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08 March 2019
Too often, the role of women at the highest levels of British business goes unnoticed. But last year, the National Business Awards did its bit to celebrate the achievements of some of Britain's most successful female business leaders.
Event Director Sarah Austin said: ‘We read too many statistics about British female entrepreneurs lacking the confidence to start their own businesses, so 2019 is the year to celebrate and promote female business leaders in this country.'
In 2018, women took home some of the biggest prizes. The Leader of the Year Award – which shortlisted an equal number of men and women for the first time – was won by Jayne-Anne Gadhia, CEO of Virgin Money. She was recognised for spearheading her company's outstanding performance.
Meanwhile, the Outstanding Contribution to British Business Award was given to Dame Helena Morrissey, the founder of the remarkable 30% Club. This organisation lobbies businesses, raises awareness and works with advocacy groups to improve gender equality in British boardrooms; their aim is to ensure more women are appointed to company boards so that around 30% are female.
Although there's still work to do, the efforts of 30% Club are reflected in some encouraging statistics. Between 2007 and 2017, women's representation on the boards of FTSE 100 companies increased from 11% to 28%; just weeks before last year's NBAs, 30% Club itself announced that the FTSE 100 had met the 30% target for female representation at director level. Across the wider FTSE 250, meanwhile, there are only 8 all-male boards remaining, representing a dramatic change in the culture at executive level.
However, some industries are still lagging behind. One of the bigger challenges comes from the technology and AI sectors. Here, the gender disparity is startling. For instance, women only occupy around 5% of leadership positions in the technology sector, and a staggeringly-low 3% of women say a career in technology is their first choice.
This gives organisations like the National Business Awards a responsibility to help address this challenge. By recognising the underappreciated role women already play in the technology and AI, the awards can play a role in empowering women and highlighting their contributions within the sector.
That's why the National Business Awards is encouraging female entries to several tech-focused categories, including the Artificial Intelligence Award and the Experian Data Excellence Award, as well as to standard entrepreneurial and leadership awards.
Diversity is at the heart of what the National Business Awards offers. Nominees come from every corner of the business landscape, representing start-ups to global brands from across the United Kingdom. Indeed, category winners such as activity coordinators Daily Sparkle and prosthetics company Limbs and Things are based in Totnes and Bristol respectively, while Cleveland Police, which won the Data Excellence Award, hails from the North East.
It speaks to the event's commitment to diversify a male-dominated, London-centric landscape; this year, the 18th year of the awards, the National Business Awards will continue to investigate how much diversity is promoted by British business, and SMEs in particular. Sarah Austin went on to comment:
‘The National Business Awards wants to speak to and award SMEs that are already putting diversity at the heart of what they do. It's easy for a FTSE 250 business to create a diversity panel and post on an internal network as a tick-box exercise, but I want to see gender diversity at every level.'
Paul Gordon, Managing Director, SME & Mid Corporates for Lloyds Bank, the headline sponsor of the National Business Awards, added:
‘We are proud to be the headline sponsors of the National Business Awards again this year, as part of our support for British enterprise. These awards celebrate the accomplishments of British businesses, the people driving them forward and the vital role they play in supporting our economy.'
With entries now open, the opportunity is there to contribute by nominating inspiring women and successful female-led companies, and giving them the national stage they are too often denied.
The Lloyds Bank National Business Awards categories are: