By Hannah Rankine
here are many problems across the working landscape that women endure every day, not least of all the lack of intersectional diversity. Despite these obstacles women constantly break boundaries, defy the status quo and audaciously succeed. This year’s Veuve Clicquot Bold Woman of the Year shortlist nominees shared how risk taking and women’s networks have helped them succeed in their careers.
The power of the female network and creating community is what underpins The Stack World. Offering meaningful connections can change lives. Victoria Hornby, founder and CEO of Shout, knows this all too well.
Victoria speaks of community creating a common understanding of particular struggles and challenges, but also opportunities that women have in their careers. Being a working mum means there are specific pressures on you having to show up as different people throughout your day.
It is the women with those same experiences that surround Victoria who have offered the best solutions and greatest hope. Victoria praises women for being wonderful at supporting each other and how powerful that sense of camaraderie is, as any Stack World member can attest. Women are good at working together and that collaboration can create impactful results that are impossible to replicate elsewhere.
This has clearly worked for Victoria as CEO of her women led business, which is the UK’s first free, 24/7 digital messaging service to help those struggling with mental health. The organisation has had over 1 million conversations since its inception with 75% of the people using the service are women too; women helping women.
"This year’s Veuve Clicquot Bold Woman of the Year shortlist nominees shared how risk-taking and women’s networks have helped them succeed in their careers."
Mursal Hedayat MBE, founder of Chatterbox which is an opportunity platform for people pivoting back into work who are traditionally marginalised from the labour market, says that risk taking is incredibly fun. Her entrepreneurial endeavours have given Mursal the space to align her values with her work which is not something that is always adhered to in traditional corporate environments. This is a huge part of why she took the risk to start her own business and encourages other women to do the same.
The biggest risk Mel Smith, CEO of Ocado Retail, ever took is to show up at work as herself. As a Maōri woman from a working class background she says she wasted too much energy trying to emulate the white, privately educated men she worked alongside. When she stopped doing that and put that energy elsewhere, her leadership benefited, and allowed her to build the most diverse and outstanding team of people who are empowered to be themselves too.
Roni Savage is the founder & MD of Jomas Associates, an Engineering & Environmental Company serving the Construction industry since 2009. She took a personal risk when she started her business from her kitchen table. She had strong ambitions to challenge the status quo, much like Madame Clicquot who was a visionary herself.
Age 27, Madame Clicquot, was widowed and defied all expectations by taking over the champagne house at a time when women couldn’t even open a bank account. Talk about breaking new ground. To be in the company of other women breaking barriers fills Roni with excitement. There is no doubt it would feel the same for Madame Clicquot as the Bold awards are focused on celebrating her legacy.
In 2018, Roni was awarded Black British Business Person of the Year and she strongly advocates for diversity to be intersectional. Her experiences are particularly poignant in an industry where only 12% are female, 5.4% are Black and ethnic minority and less than 1% is both Black and female. Roni explains how important it is to understand the challenges that people from an intersectional background face. For Roni being Black and being a woman pushes her to enable people from those backgrounds to thrive through inclusion but also equity.
Dr Hayaatun Sillem CBE, CEO of the Royal Academy of Engineering, eloquently states that real people can’t be boiled down to a single characteristic that defines their experience. We are a beautiful mosaic of complex traits and experiences and if you want to gain the business benefits of diversity then you really have to embrace intersectionality, says Dr Hayaatun. She goes on to explain that to create truly inclusive working environments everyone needs to feel safe, welcome and valued, and that success is open to everyone. To achieve equity, not just diversity, we have to consider people in all their dimensions.
"Entrepreneurial endeavours gave her the space to align her values with her work which is not something that is always adhered to in traditional corporate environments."
Being a minority in the charity that is part of the institutional landscape of the UK was Dr Hayaatun’s intention. She likes to surprise people by being an anomaly and to challenge their expectations. The nomination for the Veuve Clicquot Bold Award is particularly meaningful for her because it helps give visibility to others from minority backgrounds and to boldly confront those assumptions.
How can we implement intersectionality across the board? Lavinya Stennett, Founder & CEO of The Black Curriculum, believes in having intersectionality at a foundational level through education. It tells people from minority backgrounds that they matter. By teaching young people the truth and an accurate depiction of society it will create a more inclusive future for everyone. Representation helps too. Lavinya acknowledges that to be nominated for the Veuve Clicquot Future Award it will allow young women, especially those in education, to feel hopeful and empower up and coming women to be fearless!
Dr Hayaatun looks forward to a future where we can look around and see people from all different diverse backgrounds, all genders, and celebrate the glorious diversity. As 2022 marks the 50th year of the awards, and 250th year of the champagne house, there is no doubt Madame Clicquot will also be celebrating with a glass of bubbly.
The 2022 Bold Woman Award Shortlist:
Bold Woman Award - celebrates excellent female leadership, honouring inspirational women with a proven record of business or organisational growth, underpinned by a commitment to supporting other women into leadership roles. The finalists selected by the panel of judges are:
Dr Hayaatun Sillem CBE, CEO of the Royal Academy of Engineering. Dr Sillem has transformed the Academy’s scope and impact, alongside growing the organisation’s income for 2020/21 to £51.2 million (up from £27m in 2017), all while striving for greater diversity in a profession that is 86% male and making representation and inclusion across the engineering community a priority for the Academy.
Roni Savage, Founder & MD of Jomas Associates, an Engineering & Environmental Company serving the Construction industry since 2009. Jomas was heralded as a high growth company by Goldman Sachs in 2017. The following year, Roni was awarded Black British Business Person of the Year. She has worked on many major construction schemes across the UK and is Policy Chair for Construction for the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB).
Melanie Smith CBE, CEO of Ocado Retail. Melanie Smith has overseen the business’s phenomenal success as it increased revenue by 40% since 2019 - faster growth than any other grocery retailer - and personally led the firm’s strategy to keep the UK fed during the early phases of the pandemic.
The 2022 Bold Future Award Shortlist:
Bold Future Award: This award celebrates up-and-coming leaders of the future, honouring the women who will shape tomorrow. The finalists selected by the panel of judges are:
Victoria Hornby OBE, Founder and CEO of Mental Health Innovations (Shout). Shout 85258 is the UK’s first free, 24/7 digital messaging service to help those struggling with mental health. The organisation has had over 1 million conversations since its inception.
Mursal Hedayat MBE, Founder and CEO of Chatterbox. Chatterbox is on a mission to shake up the labour market by connecting talented yet marginalised people with opportunities in the digital economy. Their first product is an AI-powered, award-winning platform that helps companies improve cross-regional collaboration and cultural intelligence through the power of language learning.
Lavinya Stennett, Founder & CEO of The Black Curriculum, a social enterprise founded in 2019 working to teach and support the teaching of Black history all year round, aiming to empower all students with a sense of identity and belonging.
The finalists for the 2022 Bold Woman Awards by Veuve Clicquot have been announced. First launched in 1972, this will be the 50th year that Veuve Clicquot has honoured the impact of pioneering female leadership and entrepreneurship.
By Hannah Rankine
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