THE BLOG

How to Improve Opportunities for Women in Business

17/06/2013 11:17 BST | Updated 14/08/2013 10:12 BST

As the only female Managing Director in the Fleet Management sector, I'm often described as a woman working in a man's world. I've worked in largely male-dominated markets for my whole career, starting in a finance company as a Business Development Executive, at 21.

Traditionally, the fleet industry culture focuses on 'numbers' not 'people'. When I took the helm at Venson, I challenged the status quo and created a business that puts the customer at the heart of everything we do, turning it around from a loss-making proposition to one that continues to grow. But it's our focus on people that I hope will bring more women into the fleet and leasing sector.

Rather than focusing on gender quotas, it should always be about putting the right person in the job, regardless of their gender. Businesses need to value experience and loyalty in their people and where appropriate maintain a flexible attitude to employees who have childcare commitments. Job sharing and part-time work for non front-line staff is considered as part of Venson's employment terms. We have one female employee who has been with us for 15 years, which is experience that can't be bought, yet many companies may have overlooked this talent because she doesn't fit into the traditional Monday to Friday, 9 to 5 model.

Events such as the First Women Awards, in association with Lloyds Banking Group, for which I was delighted to be shortlisted this year, help raise the profile of some truly inspirational women in the business world; however there is more that can be done. I would like to see the philosophy of experience and what you can do being central to being hired for a particular role. Let's not forget that women don't need to be pigeonholed into stereotypical roles - I want to see just as many women applying for technical workshop roles and getting them.

But helping women in business isn't about giving female workers an easy ride or overlooking talented men, in order to fulfill a gender target. Nobody wants that - especially women. We want to make it on our own terms. We want to be recognized for our talent and the fresh perspective we can bring to a role. But there's work for businesses to do.

We need to give women the confidence to achieve on equal terms to men and that means creating a cultural shift. Employing a broader range of people can only be a positive thing, enhancing the quality of talent in any industry.

Samantha Roff is shortlisted for the 2013 First Women Awards.

For further information click here.

The awards ceremony will take place on Wednesday 12 June and is hosted by Real Business in association with Lloyds Banking Group.