The search to unearth the brightest of Britain's rising female stars has begun with the launch of Shell's Women of the Future Awards 2012 in partnership with The Huffington Post. Holly Tucker considers the importance of rewarding female role models in a business world where women are still under-represented.
I've always been influenced by strong prosperous women such as Dame Anita Roddick and Helena Morrissey. Now a ridiculously busy but proud owner of a business myself, I try to impart as much wisdom and advice to other women who are trying to achieve their own business dreams.
One of the key issues that I find difficult to stomach is that there is still a clear lack of female role models across all sectors including science and technology, business, public sector or charities. Enterprise is getting better with the likes of Michelle Mone, Annabel Karmel and Kanya King giving female entrepreneurialism the facelift and desirability it needs to attract others start-up.
Platforms such as Shell's Women of the Future Awards are vital to giving the women who are excelling in their own fields the airtime they deserve but also the opportunity to help inspire the next generation of women waiting in the wings. Some people may disagree with this 'pedestal' approach, but this is vital to reward and recognise the young role models we desperately need to show-off in the UK.
Today, we live in a culture where we are constantly surrounded by glamour, celebrity and reality television. The role models that young women are exposed to are more likely to derive from the world of the superficial, rather than having solid examples of success from the business spheres, or other more aspirational walks of life - this needs to change.
Additionally, the absence of prolific female leaders can leave young women with a misperception of what it means to be successful in business. Could girls and young women be put off pursuing a career as 'an entrepreneur' as they consider it an ostensibly masculine term, synonymous with notorious male figureheads such as Alan Sugar, Bill Gates and Richard Branson? If this were to be the case, an insufficient number of high profile female role models could result in countless young women shying away from such careers.
The reality is that there are whole hoards of women who have really pushed the boundaries and made a significant contribution to their fields. Take my business - notonthehighstreet.com - we have over 2,500 independent enterprises using our online marketplace, of which 95 per cent are women, and this is testament to the sheer volume of enterprising women out there. It is vital that Britain's younger women are exposed to these kinds of women to encourage the development of worthy aspirations and interests amongst the next generation.
It is this notion of providing a platform for today's female role models which underpins the foundations of the Women of the Future Awards. The mission is simple - to showcase and reward young talent, whilst creating new, positive examples for future generations - something which is invaluable for encouraging our up and coming female go-getters!
It was an honour to be awarded Entrepreneur of the Year in 2009, however more than anything I hope that it gave women similar to myself the confidence to go forward and prosper. Put me on a pedestal any day if it means that others will be inspired to put their own business plan into action.
The closing date for entries is Friday September 21, 2012, with the awards ceremony taking place at the London Marriott Hotel Grosvenor Square on Tuesday November 20, 2012.
The Women of the Future Awards are hosted by Real Business, in association with Shell.
For information on how to enter the awards, visit: http://awards.womenofthefuture.co.uk/