The subject of business awards for women always throws up a couple of arguments against them. Firstly, that there are no gender-specific awards for men (usually a complaint by men); secondly, the question of whether women-only awards events are relevant in today’s world of supposedly equal opportunities.
As you’d probably imagine, being a judge of this year’s PCR Women of the Year Awards, I disagree with both points. Despite amazing leaps forward - particularly in the past decade or so, men are still claiming the majority of senior management roles in business. Just a third are filled by women, according to research. By default, that means men are already picking up a lot of awards. Guys, you don’t need any more.
And on the other point: well, I think that events such as the PCR Women of the Year event provide us females with an opportunity way beyond the possibility of picking up a trophy.
Women enjoy being inspired by other women; they want role models. And while we can look on in awe at the likes of Sheryl Sandberg and Susan Wojcicki, or even Kate Moss and Beyonce, we need role-models who are more, well, more like us – or possibly where we’d like to be.
We want to know that we can achieve what they’ve achieved; that we don’t need an army of nannies and personal PAs, we can do the school-run if we choose to, we don’t have to be in the gym at 5am every day, and we don’t necessarily have to Lean In (or actually even read the book).
I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have had some great female role-models throughout my career. When I started out as a trainee reporter at the age of 18, my news editor was a woman. She smoked and swore like, erm, a news editor, but at the same time was glamorous, a devoted mother – and very, very good at her job. Aside from teaching me the skills of my trade, she showed me how to handle myself in meetings (“keep quiet unless you know what you’re talking about”), at media parties (“don’t get drunk until other people are – then it’s game on”) and on the phone, dealing with complaints (“smile, be polite, blame the editor”).
She showed me how to order a bottle of wine in a restaurant, fend off unwanted advances from amorous advertisers, how not to get into those circumstances in the first place and much, much more.
She was an amazing inspiration to me and I still remember everything she taught me. She remains a very good friend.
Equally inspiring is the former financial director of Intent Media (which became NewBay Media), the company behind IT Channel Expert and PCR. Hilary has worked in male-dominated environments all her life, and set up Intent Media with the former MD when she had a very small child (and a husband who was in the Army and away for much of the time). She appeared always unflappable, and gave me some very valuable advice about being a working mother when I fell pregnant with my son.
And more recently, another great role-model – and friend – is Caroline Miller, another of the PCR Women of the Year judges. We’ve worked together previously on events and I’ve hugely admired her ability to stay calm and focused when faced with some, let’s say ‘testing’, situations. She mentored me when I was looking to quit my job and set up my own business. She makes me laugh a lot. And in addition to running her own business, and raising two boys with her husband, she finds time to involve herself with charity work, including mentoring young girls/women.
These are just a handful of the women I’d personally like to thank for helping steer my career. And - in my humble opinion - THIS is why we need women-only business awards. Yes, to celebrate the business leaders and the unsung heroes in a particular business sector. But also to provide inspiration for women who are still climbing the career ladder.
I’m ending here by providing a link to one of the most inspirational speeches from a women’s awards event, from Shonda Rhimes (writer/producer of Grey’s Anatomy and more) picking up the ultra prestigious Sherry Lansing Leadership Award at The Hollywood Reporter’s Women in Entertainment Breakfast.
This was sent to me by the aforementioned Mrs Miller. It’s an amazing speech. And the fact that Caroline sent the link to me – and other women – is a superlative example of how women inspire women. Enjoy.
For more information about the PCR Women of the Year Awards, including ticketing and sponsorship opportunities, visit www.pcrwomenoftheyear.com.