The Great British Businesswoman Awards 2023 finalists announced

Posted on 19 Sep 2023 by Lanna Deamer

The third annual awards ceremony will continue to champion businesswomen leading across a multitude of sectors. This year’s Great British Businesswoman Awards final is set to take place in London on 22 November.

Ahead of the final, the shortlist for the Great British Businesswoman Awards 2023 has been announced. Over 200 women in business have been named as finalists in categories including: Banking and Finance Businesswoman; Construction Businesswoman; Engineering & Manufacturing Businesswoman; Social Enterprise Businesswoman; and Diversity Initiative of the Year.

One of the category winners will also be crowned the overall Great British Businesswoman of the Year, won in 2022 by Beth Knight, Amazon in the Community Leader at Europe Amazon.

The programme launched three years ago to recognise and celebrate the inspiring women innovating and leading the way in their respective industries. While there has been progress, statistics still show that men hold most of the top jobs, with just eight percent of companies having a woman in the role of CEO.

Despite the smaller representation, data published by business loans shows that women-led companies have an average revenue of $26bn. In comparison, firms led by men have an average revenue of $20bn. Further studies estimate that £250bn could be injected into the UK economy if women were equally as prominent in leading businesses as men.

More specifically in manufacturing, new research has revealed it will take an estimated 62 years to close the gender pay gap in the manufacturing industry. The data, from PWC and analysed by manufacturer MSP, also found that it will take at least 33 years for women’s participation rate in the labour force to catch up to men’s current participation rate of 80%.

MSP found in its new whitepaper ‘Women in Manufacturing: State of the Industry 2023’, that the disruption to earnings caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as critical organisational barriers, have acted as blockers to industry progression in gender equality.

The research found the gender pay gap is also causing a serious effect on savings this year, with women across the UK saving a third less than their male counterparts, while almost one in five female workers did not see a salary increase in the past year.

With much work to be done, the awards will play an active role in showcasing the importance of having more women in leading corporate positions and, ultimately, getting closer to realising swathes of untapped potential.

The finalists will be whittled down to 22 winners selected by a panel of expert judges spanning a wide range of industries and big-name companies, from Nancy Hobhouse Head of ESG at EVRI, to Romy Desmarais, Talent Development Manager at Harrods, to Ellie Long, Inclusive Hiring & Early Careers Leader, Rolls Royce and many more.

Awards Founder Nicola Dowdall said that the judges have a tough decision on their hands: “We received over 1,000 entries all of which were of exceptional quality, showcasing a remarkable spectrum of talent and accomplishments. Being shortlisted from a pool of highly qualified applicants is a source of pride, and I sympathise with the judges tasked with selecting the winners.”

“Promoting and supporting women in business transcends gender boundaries. To foster more women leaders in the corporate world requires collaborative efforts from all of us. These awards, with their categories recognising male advocates, corporate initiatives, and teams promoting gender equality and diversity, embody this ethos. Warm congratulations to our outstanding finalists. I eagerly anticipate discovering the 2023 award winners.”

The final of the Great British Businesswoman Awards 2023 will be held at Leonardo Royal Hotel, London St Pauls on 22 November. You can buy tickets here.

2023 finalists

Engineering & Manufacturing Businesswoman

Claire Clark, Titania
Dr Megan Ronayne, Innovate UK KTN
Dawn White, ecoegg
Ailsa Cunningham, The English Soap Company
Riddhi Karambelkar, Brompton Bicycle Limited
Maria Villablanca, Future Insights Network
Valentine Pietri, Grow & Sustain
Shabiha Azam, Ascom
Lisa-Jayne Cook, GEA UK Limited
Veronika Elfmarkova, Aggregate Industries Ltd
Giovanna Laudisio, Naturbeads

Read the entire list of finalists here.

Finalist spotlight

How does it feel to be shortlisted in the Great British Businesswoman Series for the Engineering & Manufacturing Businesswoman Award?

Speaking with Dr Megan Ronayne, Head of Industrial Technologies and Manufacturing at Innovate UK KTN, she said: “I’m absolutely thrilled to be shortlisted in the prestigious engineering and manufacturing businesswoman category, it is nothing short of an honour and a privilege. There’s an electrifying buzz knowing that I’m among the top 11 in this category, and each one of us has a unique story to tell.

“What excites me the most is the prospect of meeting the other ten remarkable individuals at the awards dinner. I don’t know all of them, and that’s what makes it even more captivating. Discovering their backgrounds and the reasons they made the shortlist promises to be an enlightening experience. It’s a chance to connect with more extraordinary women who are making waves in the manufacturing sector across the UK.

“It’s no secret that men have often dominated the manufacturing and engineering sectors in the UK. That’s why this award category’s existence is not only an honour but also essential. It shines a spotlight on women who are breaking barriers in these industries, and I’m proud to represent them.

“For me, this is an opportunity to not only celebrate women in manufacturing but also to forge connections and potentially involve these incredible women in the Women in Manufacturing initiative. It’s about giving them a platform to showcase their achievements, share their backgrounds, and highlight the impactful work they’re doing in manufacturing.

“In a field where women constitute only 26% of the workforce, having 11 individuals shortlisted is a testament to the sector’s growth in attracting more talented women. It’s a testament to the fact that women are a formidable force driving innovation and progress in manufacturing.”

The Great British Businesswoman Awards aim to celebrate role models. Who are some of the female business leaders or figures who have inspired you throughout your career?

“My role model, Mary Portas, is a true inspiration to me. While she may be known as the ‘Queen of the High Street’, it was her ground-breaking documentary series about reopening a knickers factory that left an indelible mark on my journey. I vividly remember watching ‘Kinky Knickers’ about a decade ago, where she breathed life back into a lingerie factory in the North West. The result was the exquisite ‘Kinky Knickers’ line, a product with packaging so beautiful that I still have it today.

“Mary’s unwavering passion for the UK textile and fashion industries and her commitment to reviving local manufacturing skills struck a chord with me. At that time, I was immersed in my manufacturing studies at the University of Birmingham, exploring competitive strategies, working closely with CEOs and managing directors across various UK manufacturing firms, and even walking the shop floors with them. However, I was operating under the preconceived notions of what it meant to work in this traditionally masculine industry. I wasn’t being my authentic self.

“It wasn’t until 2018 when Mary released her book ‘Work Like a Woman’ that everything changed for me. I had spent a decade working in manufacturing and researching the industry, often conforming to a more traditional, masculine approach. This eventually led to burnout, and I was on the cusp of turning 30, re-evaluating my path. Mary’s book gave me the permission I needed to shift my workstyle, behaviour, and even my appearance.

“Small changes began to take place, like no longer pretending to be interested in football during networking events just to fit in with a group of men. Instead, I started being unapologetically myself, sharing my passions for yoga and running. Mary’s book opened my eyes to the fact that everyone possesses both masculine and feminine traits, regardless of gender. It was about identifying my own values and aligning my actions with them.

“Since 2018 and 2019, I’ve transformed how I work, manage and collaborate, always guided by my values. My social media posts, too, reflect my passion for UK manufacturing and align with my authentic self. This shift has infused me with newfound strength, energy, and enthusiasm to continue my leadership journey in manufacturing.

“Meeting Mary Portas at the Women of the World Festival last year was a dream come true. I shared my manufacturing journey with her and the challenges I face as a woman in this field. Her advice was invaluable: maintain a sense of humour and perspective, laugh at the challenges, focus on living authentically and in alignment with your values. This advice has been a beacon of light on my path, reminding me to stay true to myself and not let external factors affect my momentum.

“In addition to Mary Portas, I’ve long admired Karen Brady from The Apprentice, whose achievements in business have also been a source of inspiration for me. These remarkable women serve as constant reminders of what is possible when you pursue your passion with authenticity and determination.

What message would you like to share with young women who aspire to become successful businesswomen in the UK?

“The world of manufacturing is an exhilarating one, and what makes it truly captivating is its incredible diversity. It’s a realm that welcomes a vast array of businesses and a wide spectrum of job roles. From the precision of engineering to the creativity of marketing and sales, and even the essential functions of administration and business support services, manufacturing truly offers something for everyone.

“Manufacturing is not confined to a singular mould; it thrives on the unique skills, expertise and personality types that each individual brings to the table. It’s not just for engineers; it’s for all who are passionate about contributing to its continued growth and evolution. In fact, this diversity is the lifeblood of the industry, fuelling innovation, boosting productivity, and ensuring long-term sustainability.

“Our sector depends on a multitude of talents and specialisations. We need marketing gurus to promote our products and services on a global scale. Sustainability experts play a pivotal role in ensuring our industry’s responsible growth. As we embrace the digital age, data analytics and AI specialists are becoming increasingly vital to help shape the future of manufacturing in the next few decades.

“The resounding message is clear: manufacturing is for everyone. Once you find your passion within this dynamic field and discover how it aligns with your aspirations, don’t hold back. Embrace your authentic self and wholeheartedly contribute, because you possess the unique abilities needed to propel our sector to greatness.

“Together, we can make manufacturing the world’s premier industry, setting the standard for excellence and innovation. Your distinctive contributions are an essential part of this incredible journey.”

Finalist spotlight

Speaking with Riddhi Karambelkar, Head of Manufacturing Engineering at Brompton Bicycle, she said: “Being shortlisted in the Great British Businesswoman Series for the Engineering & Manufacturing Businesswoman Award is truly an honour and a testament to the hard work, dedication, and achievements in this field. The recognition is an opportunity to showcase expertise and accomplishments of women all around UK. It feels like a significant step forward for society and my chance to inspire others in this industry.

“My role model is Indra Nooyi, Former CEO and Chairperson of PepsiCo, known for her strategic leadership and commitment to sustainability. She shattered so many glass ceilings and continues to inspire through her books, speeches, and work. My advice to the next generation entering the sector is to believe in yourself, be curious, be bold, make mistakes ,and surround yourself with a supportive network. You’ve got this!

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