02/04/2014 09:34 BST | Updated 01/06/2014 06:59 BST

From Cleaner to Operations Director

Active voice

It's been a year since I was nominated to receive a First Women Award in association with Lloyds Banking Group. The Awards, presented last year by the inspirational Clare Balding, recognise women with a passion and determination to do things right, and to do it their way.

I was asked recently at a conference about how things had progressed at Adnams since receiving the First Women Award. Looking back on the past year, there have been a number of important changes within Adnams that have enabled women to have a more active voice in our evolving business.

Adnams has welcomed two new non-executive directors to the board: Bridget McIntyre, who has held numerous senior positions across some of the UK's largest blue chip organisations. Most recently, Bridget held the role of UK Chief Executive of RSA Insurance, as well as senior roles at Aviva PLC. She is also founder of her own social enterprise organisation, 'Dream On', a Suffolk-based community interest company focused on improving the lives of women. In May, Nicky Dulieu will join the Adnams board as a non-executive director. Nicky is a highly-experienced senior executive has held a number of positions in leading UK retailers, most recently at Hobbs and before that at Marks & Spencer.

Nicky joined Hobbs as Finance Director in 2006, before taking a wider role as Chief Operating Officer in 2007, subsequently being promoted to Chief Executive in 2009.

These two senior appointments bring with them a wealth of knowledge and experience, which is already beginning to shape the direction of our multi-faceted business. It's the first time that women have joined the Adnams Board, so it's a positive step forward.


It's been a privilege to have been in the position to support many of my female employees and watch them develop. There are too many to mention, but one that I'm particularly proud of is Belinda Jennings who has just completed her Master Brewer qualification.

Belinda, alongside Ruth Goldsmith (who's currently studying to become a Beer Sommelier) and Tracy Smith (beer fanatic), recently brewed a special beer to celebrate International Women's Collaboration Brew Day. As part of 'Project Venus' 60 breweries across the world took part in an initiative that aims to raise the profile of women in the beer industry and to raise the profile of beer to women in what is traditionally perceived as a male-dominated trade.

Gender should not be an issue

Adnams is certainly not male-dominated. The Senior Management Team is a 50/50 gender split, so it's about time that this old-fashioned perception is changed. Go back a few centuries and it was women who were in charge of making beer. We even had our own 'ale wife' here in Southwold - Johanna de Corby. Records show that Johanna was making beer on the same site as the Adnams Brewery stands today in 1345 - that's over 650 years of brewing history. I'm sure that Johanna would agree that it's about time that women reclaimed beer. However, that being said, I believe that any leader in business has a role to play, regardless of their gender. In any role, gender should not be an issue - it's your attitude that counts.

I was recently an 'on the sofa' guest with BBC Radio Suffolk's Lesley Dolphin, and shortly afterwards I spoke during the International Women's Day celebrations in Ipswich. I was heartened by the many messages of support received on Twitter. It's a pleasure to be able to inspire others and to help raise women's profile in business.

Karen Hester was shortlisted for the 2013 First Women Awards.

For further information click here.

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