aside from their precocious careers, what our bright young things have in common is a talent, a focus and a drive that leave others disappearing in their glittering dust cloud.

The ambitious start at an early age; indeed, the two youngest women on our list are just 24 and have already achieved great things. 'I am very competitive, I don't like losing at anything, therefore it makes me very driven at all times,' says MT cover star Rebecca Farrar-Hockley, who is creative director at Kurt Geiger. 'It's absolute focus at all times and I love that.' She is an alpha female who flourishes when working with other 'eccentric alpha males'; as does co-cover star May Jennings, director of brand licensing start-up and AIM-listed The Core Business. 'I wanted to go further. I had the ability, so my boss gave me the directorship,' she says. It made little difference that she was just 23.

Confidence among our five cover women - Farrar-Hockley; Jennings; Sidonie Kingsmill, global marketing director of Metro International; Sangeeta Desai, senior associate of Apax Partners; and online entrepreneur Shaa Wasmund - is certainly not lacking. Says Jennings (who is now just 24): 'I feel that I can have absolutely everything.'

Youthful exuberance talking? MT thinks not. 'Confidence is the fundamental thing,' insists Kingsmill. 'We have to have the confidence in ourselves to achieve what we want.'

But not everyone has it in bucketloads all the time. 'What I see so often is that people have children and then say that they don't want to deal with people at work any more,' continues Kingsmill. 'And that is a huge shame. They think it's a choice, but they haven't got the confidence to go out and get what they want - which is a good, powerful job, four days a week, 9 to 5.'

So here it is - the one thing that still discriminates against women: motherhood. Recent research by the Government has found that mothers face the worst prejudice in the workplace (Fairness and Freedom, the Final Report of the Equalities Review, was published in February). Crunch-time usually comes in their early thirties. Some women take the motherhood plunge knowing the risks and hoping that their boss is of an enlightened disposition; some shun 'the mummy track' and rely on their partner to take the pressure off; others have children in their early twenties, then go for a career; while yet others strive to get as far as they can by the age of 30, freeing them to take time out. Finally, some opt out entirely. A recent study by the Centre for Longitudinal Studies at the Institute of Education found that a third of women graduates will never have children.

'Big business is built for men, and women can have an uncomfortable experience having to learn the rules of the game,' says Kingsmill. 'That's why they start their own businesses. Once you get to 33, you want to do it your way - and that's how we succeed.'

Whichever choice is made, it will not be without sacrifice. 'But it's about how much you are prepared to make,' says Farrar-Hockley. 'I choose to spend most of my time working. I'm happy to make that choice.'

All our cover women agree that having a senior woman above them is positive. Research by the London Business School confirms this phenomenon. It found that businesses that are run by a woman lead the way in smashing the glass ceiling. 'My role models,' says Desai, 'have always been senior women where I've been working, both at Apax and Goldman Sachs, where they really stand out.'

So, whereas once it was thought queen bees stung those women around them, it would now seem that the nectar is shared out between the women workers.

So what do our representative handful of bright young things think the next decade holds? 'Let's see how we can work together as men and women in teams that complement each other,' says Jennings. 'It's a combination that has been proved to work.'

Adds Wasmund: 'Men will take an opinion from a woman that they wouldn't necessarily take from other men. Two men may have a confrontation, while a man and a woman will compromise and end up with a win-win situation.'

MAY JENNINGS - 24

Jennings, a graduate of the London College of Fashion, became the youngest director of a publicly listed company in 2006, when The Core Business - formed by Stirling Murray, a former director of Rimmel - floated on London's AIM. The firm develops beauty brands, and has won numerous licensing contracts, most recently with model agency Elite.

SIDONIE KINGSMILL - 33

Kingsmill, global marketing director of Metro International, is one of the few female newspaper board directors in the UK. Responsible for the development and implementation of a group-wide brand strategy across 21 countries, she's an intrinsic part of the free press label that has become the largest international newspaper in the world.

SARAH WILLINGHAM - 33

Responsible for the Pizza Express Group's acquisition of the Bombay Bicycle Club restaurant chain, Willingham was appointed development director of the pizza chain's parent company Clapham House Group seven months after joining in April 2004. Willingham, who won a Cranfield MBA scholarship, is now responsible for three of the group's brands.

NICOLE KAR - 32

A partner in the London law firm Linklaters, Australian-born Kar specialises in anti-trust law, advising corporate clients on M&A deals and their exposure to the consequences of breaking competition laws. She is currently involved in one of the first criminal cartel prosecutions in the UK by the OFT.

NICHOLA LAWTON - 28

Co-founder of DNA Clinics, Lawton, a biomolecular science graduate, is boss of a 37-strong chain of DNA-testing clinics that provide support for customers who visit for relationship testing. Clients include a man of 97 contacted by brothers in their seventies claiming to be his sons.

ERIN HEPHER - 31

Aura, an events and relationship marketing business, was founded by Hepher, an LSE graduate, two years ago. With 10 years of management consultancy under her belt - Gemini, Roland Berger and Bain & Co (she was relationships marketing director for three years) - her clients include M&S and BAT.

KATE HALL - 34

Promoted to associate director last year, civil engineer Hall is the first female and the youngest at her level in the infrastructure division at Arup - and the most senior woman working in the firm's highways team. Busy times lie ahead: she's also Arup's project manager for the 2012 Olympic Park in east London.

EMMA BAYLIS - 32

One of KPMG's youngest directors, Baylis heads its M&A tax practice in the Midlands, having joined it eight years ago from Grant Thornton, bypassing university. She describes herself as a 'talented tax technician', and is currently seconded to a youth project in Birmingham.

SANGEETA DESAI - 31

Having already held positions at JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs, Desai is now an investment professional at private-equity firm Apax Partners, which she joined in 2005. She now specialises in leveraged buyouts in the retail, consumer and media sectors. Desai has an MBA with honours from the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania.

MELISSA CLARE - 31

Drilling-rig manager Clare has worked up through the ranks at GlobalSantaFe since joining in 1998 as a trainee engineer. The only woman in her year to study mechanical and offshore engineering at Robert Gordon University, she will receive its first honorary masters degree this summer.

TIF LOEHNIS - 34

Loehnis set up the UK branch of US literary agency Janklow & Nesbit in 2000. Despite competition from established agents with extensive backlists, J&N UK has had eight bestsellers in the past 18 months, and a growing client list includes Professor Stephen Hawking, Sean Connery and Tilly Bagshawe.

HARRIET WALLACE - 29

Currently global policy co-ordinator at HM Treasury, Wallace clearly has a bright future now that Gordon Brown is PM. A Cambridge graduate and Kennedy Scholar, she spent two years with Unilever before Whitehall. She recently accompanied Tony Blair to her second G8 summit.

RACHEL LOWE - 29

Dragons' Den reject Lowe was spurned for her Destination Dublin board game, but orders for her firm, RTL Games, top £5m this year. Ex-cabbie Lowe's 15 Destination games now outsell Monopoly. She has signed deals with Disney and Warner and pulled off a £3m deal for a Destination South Africa game.

CHARLOTTE CROSSWELL - 34

Previously head of international business development at the London Stock Exchange, Crosswell is president of UK-based Nasdaq International, responsible for its Far East business. She manages Nasdaq's non-US-listed companies, and has announced plans to set up a Beijing office.

CHARLOTTE CLARK - 35

Clark is joint owner and co-director of Inca Productions, a fashion events producer for clients ranging from Julien MacDonald to Diesel and Siemens to Hewlett-Packard. Clark and her business partner Nina Ferguson started the company in 1998, and it now has an annual turnover of £4.2m.

LUCY LAKE - 33

An advisory member of the UN Girl's Education Initiative, Lake is director of the international programme of the Campaign for Female Education (Camfed), helping girls in Africa get the education they need. Lake has co-ordinated Camfed's campaign in Africa for 10 years and was made deputy executive director in 2005.

NIKI CLEAL - 33

Having spent 10 years in the civil service (NHS and Treasury), Cleal became director of the Pensions Policy Institute in 2006. While at the Treasury, she led two reviews - Sir Derek Morris' review of the actuarial profession, and Richard Lambert's review of Business/University Collaboration.

CATHERINE BARTON - 33

Barton is the youngest of 638 partners at Deloitte, the UK's second-largest accountancy firm. A partner at 31, Barton specialises in advising insurers on the financial risks of their business. Aside from achievements in the actuarial world, Barton plans to scale Ben Nevis this year.

EMILIE GOODALL - 25

After graduating from Oxford, Goodall was 'keen to work for the not-for-profit sector, but not so keen on working for free'. At New Philanthropy Capital as an analyst, she now advises big business on charitable donations. This can include meeting CEOs, presenting to boards and appearing on TV.

REBECCA FARRAR-HOCKLEY - 35

Farrar-Hockley is creative director and board director at Europe's largest luxury shoe retailer, Kurt Geiger. She joined from Selfridges in 2002, where she was head of ladies' accessories. It's her job to manage relationships with the likes of Gucci, Prada and Marc Jacobs.

SARAH MCVITTIE - 29

Co-founder and CEO of 82ASK, a text-message service that allows people to text any question and receive an answer within minutes, McVittie is a graduate in Economics and Chinese who previously worked at UBS Warburg. She pioneered the motorbike expedition of the 'Silk and Steel' charity from London to Beijing, which raised £20,000.

LEONE DIANE RAZALI - 30

Executive director of mortgage finance at Lehman Brothers since 2006, Yale graduate Razali is responsible for the securitisation, sale and acquisition of mortgage portfolios. She was shortlisted for Young Achiever of the Year by the 2006 Asian Women of Achievement Awards.

CHRISTINE BAALHAM - 33

Joining asset management group Investec from Schroders in 2000, Baalham heads its international equity fund. She now runs its UK core equity assets, with more than £1bn under management. She got a first in natural sciences from Cambridge in 1995.

sonya BRANCH - 32

The new senior director in the markets and projects section at the Office of Fair Trading, Branch was previously the youngest partner at Clifford Chance, the world's largest law firm. While there, she worked on the Barclays/ABN Amro bid and big deals like Vodafone/Airtouch.

SOPHIE FIELD - 24

After graduating from Insead as the youngest in her MBA class, former Morgan Stanley analyst Field joined Merchant Equity Partners last September as only its third investment professional. Now an associate, she is one of the youngest female private-equity professionals in Europe.

JENNIFER IRVINE - 31

Daily-delivery healthy meal service The Pure Package has a cashflow that most entrepreneurs would envy. Starting her business from her kitchen but now relocated to New Covent Garden Market, Irvine has attracted a following that includes the likes of Ruby Wax.

CLAIRE LAWRIE - 32

Lawrie's work as a strategy manager in Accenture's energy practice has led her to advise multinationals, power companies and energy ministries, working in Azerbaijan, Angola and Canada. She leads Accenture's 300-strong energy community. She was selected for Accenture's leadership programme.

HASFA ABUBACKER - 33

Abubacker's Pitch TV teleshopping channel has an impressive record - turnover has tripled since she bought it from Richard Desmond in 2005. She negotiated a deal to get Pitch product promotions into more than 400 UK stores, bringing in extra revenue of £20m in three years.

SHEZEL HATTEEA - 32

Hatteea was working in the postroom at ad agency Bates Dorland when the company's MD urged her to try account management. She joined AMV BBDO via JWT in 2003, and brought in three key accounts that year - Camelot, IPC and BBC World. Her reward was to become the agency's youngest board member at 28.

SHAA WASMUND - 35

Serial entrepreneur Wasmund's CV includes stints working for James Dyson, boxer Chris Eubank and Bob Geldof, who persuaded her to become a founding director of deckchair.com. Her most recent ventures include Bright Station's new $100m investment fund for online start-ups; the creation of social networking shopping site osoyou.com; and the Startup Gym, which she describes as her 'social enterprise legacy project'.

SALLY SCHOFIELD - 35

In recognition of her contribution to British business, Schofield was invited to a Buckingham Palace reception. As COO of mining firm Latitude Resources, she manages its Chilean copper-gold projects - having invested in two properties of 'considerable commercial value'.

SAMANTHA BURLTON - 31

Frustrated by the lack of readily available organic products, Burlton set up her own online organic department store, So Organic, in 2005. She has won numerous awards, although she is best known for her legal battle with Sainsbury's over its own-label organic branding.

KATHARINE ROSEVEARE - 30

Roseveare, having notched up a few years in marketing, set up her agency Intelligent Marketing at the tender age of 26. With a turnover of £2.5m and a team of 40, IM's clients now include Diageo, HSBC and Tchibo. Roseveare is responsible for the day-to-day running of the business.

JENNIE JOHNSON - 35

Johnson left her six-figure-salary business career to exploit a gap in the market for nurseries. Having had two children of her own, she founded childcare chain Kids Allowed in north-west England in 2003, with £5m in start-up funding. She plans to expand from three nurseries to nine.

CHARLOTTE SIMMONDS - 31

Environmentalist Simmonds started her career at construction group MJ Gleeson as its first environmental adviser, getting it on the FTSE4Good Index. She now reports to the board of Tube Lines, a London Underground PPP partner, responsible for environmental sustainability.

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