Celebrating women in business

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Celebrating women in business, featuring Colette Cohen, SVP UK & NL at Centrica

The Business Magazine runs five major business awards events each year – The Thames Valley Business Magazine Awards, The Solent Business Awards, The Thames Valley Deals Awards, The Solent Deals Awards, and The Women in Business Awards. 

Launched in 2013, the Women in Business Awards has attracted interest and support from women entrepreneurs, professionals, corporate directors and senior managers from across the south. 

The 2015 Women in Business Awards will be presented at a gala dinner at Oakley Hall, near Basingstoke, on 10th September 2015. Our finalist for the Women in Business Award (large business) Kathleen Smith will be attending. 

In support of this event we will be featuring various women in business and asking them what it really means to be a woman in the corporate world today. Our first blog features Colette Cohen at Centrica: 

How did you get where you are today? 

It sounds trite, but in reality, a lot of hard work, flexibility, a high level of mobility in the first 20 years of my career, a commitment to the success of the companies I worked for and a desire to excel, all wrapped up with a lot of support from key mentors, senior leaders in my organisations, a great coach, a fabulously supportive husband and great friends and family. If you don’t keep a balance in your life, it’s tough to keep perspective on the good and bad times in your career. 

What woman inspires you and why?

Marit Bjorgen (Norwegian Cross Country Skier) – her ability to dig deep and force herself to keep going and often to triumph when you can see how difficult it is, is inspirational. 

What top three tips do you have for women in business today? 

  1. Be true to yourself.
  2. Know your strengths, be proud of them.
  3. Be collaborative (there is greater strength in a team than in an individual struggling along). 

As you get more senior you will walk into many meetings and events alone, you need to be comfortable with yourself and not second guess your instincts, it can undermine your confidence which will affect your performance. 

What are the biggest changes you've seen in terms of women in business? 

Not enough changes, still too few women in senior roles, particularly in technical roles. The biggest change is probably the acceptance by men of women in senior positions, that used to be a bigger hurdle, but there is still an unconscious bias in selection of men for executive positions and board positions. 

What was your dream job as a child and why? 

I wanted to be a marine biologist and work in environmental conservation. I had a natural affinity for science related subjects, loved wildlife and the outdoors, so it seemed like the perfect job for me! Unfortunately, I grew up and realised there were very few jobs in that area and it was unlikely I would find a successful, sustainable career in that field. So I studied Chemistry and the rest is history.