Women of steel

They may look more tender than tough, but the young achievers on MT's latest list show a determination to venture where others fear to tread. EMMA DE VITA reports.

by
Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013

This is MT's fourth '35 Women Under 35' list and it contains many firsts: a space mission scientist, a North Sea oil rig manager, a haulier, a mining financier, a whisky distiller, an airline airport manager, the head of a stock exchange and the 24-year-old founder of a metal-pressing shop.

The young women we've selected are inspirational not only for the scale of their ambition but also because they are still among very few females to be cutting a swathe through the traditionally masculine worlds they operate in.

This year's list is remarkable also for its international flavour. It includes two Australians, one New Zealander, a Canadian and two from the US, as well as seven other women of foreign descent: testament to Britain's worldwide appeal as a place in which to do business.

Many of Britain's highest-ranking businesswomen are foreign-born: Pearson's CEO Marjorie Scardino and London Business School's departing head Laura Tyson are American, and Clara Furse, CEO of the London Stock Exchange, is Canadian.

But although the women on our list should be celebrated for the inroads they are making into the professions (the Women and Work Commission's 2006 report Shaping a Fairer Future found that three-quarters of pharmacists, a third of doctors, almost half of all lawyers and nearly 40% of all accountants are female), only 14% of engineering and technology students, 24% of computer science students and 22% of physics students are women. Melissa Clare, one of our under-35s and the first ever female manager of a North Sea oil rig, was the only woman on her undergraduate course in mechanical and offshore engineering.

Oil companies, like other businesses operating in areas perceived to be macho (banking, high finance, transport), are busy trying to redress the imbalance between the sexes by way of a flurry of female-friendly initiatives. Julie Chakraverty, for example - another of our stars - was recently promoted to the board of investment bank UBS. She is also head of its diversity programme and has been recognised by workplace equality group Opportunity Now for her work in this area.

Nearly a third of the women in MT's under-35s have backgrounds in big business, ranging from Accenture and BT to Ernst & Young and PwC. Three others have left high-flying corporate careers to start their own businesses: Helena Boas of lingerie company Bodas; Emma Barnes of publisher Snowbooks and Rachael Wood of headhunter WoodHamill.

Barnes had worked at both Kingfisher and Deloitte & Touche, but after 10 years of corporate life found herself becoming increasingly disillusioned with its values and with its culture of presenteeism. A loss of meaning in her work led her to start up her own book publishing business. 'There are very few more meaningful products than books,' she says.

Although critical of the corporate values she was once governed by, she is grateful for the knowledge and experience her time in retail and consultancy gave her. 'It's the fundamental reason for my success so far.'

Some of the entrepreneurs on our list (there are 11) are truly impressive pioneers. Maxine Raphael set up her own haulage business, providing transport equipment for open-air events such as the Glastonbury music festival.

Being a woman in a man's world has never stopped her doing what she wanted to do, but it can be difficult at times. 'Sometimes, I'll be at a crew event and realise that I'm the only woman in the room. It's only when you meet another woman in the business that you realise how nice it would be to have a woman to talk to. But it's what I do; it's how it is.'

The youngest person on our list is the equally inspiring Anna Stevenson, who set up her Dudley-based metal-pressing business at the age of 20.

Three years on, she now employs 12 people, nine of them women. 'The fact that a manufacturing company is mainly run by women is a bit of a shock at first for some people,' she says, 'but they soon forget about it when they discover the level of service we provide.'

Others on our list have an altogether more glamorous existence. Fashion designer Alice Temperley, whose company has a turnover of £4.5 million, counts such stars as Sarah Jessica Parker, Gwyneth Paltrow and Scarlett Johansson among her clients. She's in good company with Eloise Tooke, managing director of independent TV company Power, whose hits include the BBC's Casanova and ITV's Henry VIII.

But look beyond the elegant clothes and the bright lights and you'll find women with a steely determination to make it to the top, whatever the obstacles. 'It's the same old saying: women have to work twice as hard to get the same recognition that men do,' says Raphael. Hard work isn't a problem for MT's under-35 businesswomen; what's more difficult is achieving career success on their own terms.

 

RACHAEL WOOD 35

At nine, she wanted to be a Blue Peter presenter, but after studying psychology at UCL, Wood ended up an investment banker - one of NatWest Securities' youngest female associate directors. She says she founded her City headhunting business, WoodHamill, to allow her to combine her professional network and interest in psychology with a strong desire to be her own boss.

ALICE TEMPERLEY 30

Celebrity clients including Scarlett Johansson, Lindsay Lohan and Sarah Jessica Parker have helped make Central St Martin's and RCA-trained Temperley one of London's hottest new fashion designers. Her label, launched six years ago, now graces top stores like Selfridges, Lane Crawford in Hong Kong and Saks Fifth Avenue, New York.

 

OLIVIA GARFIELD 30

The former Accenture consultant joined BT in January 2003 and quickly transformed the financial performance of its Integrated Teleweb unit. Garfield is now VP of BT's UK customer service and network operations, looking after more than 6,000 staff and 8,000 customers.

 

SIMA ADHYA 29

The first ever space-missions scientist on our list, Adhya works at QinetiQ, helping to design the Don Quijote asteroid deflection mission, which could save planet Earth. She won the Amelia Earhart Fellowship Award in 2002 for outstanding women in aerospace and presented a paper to Nasa as a result.

 

TRACY WOOD 28

The youngest partner in the history of Ernst & Young, tax specialist Wood went straight into accountancy from school, spurning the offer of a place at Cambridge. Born in the US and now based in Manchester, she has this year delivered double-digit revenue growth in E&Y's tax practice.

 

ELOISE TOOKE 32

Tooke is MD of independent TV firm Power, whose hits include Casanova (BBC) and Henry VIII (ITV), as well as dramas like Colditz and Robert Harris' Archangel. The firm's first hire when she joined in 1996, Tooke has helped turn Power into the UK's most prolific TV drama producer/distributor.

 

PEPITA DIAMAND 34

The Canadian former fashion writer and stylist co-founded wedding list service Wrapit five years ago and it now has a £7 million turnover. Born in Toronto, she studied her masters at St Andrews, returned home, then decided to move back to Britain in 1996 to work in the fledgling internet media industry. Wrapit was a winner in MT's Service Excellence Awards 2005.

 

SALLY SCHOFIELD 35

Geologist Schofield has a track record in two macho industries - construction and mining. Career moves include prospecting in Kazakhstan, time on the British Geological Survey and 10 years with construction giant RMC. She's now hunting Chilean gold as COO of mining finance business Latitude Resources.

 

RAJINDER BASSI 34

A partner at the London practice of US law firm Kirkland & Ellis, Bassi is a commercial arbitration lawyer and one of the youngest to practise in her field. Her clients have included Fortune 100 companies and governments and her pro bono activity brought her a death-row case in Trinidad and Tobago.

 

SAM MANNING 30

Commercial director of Romeike, UK and Europe, Manning is not only the media monitoring company's youngest board director but also the sole woman at the table, to boot. Not bad for someone whose first job was data-entry temp. She found time for three degrees on her way up the ladder, too - BA, MA and MBA.

 

SHEETAL M MEHTA 34

A former emerging-business director for Microsoft, Mehta became a senior VP for IT security giant WISeKey in January, responsible for relationships with the venture capital community. A UN adviser and charities fundraiser, she is studying for a PhD in social venture capital.

 

BRITT LINTNER 35

Dallas-born Lintner clearly likes to keep busy. Between an MA at Sotheby's Institute of Art and her current role at GLG in hedge fund sales, she took a fashion design summer course at the Istituto Marangoni. She now runs her own fashion label, supplying her corporate peers with elegant designs.

 

MELISSA CLARE 30

The first female drilling rig manager in the offshore oil industry, Clare has worked up the ranks at GlobalSantaFe since joining in 1998 as a trainee engineer. Born in Shetland, she was the only woman in her year to study mechanical and offshore engineering at Robert Gordon University.

 

TRUDI JENKINS 32

Australian-born but Edinburgh-bred, Jenkins started out as a clinical speech therapist in the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary. After several NHS posts, she set up her own business, the Communication Clinic, to treat people with speech, language and swallowing difficulties. Several contracts with rehabilitation units and a large independent caseload of patients have followed.

 

ZAHRA HILL 30

Born in the UK to Persian parents, Hill is a senior manager at Accenture and is currently working with the NHS to develop a picture archiving and communication system for the north-east and east of the UK. Three fast-track promotions have helped bolster her reputation as a troubleshooter, willing to take on struggling projects and turn them around.

 

HELENA BOAS 35

Before setting up lingerie company Bodas with her friend Donella Tarantelli in 2000, Boas worked as a solicitor with Linklaters & Paines and as an equities analyst with Mercury Asset Management. Bodas started as an internet firm but now has a store in London and concessions in New York and Paris.

 

TILLY FRANKLIN 34

Franklin joined the private-equity specialist Apax Partners in 2000 from BBC Worldwide, where she had been commercial director of online for BBC America. As one of Apax's 21-strong media team, her investments have included directories business Yell!, floated for £1.4bn in 2003.

 

GILLIAN HOWELL 26

After graduating from Cardiff University with a first in chemistry, Howell saw an ad that sounded 'quite hilarious'. She joined the newly formed Welsh Whisky Company in 2004 and now manages the whole distillation process. She is set to become the first master distiller in Wales for a century.

 

MAXINE RAPHAEL 35

After stints as courier, stable hand and barmaid in the Man United players' bar, Raphael set up her own haulage business - Maxine Raphael Specialist Transport - in 2002. Starting with one Mercedes van she drove herself, Raphael now runs a fleet of 12 specialist vehicles and has a £600k turnover.

 

SHAUNEEN LAMBE 34

A barrister at Lawrence & Co solicitors, mother-of-one Lambe represents young people in court. She is also director of Just for Kids Law, a non-profit group that helps the young with legal proceedings. She co-founded Reprieve, a charity that assists defendants facing the death penalty.

 

HELEN STOKES 34

Having left school at 16, qualified as a legal exec by 19 and then spent three years backpacking in her twenties, the 'quietly ambitious' Stokes was at the helm of her own business before she hit 30. With a £35 million turnover, Morgan Hunt is the UK's fastest-growing public-sector recruitment agency.

 

CHARLOTTE CROSSWELL 33

As head of Nasdaq International, Crosswell is responsible for the exchange's Far East business, managing Nasdaq's non-US-listed companies - a market capitalisation of $400 billion. She was previously head of international business development at the London Stock Exchange.

 

SARAH GOLD 35

Gold started at ad agency Lowe Howard Spink, where her award-winning campaigns - for Heineken and Reebok, among others - won her a seat on the board. In 2001, she joined Clemmow Hornby Inge as new business director. CHI is now the UK's largest independent ad agency and Gold its managing director.

 

KATE KOCH 35

Australian Koch was appointed CFO of the Financial Times last year - the first woman to be a statutory director in the Pink 'Un's 118-year history. She's a chartered accountant trained at Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu in Sydney. At Pearson, she has worked with CEO Marjorie Scardino and new FT Group CEO Rona Fairhead.

 

JULIE CHAKRAVERTY 34

As well as being UBS's global head of fixed-income analytics and client connectivity, Chakraverty is also its diversity champion for gender. She was promoted to the board earlier this year, having been one of its youngest managing directors. She joined UBS after a stint at JP Morgan, straight from Cambridge.

 

SUMERAH AHMED AND HUMERAH AHMED 32, 35

Two sisters from Essex who started up London's award-winning Asian radio station, Club Asia, the Ahmeds recognised the need for a dedicated station for young British Asians. Sumerah (left), a trained lawyer, is the creative brains of the business, while Humerah, a chartered accountant, brings the financial expertise to the enterprise.

 

JENNIFER HARRIS 26

The founder and MD of JRBH strategy consultants, Harris worked at a boutique investment bank after graduating from the Judge Institute. She provides strategic advice to clients such as Argos, Alpha Airports and the Battersea Power Station project and is an MT contributor.

 

EMMA BARNES 31

Barnes co-founded Snowbooks in 2003 after despairing of a career that had failed to 'foster any sense of creativity, confidence, fun or pride'. Roles at Deloitte & Touche and Kingfisher have given her the business nous that led to her fledgling company being recently named joint Small Publisher of the Year.

 

CARLY ARNOLD 29

Born in New Zealand, Arnold studied engineering before joining Air New Zealand. She started at easyJet as a business analyst in 2002, working her way through five promotions to become general manager for the airline's operations at Luton Airport in March. She is responsible for more than 500 staff, 17 aircraft and a budget of £30 million.

 

ELLA HEEKS 28

When Heeks joined Abel & Cole in 2000 straight from Oxford University, the organic vegetable box delivery company had 20 staff and a turnover of £500,000. As managing director, she now oversees a staff of 220 and turnover next year is predicted to hit £35 million. Her ambition? To make Abel & Cole a nationwide service.

 

STEPHANIE BOYDE 33

Shell's manager of executive remuneration stands out as an example of its high-achieving young talent. Previously an HR consultant at Towers Perrin and divisional head of reward at Barclays, Boyde's policies affect salaries and benefits worth $5 billion in total.

 

SAMANTHA FEARN 29

A rising star in the fashion PR world, Fearn has already founded two companies - Fearnhurst PR and Fearnhurst Sampson PR. Significant clients include established high-street brands such as Hobbs and Kenneth Cole, as well as younger, edgier labels like Allsaints.

 

GILLY LORD 31

Lord joined PwC as a graduate and was promoted to director at the age of 29, after nine years. Working in PwC's assurance practice, she leads the audits of a number of its FTSE-100 clients. Lord is also a member of PwC's Female Partner and Director network, which supports development of senior women.

 

ANNA STEVENSON 24

With metal-bashing in her blood, Stevenson is a rare beacon of female success in the light-engineering sector and the youngest on our list, to boot. Her 12-strong West Midlands firm, Millennium Metals, makes pressed parts for the auto and construction industries.

 

HARRIET WALLACE 28

Currently G7/8 global policy co-ordinator at HM Treasury, Wallace clearly has a bright future - will she have a powerful friend if Gordon Brown takes over as PM? A Cambridge graduate and Kennedy Scholar at Harvard, she spent two years with Unilever before entering Whitehall.

Find this article useful?

Get more great articles like this in your inbox every lunchtime