BusinessPeople In BusinessWomen’s focus: the high flyers

Women's focus: the high flyers

The Profession has a deserved reputation for male dominance - but many sectors have seen a quiet revolution. We profile some of the women who have already risen to the top and explore the issues facing those who want to follow in their footsteps

Katherine Lee, FD of YouGov

Katherine Lee, FD of YouGov

Laura Barlow
MD London office of AlixPartners

Failure isn’t a word that trips easily of Laura Barlow’s tongue. The Oxford
graduate and chartered accountant has over 15 years’ experience working with
companies that face significant operational and financial challenges. She has
led restructuring programmes for public and privately held companies in both
interim management
and advisory roles.

She joined corporate turnaround firm
AlixPartners four
and a half years ago as the company was setting up in Europe ­ ‘I was their
sixth employee. There are now approximately 190’ ­ and was appointed managing
director of the London office at the beginning of this year. Prior to that,
Laura was a director in Andersen’s corporate restructuring, turnaround and
corporate finance practices.

‘When Andersen was broken up, the Big Four were moving away from the hands-on
work that I wanted to do. The appeal of AlixPartners was the opportunity to make
things happen.’

SFA Securities Representative Barlow is the co-author of Leading Corporate
Turnaround, published by Wiley in 2006, a regular speaker at restructuring
conferences and is a guest lecturer for the MBA program at London Business
School. ‘As a woman you have to stretch yourself ­ you can’t let fear of failure
hold you back, but to do that you need a really strong support network.’

Zillah Byng-Maddick
FD Fitness First

By the age of 31, Zillah Byng-Maddick was embarking upon her second FD role,
at health club operator
Fitness First, but
not before she’d taken a 12-week break between jobs to have her second child.

The CIMA-qualified accountant, previously CFO at off-licence group Thresher,
makes no secret of her ambitions.

‘I set myself a target: I wanted to be a FD before I was 30, and for the next
years I aggressively managed my experience and the jobs I went for to make sure
they were giving me what I needed, filling in the blanks on my CV.’

She achieved that goal three months before her 30th birthday, convincing the
Thresher board that her experiences at Nestlé, HMV Group, GE Capital and the
two-and-a-half years she spent within the company would enable her to carry out
the CFO role. The move to Fitness First in the autumn of last year marked the
beginning of phase two of her career, in which she is aspiring to become ‘more
of a board member than a finance director’.

Her board experience is enhanced by a non-executive directorship at Pizza
Express owners Gondola Holdings, where she chairs the audit committee and is on
the remuneration and nomination committees.

Rachel Campbell
head of people management and board member, KPMG

In January Campbell was nominated by the World Economic Forum as a
Global Leader
’. This honour is bestowed each year to recognize and
acknowledge the top 250 young leaders from around the world for their
professional accomplishments, their commitment to society and their potential to
contribute to shaping the future of the world. Campbell leads the two major
cultural change programs which have focused on the management of people in the
UK firm’s business. As a result,
KPMG was named ‘Best Big
Company To Work For 2006’ in the prestigious Sunday Times survey; was named
‘Employer Of The Year’ in the 2006 Accountancy Age Awards; and was the
only one of the ‘Big Four’ accountancy firms to be named in the Financial Times
‘50 Best Workplaces in the UK’ awards.

Campbell joined KPMG in 1989 and qualified as a chartered accountant in 1993.
After periods working overseas, she became a partner in the consumer and
industrial markets practice in 2000. She was appointed to KPMG’s UK firm Board
in 2005. As head of people management, Campbell has led a number of initiatives
within the UK firm focused on leadership development, recruitment and retaining

Emma Codd
Partner in Deloitte’s forensic and dispute services practice

A graduate from the School of Slavonic and Eastern European Studies,
University of London, 41 year old Emma Codd joined
in 1997 from risk management boutique Control Risks to establish and manage the
European business intelligence services unit, where she is one of two global

‘If someone had told me 15 years ago that I would be a partner in a Big Four
firm, I’d have spat my drink out,’ she says. Codd has led many global-based
integrity and enhanced due diligence cases, high profile investigations, and
anti-money laundering investigations and reviews. She has lectured to legal and
financial audiences on money laundering-related risks, and the risks for
companies doing business in emerging markets, fraud risks and prevention.

In addition to her professional role, Emma is diversity partner for her
department and sits on the diversity leadership group within corporate finance.
At a firm-wide level, Emma leads the UK’s women’s network, set up in March to
provide access to female role models and mentors within Deloitte. She is also a
member of the UK firm’s Women in Leadership committee. ‘I’ve only taken on
things that I enjoy and that I know I will do well,’ she says.

Nicky Dulieu,
Chief operating officer of Hobbs

As a trainee accounts clerk who’d joined Marks & Spencer straight after
her A-levels, Nicky Dulieu’s bosses knew they were onto something special when
she was in the top 10 marks in the world for her AAT exams.

She went on to get a chartered accountancy qualification and her experiences
formed the basis of M&S’s current accountancy training scheme. Dulieu spent
23 years working her way up the ranks at the retail giant to the heady heights
of FD of a number of major divisions including property, retail operations,
human resources and food.

Nicky joined women’s fashion retailer
Hobbs as finance director
in March 2006, and within 18 months was promoted to chief operating officer (the
company’s first) responsible for the day to day running of the business. ‘It’s a
case of working out what’s the priority for today and where do I need to focus
my attention. The new FD doesn’t start until January so I’m trying to do both

Hobbs today boasts 113 outlets in the UK and Ireland and enjoyed a record
year in the year to January, delivering turnover up 24% to £93m. ‘I do see a
glass ceiling for women in business although I’ve never experienced it myself.
Women have different skillsets ­ empathy, a get-on-and-do-it attitude, common
sense ­ we need to play to them because we can’t beat men at their own game.’

Mandy Gradden
FD of Detica

In 15 short years Gradden has gone from newly qualified accountant to highly
respected plc FD with a track record that many would envy.

Gradden joined
an information intelligence business, in June 2003 as FD and was appointed to
the board a month later. She is responsible for both financial and commercial

A senior UK headhunter says: ‘She’s a great plc FD, who has developed real
credibility in the business and the City. She presents well and is very
commercial as well as being seen as a good sounding board for the business.’

Gradden joined Detica from Telewest Communications, which she joined in 2000
as director of corporate development. An important part of her role was the
management of Telewest’s portfolio of investments in smaller high-technology

She qualified at Price Waterhouse in 1992. She quickly decided a business,
rather than practice, trajectory was for her and joined Dalgety, the
agricultural and food production company (now Sygen International), as group
financial controller in 1997.

Teresa Graham OBE
Business consultant and better regulation guru

This year the ICAEW awarded its
Achievement award annual
to Teresa Graham, the first time in its 28-year
history that the accolade ­ one of the highest in the profession ­ was given to
a female accountant.

Graham has been a consistent champion of the need to improve regulation for
SMEs, particularly in the area of deregulation. She qualified as an accountant
with Price Waterhouse in 1980, having obtained a Batchelor of Arts degree from
the University of Newcastle upon Tyne.

After moving to London, she became a partner in
Baker Tilly in 1989
and now works as an independent consultant to the firm.

She became a recognised guru for better regulation following a secondment to
the government’s enterprise and deregulation unit in 1987. She was appointed to
the deregulation advisory panel in 1988 and is the only member to have served on
the committee throughout its existence. Her passion and dedication to the cause
of improving regulation contributed to her appointment as deputy chair of the
government’s Better Regulation Commission on which she has served since 1997.

In that role, she has helped to drive a culture of change across Whitehall
and in 2006 she was appointed chair of the Administrative Burden Advisory Board.
Teresa Graham is a strategic adviser to ambitious growing businesses and is also
chairman of the London Entrepreneur’s Club and patron of Network, a national
forum for women in business.

Lucy cohen
Director of Mazuma UK

Coming from a family with entrepreneurial flair meant that Lucy Cohen was
unlikely to want to be anything other that her own boss.

She started up Cardiff accountancy practice
to put to rest the stereotypical idea of accountancy and to bring the profession
to the attention of young businesses and established companies alike.

Initially working on it as a part-time project, Cohen, 24, eventually packed
in the day job and brought in long-time school friend Sophie Hughes alongside
her as a fellow director. A lot of hard work, networking and a refreshing
approach has seen the firm take off recently to a hugely positive response.

In May this year, Cohen and Hughes won the Wales Shell Live Wire Entrepreneur
of the year award and in August the firm was a finalist at the Startups Awards
for the Women in Business and Service Business of the Year categories. Both
directors trained at the Financial Training Centre in Cardiff and are AAT

Growth at the firm is rapid, and plans are afoot to open another office in
‘It’s brilliant running our own company and being our own bosses,’ says Cohen.
‘But everything is on our shoulders and it’s quite stressful and rewarding at
the same time.’

Elizabeth Jackson,
Chief executive of Directorbank

Elizabeth Jackson trained and qualified at a small firm in the North East
before moving into corporate finance at Coopers & Lybrand ‘to avoid
auditing’. She left the firm after 10 years in 1999 after being approached by
the original founder of Directorbank to develop a recruitment business idea.

In July 2006 she led a £4.3m secondary management buyout of the company ­ her
financial head and operational experience made her the obvious choice when it
came to leading the deal — and she became chief executive following its

has turned the headhunter model upsidedown and provides the private equity
community with access to a database of around 3,000 immediately available
candidates with proven experience in chairman, CEO, FD and non-exec director

Jackson isn’t convinced that the risk positive nature of private equity is to
blame for the shortage of female candidates on the database. ‘There just aren’t
that many ­ only about 5% of our candidates are women and that’s an alarming
statistic. There’s no right way to succeed. You have to do what you’re
comfortable with and ignore any criticism that crops up.’

Jackson was this month nominated for a national Woman of Achievement award.

Emma Lancaster

’s career has been varied working with some top FDs. She is now FD
of psychometric testing business
SHL and playing a
leading role in a recruitment phenomenon.

Lancaster has led the business through a bitter battle for control of the
company that saw its founders ousted, followed by a de-listing, and a management
She supports the benefits that private equity backing can bring to a business in
contrast to widespread suspicion elsewhere.

HgCapital, she says, gave a struggling business with big ideas what it needs:
investment, and time.

Never intending to become an accountant ­ she wanted to be a lawyer ­
Lancaster joined Arthur Andersen in the corporate recovery department and

One of her first jobs was to open Robert Maxwell’s post as part of the firm’s
role as the tycoon’s administrator.

She went on to work alongside M&S group FD Ian Dyson at Rank, where she
served as financial controller, and honed her plc skills.

Katherine Lee,
FD YouGov

Katherine Lee’s approval rating seems to rise by the day. For the past few
years headhunters have privately been nodding energetically whenever her name
crops up.
Analysts say the opinion pollsters’ CFO is going places, and headhunters have
tipped her to join the FTSE 100.

She’s self-assured and direct in business and it’s likely she’ll be one of
the growing collection of young businesswomen who take over from the likes of
former and current FTSE 100 finance directors like Rosemary Thorne, Margaret
Ewing and Alison Reed.

Like many of today’s young FDs, she trod the traditional line of learning the
ropes in the larger firms. But she managed to shake off the inherent
risk-adversity and lead a successful, fast growing business into the 21st

It’s not been as easy as it sounds though. She works hard and knows every
item of expenditure the company makes.

She hasn’t thrown caution completely to the wind where the growth of the
company is concerned. She has taken the approach of managing growth within the
That said, she plays an intrinsic role in identifying targets for acquisition to
help the business grow as well as assessing the fit and doing initial due

In April the company reported Interim results for the six months ended 31
January 2007 with turnover growth of 61% from £3.8m to £6.1m, mainly organic,
and pre-tax profit up 64% from £1.4m to £2.3m.

She takes her work in her stride, however. In fact, last year’s interim
results were delivered from a wind-swept tent while on a camping trip to

Clearly she knows how to balance work and life, not to mention showing her
wicked sense of humour.

Fiona Ramsay,
FD of Trillium (Land Securities)

Fiona Ramsay is one of the female FDs that headhunters say to watch out for.
With heaps of plc experience, Ramsay is expected to go much further. Prior to
, Ramsay was European finance director at First Choice Holidays
where she was responsible for 15 businesses in nine countries and a total
turnover of £1bn.

She began at First Choice as group financial controller where she was
involved in a £500m acquisition programme as the business refocused from being a
UK mass market player to an international leisure business. Her career began a
senior manager at KPMG where she qualified as a chartered accountant in 1992.

One senior headhunter says: ‘She’s bright, a punchy FD with a strong mix of
technical and commercial experience. She’s done a fantastic job creating value
at Trillium and is seen as a true business partner.’

Loretta Tomasi,
Chief executive of English National Opera

When Sean Doran, resigned amid controversy in 2005, the board of
ENO had no hesitation in
appointing Loretta Tomasi as chief executive.

Prior to her promotion, Australian chartered accountant Tomasi had been
executive director of the ENO since May 2003. Tomasi began her career with
Coopers and Lybrand in Australia, where she worked until 1987 when she came to

After a three years in the City with Tyndall Holdings, she was head-hunted
into the role of managing director and FD of Stoll Moss Theatres, which became
Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Really Useful Theatres group. She stayed for 12 years
running 13 West End theatres before moving to the ENO in 2003.

Her first weeks were a baptism of fire. The ENO was on the brink of
bankruptcy. The chorus was threatening to strike after the announcement of 70
redundancies. Today the turmoil continues but Tomasi’s tough leadership and her
ability to take painful decisions, is hitting the right notes.

Barbara Richmonds
Group FD of Inchcape

Richmonds’ rise has been rapid and her appointment as group finance director
at Inchcape, automotive
services business, last year was no exception. She took up her post joining the
board as an executive director in April last year to much praise in the City.

Her record is positively glowing with extensive experience managing the
finance departments of UK listed companies as well as a strong international
pedigree. ‘She did very well to get the role at Inchcape and has been able to
take over from a good FD and move the organisation forward. She is respected
externally and internally as someone who really knows their stuff and has good
commercial skill-set,’ says a senior executive recruiter.

She is another one among the growing band of influential female FDs
delighting investors and analysts, and enjoys that interaction. Richmonds joined
Inchcape from Croda International plc, a global speciality chemicals business,
where she held the post of group FD from 1997. In 2002, in addition to her group
finance director role, Richmond was appointed president of Active Ingredients
and Industrial Chemicals making her responsible for managing seven business
units within Croda, where she successfully increased sales and improved growth
during her tenure.

Richmond saw her basic salary leap 50% when she left Croda to take over at
Inchcape in April. Moreover, her salary exceeded her predecessor’s by more than

Rebecca Worthington,
FD of Quintain Estates

One of the UK’s youngest plc FDs
has forged herself a clear, albeit unplanned, rise to the top at
Quintain, which specialises in strategic property acquisition, redevelopment,
asset management and regeneration across the UK.

In August this year Worthington was awarded an increase of 26% for her
financial steerage of the FTSE 250 property company, taking her salary to more
than £500,000.

Her first job as a financial controller for Britton Group proved an
auspicious lesson for her when the company went through a partial management
buy-out and a hostile takeover culminating in its eventual acquisition ­ one
that has no doubt coloured her management style, that of people management.

Worthington believes things are still hard for women, and she would know as a
mother of two children. Still, she says, no one should change their personality
to ‘fit in’, or ‘give up what they were’ to progress.

One headhunter says: ‘She’s a good, bright commercial FD with an excellent

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