Not just for boys: 8 Inspiring Women Building Bridges in Business

Rebekah Valero-Lee STEM


Women in STEM professions are more under-represented at senior level that any other business sector. With Government and businesses encouraging more young girls into STEM careers, here are eight inspiring women building bridges in business by breaking gender stereotypes and shattering glass ceilings to make it where they are today.

Clare Smyth

As Britain’s highest-achieving female chef, Clare Smyth was the first woman to ever hold three Michelin stars. Spending 10 years as the head of the kitchen at Gordon Ramsay’s flagship restaurant, the Northern Irish chef was also the first female to be awarded a perfect 10 score by The Good Food Guide. Speaking of her early career, she describes how few females had entered the kitchen and done well. Yet this only made Clare more determined to show people that she was capable to succeed in a hectic male-dominated kitchen.

Carol Vorderman

The former Countdown presenter wowed TV audiences for 26 years with her lightning fast mental arithmetic. An engineering graduate, Carol wanted to become a pilot after University, yet the RAF didn’t accept woman into this role until more than a decade later. In 2013, she fulfilled her lifelong ambition by learning to fly and is the first woman RAF honorary Group Captain as Ambassador for Air Cadets. Carol uses her knowledge, experience and fame to encourage more young girls into STEM subjects and empowering them to become the future leaders in the digital era. She’s also released educational books such as ‘How to Pass National Curriculum Maths’ and launching brain-training games with BskyB.

Michelle Obama

During the eight years spent alongside her husband in the White House, Michelle Obama turned the role of the first lady upside down. Never in the shadows, she launched multiple campaigns and spoke loudly for the topics she believed in including girls’ rights and racist stereotypes, encouraging young people around the world to work hard and become future leaders. Part of her leadership was being a good example to others and inspiring fellow Americans and the wider world.

Karren Brady

Best known for being one of Lord Sugar’s trusted aides on the Apprentice, Karen is a prominent figure in British business and has been for more than 30 years. As vice-chairperson of West Ham United and she is also a life peer in the House of Lords. While working at Sport Newspapers, Karen spotted an advert in the FT for the sale of Birmingham City Football Club. Persuading her boss to buy the club and let her run it, Karen became managing director when she was just 23 and has spent the last two decades in male-dominated boardrooms of Britain’s football clubs.

Jacqueline Gold

When Jacqueline suggested making Ann Summers into a more female-friendly brand, she was taken aback by the reaction of the all-male board of directors. With no business qualifications or experience, she relied on gut instinct when making decisions in her early years. Now CEO of the multi-million pound business, Jacqueline has received a CBE for services to entrepreneurship, women in business and social enterprise, after transforming the previously male-run business into what it is today.

Jo Bertram

The tech industry is still a male dominated arena yet plenty of women are in leading roles and changing stereotypes from within. Jo joined Uber in 2013 and manages all of Uber’s services across 15 cities in six European countries, having the final say on strategy and financial targets as well as dealing with any legal issues. She also played a pivotal role in the roll out of UberPool in London, where customers can share rides with strangers.

Belinda Parmar

A less known female pioneer is the founder of Lady Greek, a campaigning agency that makes technology and games more accessible to women and girls. Belinda consults with tech companies to transform the way they sell to women in retail, advertising, social media and online, with a client list that includes Xbox, Vodafone, Microsoft and Nokia. Recently, Belinda met with the Women and Equalities minister to discuss ways to encourage more women and girls to choose tech subjects and careers.

Denise Coates

Co-CEO of Bet365, Denise Coates is probably a name few will have heard of, yet she’s Britain’s most successful self-made businesswomen. Before training as an accountant, she started her working life crunching the numbers in her dad’s betting shops after school. After taking over a couple of the family shops, she quickly turned their fortunes around and sold them to betting giant, Coral. Seeing the huge success to be made in the online gambling industry, she purchased the domain Bet365.com in 2000 and hasn’t looked back since. More than £12billion of bets a year are now staked with the online bookmaking empire and despite the industry remaining male-dominated, Denise has always remained blind to this and says that it was her mathematical mind that drew her to the trade.

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