The pay gap between women and men is more important today than ever. The battle begun in the early 1970s and it often feels we are so close to equality. To help close the last few inches, women everywhere are encouraged to take action and let themselves be heard.
Successful women in the UK
Their number includes Denise Coates, who founded Bet365 from a mobile office in a Stoke-on-Trent car park. The online gambling giant is now worth at least £4.5bn and Coates received £117.5m last year, including a £54m salary, thought to be the largest wage paid to a woman in British corporate history.
The former fashion journalist Dame Natalie Massenet set up the Net-a-porter online retailer from her Chelsea flat. She was heavily pregnant with her first child at the time and used her bath as the stock cupboard. Her net worth stands at £135m.
This year’s new entries include Michele Harriman-Smith, whose Childrensalon sells designer clothes for youngsters, and Sarah Bennett, who set up the ethical jewellery business Gemporia with her husband, Steve.
Times have certainly changed. Leaf through the yellowing pages of the 1994 Rich List and you will see mugshot after mugshot of middle-aged or elderly men. There were only 19 women in the entire publication, most of them there by dint of either their husband’s career or a family inheritance. Ann Gloag, the Stagecoach entrepreneur, and Anita Roddick of the Body Shop were two of very few exceptions.
Wind forward 23 years and there are striking stories of entrepreneurial wizardry to be found throughout this year’s Rich List. But many of the most inspiring tales are about women who created and expanded their businesses when the odds were heavily stacked against them. They come from a time when female role models in business were rare and both discrimination and male arrogance more overt.
How did some of these inspiration women get there?
Back in 1971, Cathy Paver was turned down for a £200 loan to start a shoe business. So she tried again, this time claiming the money was to buy a sofa. Her bank manager gladly agreed and fortunately never asked for proof of purchase. When Paver died at the age of 88 earlier this year, the Yorkshire-based business she created was selling 4m shoes a week around the world. But for her death, Paver would have been included in this year’s Rich List.
Then there is Jacqueline Gold, who has transformed Ann Summers into a more successful, female-friendly business, despite opposition from one of the (male) directors. “This isn’t going to work,” he apparently fumed. “Women aren’t interested in sex.” Her family’s wealth is now valued at £460m.
Many of the most inspiring tales are of women who created businesses when the odds were stacked against them.
Dame Margaret Barbour was working as a teacher when her husband, whose family owned the fashion label famous for its outdoor jackets, died at the age of just 29. She picked up the reins of the business and today it is a highly successful, diverse fashion label with annual sales of more than £200m.
We encourage all the hard working women out there and applaud their solidarity in this cause. We are strong advocates of fair pair and want to support individual cases where nescessary. If you are a women in an unequal pay situation get in touch for advice.