This year’s list of female high-flyers belongs to the young. The average age of the 35 women featured on these pages is just 31. This includes inventor Tanya Budd, who at 20 is the youngest woman to be included in MT’s ‘35 Women Under 35’ list since its inception in 2001. Then there’s cover star Emma Reynolds, co-founder of e3unlimited, who is 24; and Lamorna Trahair, another entrepreneur, a mere 23.
Generation Y has come of age, and its impact on the world of work cannot be underestimated. These women bring with them a confidence, a passion and an unconventional approach to their career that is blowing a fresh wind through boardrooms. It’s no coincidence that Reynolds has ‘carpe diem’ tattooed across her foot. This generation grabs each day and wrings the most out of it. It’s all about enjoying the moment.
It’s about loving what you do, too. If there’s one thing that binds all the women on MT’s 2008 list, it’s the compelling passion they have for their work. ‘I absolutely fell in love with retailing,’ says Alex Holt, category manager for beauty at Tesco, who also features on our cover. ‘I’ve always wanted to do something that I really enjoy and that I have a passion for, and as long as I’m doing that, I love it.’
It’s a feeling echoed by MT’s other cover stars. Fashion designer Sara Berman (whose clothes adorn some of our stars), has the rag trade in her blood and enjoys the manufacturing side and number-crunching as much as the creativity. ‘One of the favourite places I like to be is at my desk,’ she says. ‘I love being at work and I love what I do.’
It’s an attitude that can verge on the obsessive: indeed, most of our cover stars admit to being part control-freak. But when what you do plays such a large part in your life and your identity, how can you let go?
Yet this doesn’t mean that these bright young things are scared to take a risk. It’s impossible not to be impressed by their sense of derring-do and competitiveness, both inside and outside the office. Our list bulges with risk-takers who like to unwind by engaging in such activities as running marathons, playing rugby, flying helicopters, kite-surfing, skiing, swimming the Channel, racing sailboats or playing pool for England.
But don’t fret… not all of the women we’ve chosen are bionic. It’s refreshing to know that at least some of them admit to embracing their inner Carrie Bradshaw, admitting to less fearsome hobbies such as shopping and champagne. And what’s the point in being young and loaded if you can’t sometimes indulge your desire to kick off your heels, forget about work and have a good time?
The Generation Y flavour to MT’s 2008 list shows itself not only in the attitude of the women but also in the types of businesses they have chosen to start up. This new kind of pioneering entrepreneur has chosen to make her mark in the areas of life that most impact on today’s younger generation: mobile technology, web 2.0, the environment and travel: their businesses are very much of the moment.
Christina Domecq, a scion of the sherry family and serial entrepreneur, is co-founder and CEO of SpinVox, a voice-to-text messaging service. She founded the business in 2004 and now employs 300 people around the world. She has just raised an additional $100m for the business – no mean feat in this gloomy economic climate.
Or take Sanchita Saha, who founded social networking website CitySocialising last year. The maths graduate quit a promising career at the BBC (where she helped to launch digital radio station 1Xtra) to found this business, which helps city-dwellers to make friends. It is already profitable. Launched in London, it has spread through the UK and is now on the verge of expanding into Europe.
And what about Lamorna Trahair, the 23-year-old adventurer who co-founded the League of Adventurists International, a travel company that specialises in extreme holidays and is committed to donating £500,000 a year to charity? Trahair, who says her career has so far ‘been typified by working on several concurrent projects’, worked in yacht racing (including the Volvo Ocean Race 2005-06) before leaving to help found the League of Adventurists in 2006. She also works for leadership-development consultancy TalentSmoothie, advising companies on today’s millennial employees. Her motto? ‘Go for it! How hard can it be?’
For mere mortals, it can be difficult, but the women on this list aren’t your average person. All have worked hard to get where they are, and, in some cases, in professions or industries that are difficult for women to advance in.
Paulina Bozek, another of our cover stars, is an executive producer at Sony Computer Entertainment Europe, and the woman behind the successful SingStar music game series. She is responsible for a multi-million pound budget and a team of 50, and is one of few senior women in the industry. ‘When I came into Sony five years ago,’ Bozek says, ‘it was pretty unique to be a woman producer. But Sony was welcoming and wanted to get more women involved, because the industry is trying to attract a new audience. Games have grown beyond boys’ toys.’
This kind of positivity is what keeps these women striving to get to the top. It’s about passion, ambition and – above all – enjoying what you do.
MT's '35 Under 35' 2008 list is produced in association with Microsoft.