MT's 35 Women Under 35 2012: Migration Nation

MT's list of young female high achievers in this Olympian year of all-comers is a vivid reflection of wider British enterprise, energised as it is by self-starters whose origins lie beyond our shores.

by Emma De Vita and Elizabeth Anderson
Last Updated: 10 Apr 2014

What happens when you put five women born in Britain, Kazakhstan, the US and South Africa in a room together? The answer is 2012's '35 Women Under 35' cover shoot. This year's list is all about migrants and daughters of migrants - 14 of this year's 35 women are foreign or have a foreign parent or parents. Aside from those already mentioned, the nations represented here are: Australia, Brazil, Bulgaria, Finland, Greece, India, New Zealand, Romania and Venezuela. It couldn't be more appropriate for an Olympic year.

But might this be awkward reading for the Coalition government, which has introduced annual limits on the number of workers who can come to the UK? Tory ministers want to reduce net immigration to the 'tens of thousands', but these rules, says the City of London Corporation, which represents the interests of the Square Mile, are 'giving the impression that we aren't open for business'.

And UK business would be much less international in outlook, diverse and energetic without the people who have taken a risk in coming here. We wouldn't have Nadja Lossgott, now art director at AMV.BBDO, who jumped at the chance of coming to London when the ad agency approached her. She admits she's surprised to find herself in this country, saying that moving here from Johannesburg was the hardest thing she has ever had to do. 'You're completely out of your comfort zone, and that is frightening. It's a completely petrifying experience,' she says.

Elizabeth Deeming (photographed below pregnant with her first child) moved from the US to London in 2000 for a six-month contract and ended up staying for 12 years, working in consulting roles until she helped to launch market research business Stylus in 2010. She's enamoured with the UK's cosmopolitan capital but hankers after the efficiency of the American way of doing business. 'In the US, my colleagues conduct business with an extraordinary sense of urgency.'

Olga Kubassova, meanwhile, migrated to Britain from the opposite direction. The IT and maths graduate left Kazakhstan to study for a PhD at Leeds University, before going on to start her own business, Image Analysis, which helps radiologists read MRI scans more effectively. Fearless from the start (she was one of only five women out of the 250 students on her undergraduate maths course), she hopes that young women like her will empower younger girls to do something worthwhile too.

Aekta Mahajan, on the other hand, is British but her parents are Indian. She says their struggle to forge a life here and the importance that they placed on her education informed a large part of her desire to get ahead. 'I went the extra mile to ensure that their dreams and wishes were fulfilled,' she reveals. They were over the moon when she pursued a career in investment banking, but Mahajan tired of the shameful sexism still alive in the City, and decided to leave to join the civil service. 'I'm much happier now', she says with a smile.

And so to our final cover star, Kate Gross, who also flew up the ranks of the civil service and ended up working directly with Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. It was to Gross that Blair turned when he wanted to help African governments learn the democratic ropes, and she now runs the African Governance Initiative with superhuman energy and dedication. 'I'm proudest of what I'm doing now because the impact on the place where we're working is so much greater than anything I've ever done in the public sector in the UK.'

The 2012 list of '35 Women Under 35' shows just how much migrants contribute to the economy of this country, and the UK has a reputation of welcoming those who want to come here to work. Why would we want to give them the cold shoulder now?

The list: (To see this as a slideshow, and for a video of this year's cover stars, click here)



Joining the Co-operative Group after graduation, Ball took charge of sourcing local produce before pioneering the Grown by Us food range, worth £20m. In 2009, she took over family horticultural firm Lovania Nurseries, which was struggling with large debts. Ball increased profitable turnover by 89% to £10m. She now oversees more than 415 UK garden centres and is responsible for 200 staff.



As one of KPMG's youngest ever tax directors and recognised as an 'emerging leader', Bateson works in the auditor's private client advisory practice and also leads its national tax reporting practice. She established KPMG's first family limited partnership, winning her first £0.5m fee from a bank. She was listed in Private Client Practitioner's 'Top 35 Under 35' for 2011.



The Bulgarian co-founder of fitness brand Zaggora aims to help people lose weight through her signature product, HotPants. Since the shorts came to market in July 2011 more than 380,000 pairs have been sold across 103 countries, solely online. Zaggora employs 60 people, is slated to turn over £12m in its first year, and will be profitable. An LSE graduate, Bell previously worked at JP Morgan.



While on an internship at IBM, Bowyer pioneered technology that translates meetings and presentations into British Sign Language. Gaining a first in computer science and maths, she was recruited to IBM's prized Emerging Technology Service. Now a manager, Bowyer leads £1m projects and has been recognised as a senior inventor. A keen horsewoman, Bowyer competes at a national level.



Growing up in a small farming town in New Zealand, Carrell was named Southlander of the year for a school enterprise project and came to the UK when she won a postgraduate scholarship to Oxford. She joined McKinsey before working for the NHS in London on restructuring projects. She is now CEO of Dr Thom, the UK online doctor service owned by Lloydspharmacy.



A tunnelling engineer at construction group Morgan Sindall, Cooksey has worked on redesigns such as Kings Cross tube station and the Belfast sewers. Working on Crossrail, she managed a £45m instrumentation and monitoring project to protect the built environment. At 24, she set up the British Tunnelling Society young members' committee, later helping launch the UK's first tunnelling MSc.



Starting her career at PWC, Sydney-born Davies left auditing to join Australia's biggest investment bank, Macquarie Group, in 1999. In 2004, she relocated to London, where she is now an MD in the bank's infrastructure department. Davies and her team recently won a bid for three offshore transmission projects worth £400m, and she has been involved in £40bn of infrastructure deals overall.



Since graduating from Cambridge in 2006, Davis worked her way up at Innocent Drinks and is one of its 10 future leaders. She handles the market strategy and planning for a £35m unit, reports directly to the board as business delivery team leader, and is sales and operational planning manager for the entire £200m business. She played a key role in the operational launch of Orange Juice.




Deeming, an American and a Harvard Business School and Princeton alumna, moved to the UK in 2000 to join Deutsche Bank. After that came stints at News International and as a consultant to venture capital firms and entrepreneurs. In 2010, she helped Marc Worth, the founder of WGSN, launch Stylus, a market research and business intelligence firm, where she is chief operating officer. Within 90 days of opening the first office, the company had 30 employees and a presence in LA, New York and Sao Paolo. Stylus now has 100 staff and works with 250 clients, including M&S, Louis Vuitton and BMW.

Career highlight: 'The day our first client order came in for Stylus.'

Best piece of advice: 'Build today what you will need for tomorrow. It's true for both work and personal life.'




The only woman in the senior management team at mining giant Xstrata and also on the board of one of its five divisional firms, Divver joined the business (market cap $50bn) in 2004 after working at Merrill Lynch and Finsbury PR. She became head of global corporate affairs at 30 and orchestrated the PR for a number of multibillion dollar deals, including the $20bn acquisition of Falconbridge.



A former Brownie and Guide, Elkes recently quit NHS management, where she spent nearly a decade delivering operational, strategic and policy management portfolios, to join the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts as world centres director. The Oxford graduate leads the strategic development of WAGGS, which operates across 145 countries, and is on the senior leadership team.



Texas-born Eshak is MD of the Hedge Fund Solutions group at Blackstone. She is head of commodity strategy and is involved in portfolio management as well as manager selection and monitoring. She became European chair of the 100 Women in Hedge Funds network in December. A graduate in finance from Georgetown University, Eshak previously worked in derivatives at JP Morgan.



With Tony Blair, Gross founded the Africa Governance Initiative in 2008. The non-profit organisation works with African governments by offering practical support to bridge the gap between their vision for a better future and their ability to achieve it. AGI is helping the governments of Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia and Rwanda to deliver programmes ranging from public services to infrastructure, and has big plans to grow this year. As CEO, Gross manages a team of 40 and a £5m budget. She previously worked for Blair as his private secretary, then Gordon Brown, having rapidly been promoted to become Whitehall's youngest female senior civil servant at just 27.

Career highlight: 'The impact that I've seen AGI's work have on the lives of some of the poorest people in the world.'

Best piece of advice: 'If you are starting in the non-profit sector, I'd say you've chosen the right place! It's so exciting at the moment - plus it's a brilliant sector for women.'



The managing associate at law firm Linklaters specialises in M&A, and she attracted City attention with her work on Standard Life's IPO and demutualisation and on major Bank of Scotland investments. She played a key role in disentangling RBS from ABN Amro and recently completed Linklaters' first transaction for Alliance Boots. Hoare mentors junior lawyers and was a national gymnast.



At 26, Johnston founded the Up Group in 2007 with £40,000 in savings. The executive search firm hit £250,000 turnover in its first year, rising to £2.5m now. It has carved a niche in digital and online recruitment, headhunting execs for eBay, Electronic Arts and Google. Over the next 18 months, Johnston plans to open offices in the US and Germany and to double staff to 25.



Born in Athens and a graduate of Central Saint Martins, designer Katrantzou burst onto the fashion scene in 2009 with her chic, digital collage prints. She won the British Fashion Award for emerging designer last year and her designs are now sold in 35 countries. In 2011-12, sales grew by 200%. Her latest projects include collaborations with Longchamp and Topshop.



An IT and maths graduate born in Kazakhstan, Kubassova founded Image Analysis, a medical software company, after finishing her PhD at Leeds University in 2007. She now has a business employing 25 and with a projected turnover of more than £1m. It provides specialist software and services to support MRI research and clinical trials, thereby aiding the early treatment of arthritis and cancer. Born in Kazakhstan, the Russian has postgraduate degrees from both Russian and Finnish universities.

Career highlight: 'Really making a difference to individuals with cancer'

Best piece of advice: 'You should always chase your dreams, no matter how wild they might be'







Singled out as a 'rising star' at pharma giant GSK, where she's been a director since 2009, Lawton has led the acquisition of biotech firms, licensing of R&D assets and has conducted spinouts. Previously, she was a resident pharmacist at Guy's and St Thomas' Hospital in London, then an auditor at KPMG, where clients included AstraZeneca. She is treasurer of the Ocean Maths charity.



Lossgott was headhunted by advertising group AMV.BBDO to become an art director in 2010, after her team's celebrated success of its Trillion Dollar campaign for The Zimbabwean Daily Newspaper. The South African has just completed the largest ad production for her agency in its history, for client Arla Foods. She has also represented her native country in gymnastics.

Career highlight: 'The opportunity to work at one of the best ad agencies in the world, and being able to soak up knowledge from industry legends.'

Best piece of advice: 'The sum is usually greater than the parts, so let yourself be part of great teams. And there's no substitute for hard work.'






Lucca and her husband launched Bossa Studios in 2010 with their real-time online Monstermind game, which won a Video Games Bafta this year. Shine Group has a stake in the business, which launches another game this month. Brazilian Lucca worked for Globo TV in Rio before joining mobile payments provider Bango in Cambridge. She left Vertu, part of Nokia, to start up Bossa.



Joining Slaughter and May as a trainee in 2004, Lyle-Smythe qualified into the competition department and spent more than two years in Brussels. She has worked on high-profile merger and other competition work in the UK and at EU level, including the Sony/BMG JV and BA's tie-up with American Airlines and Iberia, for which the division won a Legal Business award.



As marketing director at L'Oreal, Macaskill took Elvive to number one haircare brand in the UK. Her role includes setting the strategic direction for Elvive, and managing a marketing budget of £64m. She also signed Cheryl Cole to the business. Macaskill joined the beauty company from Cambridge, where she produced the Footlights 2001 tour, which was nominated for a Perrier Award.



Leading a range of government priorities for the Cabinet Office, Mahajan's main focus is to help people's bank Big Society Capital become successful in its early days. After stints at Accenture and Deutsche Bank, she joined the Home Office as a corporate strategy team leader in 2009. She is co-founder of the Young Asian Social Enterprise scheme.

Career highlight: 'When the PM signed off a strategy that I proposed, to integrate the production and examination of overseas British passports into UK operations.'

Best piece of advice: 'Always believe in yourself and persevere.'







Leaving school at 16, Overhead quickly progressed through a number of roles in industry before launching the Zebra Group, a payroll services company that now turns over £17.1m. Overhead has just started Mojomums, a lifestyle and recruitment website for mothers - she herself has five children under the age of six. Future plans include launching Mojonannies, Mojotots and Mojo buy and sell.



As MD of publishing and events company C Squared, Pesch runs a portfolio of global brands for a business with a £5m turnover - she helped introduce the Festival of Media into Latin America. The Venezuelan grew up in Africa, Europe and the US, and has worked for Taittinger champagne and Tank Design. She joined C Squared in 2005 as a founding shareholder.



As director of strategic delivery for Sky's Customer Service Group, Reglinski is at the core of a business that services 10.5 million customers and is responsible for supporting the implementation of that group's five-year plan. Before Sky, she was recruited to BT's fast-track leadership scheme. Reglinski works with Ovarian Cancer Action and Teenage Cancer Trust.



The Cambridge graduate joined Accenture as a strategy consultant, specialising in major media clients before focusing on Accenture's own business and becoming director of operations for management consulting in Europe, Africa and Latin America last year. This business is worth £2bn. Rose, an am-dram fanatic, will take part in the Opening Ceremony of the Olympics.



A graduate of the LSE and Harvard Business School, Rudoe founded Good Ventures, an incubator for ethical consumer products, in 2008 and remains MD. She has launched Evolve, a range of organic personal care products, and S5 skincare. Rudoe previously worked at Bridges Ventures, a social VC fund. Her career began at Bain and after Harvard continued at start-up Nude Skincare.



Seth launched luxury award-winning interior design business Casa Forma in 2006, and in 2010 founded charity Soham for Kids, a free school for underprivileged children in Hyderabad. She moved to Chicago from India as a child and studied economics at Northwestern University. She began her career at Lehman Brothers in Hong Kong, before taking an MBA at Stanford.



Setting up her B2B PR and comms agency Limelight PR at just 23, Simpson now presides over a global business with offices in Dubai, the US and Australia, with clients such as WPP and Saatchi & Saatchi. She is also a founder member of the Supper Club, an influential entrepreneurs' group, and a founding partner in The Bridge, which provides employment programmes for 18 to 25 year-olds.



The founder-CEO of social enterprise Young Entrepreneur Society is recognised as a champion for young people in business. With government-approved funding, YES provides an educational programme that teaches 16 to 24 year-olds entrepreneurial skills. Having gone to school in Spain, Ward returned to the UK and trained as a beautician before launching her start-up.



Moving from Loewe to ad agency M&C Saatchi, Wetherell was made account director before working with the global CEO as international development director, a role that incorporates new business, marketing and network management of 26 offices in 19 countries. She won the firm a place on the European Parliament roster, worth £50m over the next four years.



Market research businesses Face Facts Research and the Research Mafia were set up by serial entrepreneur White in the past couple of years after setting up her first business at just 19. While being employed by field agencies, she worked her way up to director level. White has resilience - Face Facts' office burnt down in an arson attack but she quickly regrouped to launch Research Mafia.



As a barrister at 2 Temple Gardens, Wolstenholme's broad civil practice focuses on employment law, personal injury and clinical negligence. She punches above her weight and is known for her calmness under fire. She gained a first in labour law from Oxford before joining 2TG in 2004. She has served on the chambers' management board, as a pupil mistress and on the pupillage committee.



As founder and director of, Wright is in charge of a £6.8m online spa holiday booking agency. Wright had worked in sales and marketing and set up her own PR agency before spotting a gap in the spa market. This year, she launched an industry first - Recovery Retreats, designed for cancer patients. Wright plans to launch a five-star version of Spabreaks by the end of the year.





    Ethical beauty entrepreneur Eluka spent a decade working for beauty brands such as MAC, Bobbi Brown and the Body Shop before launching the award-winning allergy-free Premae Skincare range last year.


    Serial entrepreneur Murray launched the first of her two restaurants in 2007, and a third is planned for 2013. Her latest project is, an online healthcare management system for patients.


    Starting her street dance business for disadvantaged young people at 15, Pero subsequently launched The Movement Factory in 2010, whose academies provide dance classes from ballet to hip-hop.


    Jeweller Smith launched her online business for handmade and bespoke jewellery after leaving university. She is a resident entrepreneur at Hertfordshire University and the Peter Jones Academy.


    The Oxford graduate joined Cancer Research before going to Unilever, where as senior marketing manager she has led the £150m Lynx brand out of decline to double-digit growth.


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