Women honoured with top business awards


The chief executive of a water company, the head of the British Film Institute and the founder of an adult sex toy manufacturer have won prestigious businesswomen's awards.

Liv Garfield, chief executive of Severn Trent, was named Veuve Clicquot Business Woman of the year. She was praised by judges for her strong focus on customers and her business acumen.

She has overseen a 15% rise in the company's share price since taking the top job in 2014.

Describing herself as a "working mum of two kids", she has enjoyed a successful career in industry, working at BT and Accenture before taking the helm at Severn Trent, which has eight million customers.

"You have to love your job to get on with it," she said. "I also want others to love their job so I try to create an awesome place to work, and a company that can be trusted."

Being a mother of two young sons means she has to balance a demanding job with her home life.

She said: "My ideal is to see the boys in the morning before I go to work, or in the evening, but either way, we share lots of video messages during the day."

The 42-year-old said it is surprising that only a handful of senior jobs in FTSE 100 companies are held by women.

"We must be in a position where it is totally normal to have a female chief executive. Companies are stronger when they embrace diversity."

Asked about any advice she would give girls before they enter the world of work, she replied: "Just be yourself, and believe that you are good enough."

Amanda Nevill, chief executive of the British Film Institute, won the Social Purpose Award, impressing judges with her commitment to supporting future talent through the BFI's Film Academy, providing apprentices with training and access to jobs.

She has helped launch new guidelines to tackle harassment and bullying in the film industry, and praised the bravery of female actresses who have spoken out in recent months.

She said: "When I started out in the 1980s we thought we had cracked this, but we so haven't. There a whole new momentum now so the situation is very different."

The 61-year-old has two children and five grandchildren, and still regards going to the cinema as a treat, as well as her job.

Stephanie Alys, founder of MysteryVibe, won the New Generation Award. She was said by judges to be on a mission "to close the pleasure gap by bringing equality to sex".

The judges said: "She is leading the revolution in sex-tech. Demonstrating the same characteristics of Madame Clicquot over 200 years ago, Stephanie is breaking down barriers and social taboos."

The 24-year-old said there is a lot of intrigue and curiosity about her company, which manufactures a vibrator called Crescendo, selling to 58 countries.

"People find it very difficult to start a conversation about sex, but it gets easier once it starts," she said.

"Creating any business is really hard, but creating one in this industry is even harder."