Thirteen female role models in UK professional services industry

14 July 2017 10 min. read

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.”