Nicola Horlick 'Superwoman': you can't have it all

Sarah Coles
Nicola Horlick News Conference
Nicola Horlick News Conference

Nicola Horlick was dubbed Superwoman in the 1990s: famed for balancing an incredibly high-flying city career with being mother to six children. She became the poster woman for the 'having it all' generation, but she told AOL that this was ridiculous: no-one can have it all.

Career success

To the casual onlooker it's difficult to see which area of life is lacking for Horlick. Her career has combined heady success in the City with financial reward, and then more recently a frenzy of entrepreneurship.

By the age of 32 she was Managing Director of the Morgan Grenfell Asset Management business in the UK turning a struggling part of the business into a runaway success. Horlick says: "I was lucky because I got to the top of my profession at an early age. In my 30s I was running sizeable businesses."

In her 40s, however, she said: "It seemed a natural progression to set up my own business." She started investment house Bramdean Asset Management and in 2012 formed Rockpool, a private equity business. The latter has driven a curiously eclectic portfolio career. She explains: "Most of it comes from managing money for other people and seeing where the interesting investment opportunities appear."

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Her interests since have included a successful film investment business and producing a number of films through Derby Street Films. She is also CEO of Money & Co, a peer-to-peer platform which enables individuals to lend money to SMEs. The platform analyses the companies, and gives a credit rating to each business, so investors can understand the potential risk involved in offering a loan to them. Loans can start at as little as £100 - or £10 to each company - although at the moment typically individuals invest much more.

Along the way, she set up a restaurant, Georgina's, in memory of her eldest daughter Georgina, who was diagnosed with Leukaemia at the age of two, and despite battling it bravely, succumbed to the disease in 1998 at the age of 12. Sadly the business couldn't survive the recession and cash-strapped families who cut back on eating out. However, the difficulties of this business stand in stark contrast to most of her enterprises so far.

Meanwhile, she has raised six children, Georgie, Alice, Serena, Antonia, Rupert, and Benjie. She famously wrote about juggling family life and her work life in her book 'Having it all?' in 1997, and found a balance that many would be envious of.

She says she has done this partly because she had a strong support network, but also because she has a clear dividing line between work and home, and is strict about routines. She explains: "I didn't have free range children wandering around at midnight, so the children were always in bed by seven, and I would read to them for an hour, so there would be lights out at eight. Then I would cook, and only then would I do any work I had brought home with me."

Her loving family is testament to her success in this department too. Like any family they have had their difficulties, but her five living children are now forging their own paths, with one a fashion designer, one training to be a doctor, one at university in the US, and a 15-year-old keen to follow his mother into business. She says: "I hope I have passed on my work ethic, because they all know I work hard, but other than that I just want them all to do what they are passionate about. "


However, she is at pains to point out that juggling work and motherhood so successfully was only possible because of her particular circumstances. She says: "Childcare is a major issue. I was very lucky, because I was very senior very fast and was able to afford a nanny. We had the same nanny for the first ten years, plus I had back up and support from my mother and my husband. I was also lucky to have children who ate a lot and sleep well, so from ten weeks they were flat out all night."

She says that a nanny is now impossibly expensive for most people. She explains: "With all the costs of employment it costs around £40,000 to employ a nanny for a year - which you need to earn £80,000 to pay for."

She points out that none of the compromises available to mothers nowadays are perfect. She says: "Lots of women think they can take a career break for 3-5 years, and then find it very hard to get back into work, others go part time or full time but need to rely on nurseries. Then their children catch constant bugs at nursery which means they need to stay home, which means mothers suddenly need to be at home with them."

She adds: "We were the lucky generation, with defined benefit pensions, more affordable childcare, and when property in London was relatively affordable. Things are much harder for this generation."

Horlick herself is very clear that despite all her luck, she hasn't had it all. So explains: "I don't have it all: I don't have Georgie."

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