Thirteen female role models in UK professional services industry

14 July 2017

WeAreTheCity is a business coalition powered by the Times and Sunday Times, with an aim of promoting diversity in corporate culture. The group's Rising Star awards returned in 2017 for their third ceremony, celebrating the top non-managerial talent among female employees in the UK. The list of 100 top female role models includes thirteen professionals from across the consulting industry, while Accenture together with Bloomberg scooped the ‘Company of the Year’ prize.

Now in its third year, the Rising Star awards were created by the Times and Sunday Times newspaper groups to showcase the UK pipeline of female talent below management while highlighting 100 female role models across different industries and professions. 39 out of 50 of those awarded in the original 2015 outing went on to be promoted within 6 months, and a number even went on to receive Royal honours for their work.

The individuals recognised had to be particularly exceptional amidst a fiercely competitive field. 1,250 initial nominees were narrowed down by a panel of 33 independent judges, before over 35,000 members of the public cast votes to select the cream of the crop from a 200-strong shortlist. The awards were sponsored by The Times & The Sunday Times and supported by 3M, Aon, Barclays, Bloomberg, Cancer Research UK, Citi, Edit Development, GDS, Kier, LinkedIn, Lloyd’s, Morgan Stanley, Northern Trust, Oliver Wyman, PedalSure, Reed Smith, Royal Navy, Societe Generale, Streets Consulting, Worldpay and EY.

Rising Stars 2017 - WeAreTheCity


Among the female role models honoured in each industry, the consulting sector was awarded five winners, including two from the ceremony’s sponsors, EY.

Anisha Seth is a Tax Advisor at EY, having joined the Big Four firm’s London FSO Tax practice in 2011. Originally from Maidenhead, she attended local comprehensive Newlands Girls School before studying Law at University College London. Having opted for a different path after graduating, Seth joined EY, where for the last 2 years she has been leading the firm’s Sikh Network here to promote corporate diversity, alongside her participation in a number of similar initiatives. An outspoken critic of workplace disparity, Anisha Seth commented for the company’s ‘Creating Equality Together’ campaign that more needed to be done to boost workplace diversity, despite 61% of men believing equality already exists. “They probably see everything is fine for them. They’ll see a few women in the meeting rooms with them… so it’s all fine,” she said.

Fellow EY employee Bijal Majithia meanwhile made the prestigious list for her role as a Business Change Manager at the firm. Majithia is a Hindu faith representative for EY and hosts regular events with the network and in collaboration with others. She leads an award winning project ‘Food for the Mind, Body and Soul’, in which a team of 100 volunteers serve various charitable and community projects across the UK and India. Majithia is also the Director and founder of Veda London, a non-profit organisation which shares mindfulness, meditation and wellbeing in the workplace, and recently she also created the ‘Veggie Steady Cook’ experience, serving to educate people on the benefits of a healthy and conscious diet through an interactive multimedia experience, including live cooking demonstrations and tailor made recipe books.

Anisha Seth, Bijal Majithia, Gill Hemming, Hollie Haslam & Sayli Chitre

Gill Hemming of rival Big Four firm PwC was named as another role model within the consulting industry. As the Marketing Manager for PwC’s Forensic Services practice, Hemming works with 900 Partners and staff across the country on campaigns targeted at our key buyers and audiences. She leverages the experience of 10 years in the business to challenge her customers to think differently, and to put their clients at the heart of everything they do. In her spare time, Hemming is a member of PwC’s GLEE (Gay, Lesbian & Everyone Else) leadership team, and chair of the GLEE North Committee, regularly representing the network at internal and external events, leading the network’s sponsorship of  the 2017 Pride march in London.

Consulting firm Mercer were also present in the consulting sector’s female role models, with Hollie Haslam,  a Senior Associate in the company’s Wealth business, commended for her mentorship of  junior female colleagues, helping them build confidence and manage the challenges of working in a male-dominated environment – organising ‘ask me anything’ sessions with an equal gender panel in order to do that. At the forums, juniors asked questions of senior colleagues and before turning the tables to see senior colleagues quizzing juniors, to encourage self-evaluation and initiative taking among newer employees. In May 2017 Haslam announced plans to run the Manchester 10k for cancer research, and in her spare time she also sits on the Cherie Blair Foundation Mentoring Women in business programme, utilising her skills to help mentor women in other countries.

Rounding off the sector’s representatives among UK role models for women, Sayli Chitre, an Associate and Junior Project Lead at Oliver Wyman, was celebrated as the co-lead of Empowered UK – Oliver Wyman’s network for racial, ethnic & cultural diversity, which aims to foster inclusion as a key pillar of the firm’s corporate culture. In her capacity as the co-lead, she has driven a variety of initiatives for the network across recruiting, internal community building and upwards mentoring to senior management. Outside of work, Chitre, who became a certified dancer in the Indian classical dance form of Bharatnatyam at the age of 12 – provides informal advice to school students in India on further education opportunities abroad.

“I am driven by doing right by my clients and creating a positive, lasting impact through the work I do. I previously interned across a variety of industries such as engineering and investment banking, most excitingly writing a policy paper for the Planning Commission of India on the future strategy for solar rooftops, and am motivated by agendas of Inclusion & Diversity in the workplace and access in general,” Chitre stated, following her inclusion on the list of rising stars.

Professional Services

Beyond consulting practices meanwhile a number of companies were recognised for their role models in a variety of professional service functions. Accenture’s UK Inclusion and Diversity lead Kirsten Doherty was declared one of the winners of the HR & Recruitment category. She is accountable for all the work done across gender, disability, ethnicity, sexual orientation, family and social mobility at the company. Nicole Covey of IBM was meanwhile named as a winner of the Technology category.

Rising stars winners in professional services 2017

Big Four firms Deloitte and PwC were both represented on the list too. PwC Personal Assistant Jane Brazzill, a PA with some 20 years of experience, was one of the winners of the EA & PA category, while Frida Jonsdottir, a Senior Consultant originally born in Reykjavik, and who heads up the Nordic FinTech capability at Deloitte, was named as a winner of the FinTech contest.

Aon Hewitt employee Siva Karthikeyan was meanwhile announced as one of the UK’s winning female role models for Investment Management – having directly contributed to key business initiatives such as improving cash flow within the UK by £10 million during her 6 years at the firm’s Investment Consulting and Management business. She was joined by Marsh’s Salome Santos, a winner of the Insurance category, who is a member of Marsh´s Women’s Exchange committee that focuses in gender equality issues. 

Rounding off the presence of professional service firms in the Rising Stars list, two professionals triumphed in the Property and Facilities category. Hannah Jones, an Associate at Cushman & Wakefield, specialising in Occupier Management having completed an MSc in Real Estate Management at Lancaster University, and CBRE Chartered Surveyor Sahar Rezazadeh, a former winner of the RICS Young Surveyor of the Year award in the Commercial category 2014/15 were both named among the top female role models in their sector.

Meanwhile, this year the awards also included a new category for companies. In this field, the achievements of an organisation would be judged according to how innovative and transformative the support mechanisms offered to their female talent were, praising initiatives in training and development, internal employee relations and diversity network groups.

WeAreTheCity, Accenture and Bloomberg

The new Company of the Year award, which was presented jointly to business news giants Bloomberg and professional services company Accenture. The firm, whose board for the UK & Ireland is comprised of 40% female members, were joint runners up for the Times’ Business in the Community Gender Equality award, earlier in the year. 

Vanessa Vallely, Managing Director of WeAreTheCity said of the accolade’s maiden year, “The nominations received for our Company of the Year award were truly outstanding. It is fantastic to see so many initiatives being executed by firms in order to provide opportunities for women to shine and progress within their organisations. We all know there is still so much more to be done in order to achieve gender parity, however, ever step and every initiative moves us that little bit closer to a more equal world for women, we cannot and should not lose momentum! Well done to all nominees, our shortlist and our joint winners, Accenture and Bloomberg.”


Women remain underrepresented in UK's hospitality industry leadership

12 April 2019

Female engagement at the top level of the UK hospitality industry is still lagging, with the vast majority of decision-making roles continue to be held by men. Only 7% of the industry’s FTSE 350 CEOs are women; however, the pay gap in hospitality and leisure is far better than in other industries, at a median of approximately 7%.

The hospitality, travel and leisure (HTL) sector is one of the UK’s largest employers, with 3.2 million people working in its segments. Despite a poor 2018 in terms of tightening consumer spending, the industry is still one of the top sectors in terms of economic activity, hitting £130 billion last year – besting the UK’s automotive, pharmaceutical and aeronautical sectors’ combined activities.

While the industry is one of the country’s largest employers, it still faces considerable issues around diversity at the top. New analysis from PwC has explored the matter, as well what initiatives the industry has engaged to open up its top ranks to a more diverse background.

Female representation at board level for UK companies and HTLs

According to a survey of CEOs, Chairs or HR Directors of over 100 of the most significant leisure businesses across the UK, the hospitality industry has a relatively male-dominated top level. This lags behind the FTSE 100, where companies have female board level representation at 32.2%. Meanwhile, the figure for the combined executive committee and direct reports stands at 28%. This is well above FTSE 250 levels, where female board level representation stands at 22.4% and executive committee & direct reports stand at 27.8%.

For the hospitality industry as a whole, board level representation came in at 23.6%, with FTSE 350 for the industry performing slightly better at 25.1%, while non-listed companies performed considerably worse at 18.2%. The firm notes that the figures hide that while some companies are making strides to improve equality, others are not moving forward – with the positive result reflecting more often the good work of some, while others are not taking the issue seriously in their agenda setting.

Blind spot

The study states, however, that while the overall numbers are relatively strong, the industry has a number of acute weaknesses. These include CEO numbers, with only 7% of HTL FTSE 350 companies helmed by women and 11% of non-listed companies led by female CEOs. Meanwhile, female chairs at FTSE 350 companies for the sector stand at zero. In terms of wider diversity representation, only 1 in 33 leaders at industry companies is from a BAME background.

Pay gap for HTL and hospitality

The report noted discrepancies between FTSE 100 companies and FTSE 250 in terms of improving the number of women at executive level. The majority have met the Hampton-Alexander Review target of 33% women at board level, up from around 25% in 2016. However, the remaining ~40% are not on target, and are unlikely to meet the target by 2020. A similar trend is noted when it comes to executive committee and direct reporting numbers.

Jon Terry, Diversity & Inclusion Consulting Leader at PwC, said, "To make real progress in diversity and inclusion, businesses need to elevate it onto the CEO’s agenda and align diversity & inclusion strategy to the fundamentals of the business."

Tracking progress FTSE 250 level

However, one area where hospitality travel and leisure companies are outperforming other companies in the wider UK economy, is the mean and median pay gap between men and women. PwC found that the median of the wider UK economy comes is approximately 14% – with upper quartile companies noted for a gap of low 20%, and lower quartile companies noted for differences of around 2%.

The median pay gap for HTL comes in at well below 7%, with the median close to parity. There are considerable differences, however, with hospitality at 7%, while travel comes in considerably higher, at 22%. The latter figure reflects fewer women in higher paid pilot and technical positions within the industry.