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Inspiring Working Women

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2012 has been the year of many things - but if one thing stands out to me more than anything else (even more than sport, and that's saying something) it's that 2012 has been the year of inspiring women.

From Jessica Ennis and Ellie Simmonds who dominated the track and pool to Clare Balding - the undisputed media star of the Olympics - a new and inspirational role model began to emerge. Not footballers' wives or first ladies (although I take no issue with them) but women doing it, uncompromisingly, for themselves. When Stella McCartney scooped the two biggest awards (International Brand of the Year and Designer of theYear) at the British Fashion Awards, it seemed only right and fitting that the fashion industry was celebrating a woman doing it for herself as well. A woman whose name has become synonymous with clothes designed by women for women that women want to wear.

Inspirational role models - or the lack of them - was one of the reasons we set up Red's Hot Women Awards with euphoria Calvin Klein. We wanted to celebrate women's achievements, women making work work for them, not women who looked great in a frock or had amazing hair. (There are plenty of those already.) It didn't matter whether they were running multi-million corporations (like last year's fashion category winner Burberry Chief Executive Angela Ahrendts) or working from their kitchen table (like Julie Deane and Freda Thomas the amazing mum and daughter start-up team wholaunched Cambridge Satchels) what mattered was that they had taken an idea and thought big, showing other women what could be done if you only dared to dream.

This ethos - women making work work for them, and inspiring other women to do the same - started with the judges. Specifically, one judge: Karen Mattison. Mattison, an entrepreneur, launched her first business, when, after giving birth to her third child, she discovered that she couldn't get a job that utilised her extensive skills, less than full-time. At the school gates she met other women mourning this state of affairs, and so Women Like Us, a recruitment company specialising in flexible working roles for returners was born. Last week, Mattison launched her second company, Timewise jobs - her mission is to change the image of part-time work for good and put power part-timers, as she's dubbed them, on the map. It was an interview we ran with Mattison back in 2008 that triggered a reader response like never before and gave us the idea for the awards in the first place.

The other judges are no less impressive. Shadow Home Office Minister Yvette Cooper - tipped by many to be the first female leader of the labour party; Elisabeth Murdoch, CEO of Shine and a media force to be reckoned with; Alex Crawford, Sky News Special Correspondent (and last year's media category winner); Karren Brady - a woman who knows what it takes to succeed in male dominated industries if anyone does (One word: balls); BBC 6music presenter, writer, TV presenter, DJ, mum and all-round living slash portfolio Lauren Laverne, to name just a few. I could go on, but I won't, because you haven't got all day.

The point? It takes one to know one. To sit in judgment on the awe-inspiring shortlist - 13 categories, over a hundred amazing women - you need to be a teensy bit inspiring yourself. To have navigated your own way through the work-life minefield

You'll notice I haven't used the phrase work/life balance. One, because I hate it. Two, because I don't believe there's any such thing. Three, because whatever it is, it means something different to everyone. As one of our inaugural judges, fashion doyenne and Whistles CEO Jane Shepherdson once said to me. 'What is work-life balance anyway? To me, it's all about work-work balance.'

That's why I prefer 'making work, work for you' and hopefully inspiring other women to do so along the way. Whether you aspire to be head of a FTSE 100 company or do things your own way from the kitchen table, I feel sure that when looking at this year's Red's Hot Women award winners, there'll be enough inspiration for everyone.

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