5 minutes


Empowering Women in the Corporate World: Insights from Industry Leaders

As International Women's Day approaches, it is important to recognise and celebrate the achievements of women in the corporate world.

As International Women's Day approaches, it is important to recognise and celebrate the achievements of women in the corporate world. Recently, we had the privilege of hosting a panel discussion featuring three successful and inspiring women: Claire Williams, Janet Collyer, and Carol Thompson. Their insights shed light on the challenges and opportunities women encounter in the corporate world and covered themes including diversity in the workplace, the working environment, confidence and artificial intelligence.


Claire Williams, Brand Ambassador for Fortescue WAE

Claire was formerly the leader of Williams Formula One racing team from 2013 to 2020 after working her way up from the press office, and was the youngest-ever Deputy Team Principal in motorsports.

Since leaving Williams in 2020, Claire has leveraged this background to consult on leadership, team performance, sponsorship and marketing and communications. Increasingly, her focus is on non-exec work and as a speaker and brand ambassador in sports, technology, green tech, women’s initiatives and charities, most recently collaborating with Swiss Re and Johnson & Johnson.


Janet Collyer, Non-Executive Director

Janet is a leader in electronic and semiconductor design, a Non-Executive Director for a number of global technology companies including Machine Discovery, a portfolio company in the Foresight Technology VCT.

She is a passionate advocate, mentor and driver of career promotion for women in engineering roles including formal mentoring of women up to executive leadership positions and beyond.


Carol Thompson, Non-Executive Director

Carol currently sits on the Board for the Foresight Technology VCT and brings over 25 years’ experience in governance and strategic financial management, spending large parts of her career as a board member in technology and regulated businesses.

She has also held senior, non-executive and advisory roles at a number of firms including Hellman & Friedman, Livingbridge, DWF, JP Morgan, Maintel Holdings plc and Nexteq plc.


Diversity in the Workplace

The panel opened with a discussion on the value of diversity in decision-making forums and strategies for recruiting and retaining women.

Carol emphasised the unique perspective women bring to such forums, highlighting their different approach to decision-making compared to men. Additionally, she stressed the importance of considering diversity in a broader context, advocating for the recruitment of disabled individuals, a potential group of highly-qualified future employees, and embracing hybrid working models.

According to the McKinsey & Company – Diversity Wins Report, the most gender-diverse companies see 48% outperformance in terms of profitability compared to the least gender diverse companies.

However, recruiting more women remains a challenge for many private equity investment managers. Janet offered practical solutions, such as revising job descriptions to appeal to a broader audience and focusing on both recruitment and retention strategies.

The conversation also touched upon whether special allowances should be made for certain groups in the workplace and how businesses can support the growing desire for a better work-life balance in society.


The Working Environment

Despite the importance of diversity, many panel members shared experiences of working in predominantly male environments. Claire recounted her challenges in such settings and how she navigated them in order to succeed, shedding light on the gender disparity in managerial positions. This imbalance is also highlighted in McKinsey & Company's Women in the Workplace Report, which found that 60% of manager-level positions in a typical company are held by men, while women occupy 40%.

While companies are modestly increasing women’s representation at the top, doing so without addressing the broken rung offers only a temporary stopgap. Because of things such as gender disparity in early promotions, men end up holding 60% of manager-level positions in a typical company, while women occupy 40%.

Carol and Janet provided insights into gender bias in decision-making and the fast-paced nature of industries like semiconductors, where gender differences often take a back seat to performance. Carol also shared strategies for navigating male-dominated teams, emphasising patience, self-confidence, and ignoring the narrative.



Imposter syndrome is the condition of feeling anxious and not experiencing success internally, despite being high performing in external, objective ways. This condition often results in people feeling like "a fraud" or "a phony" and doubting their abilities. Regardless of the environment you work in, imposter syndrome and a lack of self-confidence are felt by many people across various industries and roles.

Claire shared personal experiences with imposter syndrome, echoing findings from a national study by Funding Guru, where 62% of UK adults had experienced imposter syndrome in the past 12 months. The impact of social media on young people's confidence was also discussed, with Carol highlighting its potential negative effects on female talent and acumen.


Artificial Intelligence (“AI”)

As we look to the future, artificial intelligence looms large in discussions about the evolving workplace. Janet explored AI's potential impact on industries, gender biases, and the disproportionate susceptibility of certain occupations to automation. According to a Goldman Sachs report, 300 million US and European full-time jobs are at risk of automation because of AI. In addition to this, 79% of working women are employed in occupations susceptible to AI disruption and automation, because more women are employed in clerical-based roles which have the highest chance of being automated in the future. This highlights the importance that adapting to AI's rise is crucial for the workforce.


In conclusion, diversity isn't just a checkbox; it's a driver of innovation, profitability, and employee well-being. By embracing diverse perspectives, addressing biases, and adapting to emerging technologies, organisations can create inclusive environments where everyone can thrive. The insights shared during the panel serve as valuable guidance for navigating the complexities of the modern workplace.

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