In the course of one of the heavyweight transactions that have recently gripped the City, advisers to one of the companies involved held a meeting to discuss future developments. Nothing unusual in that. But all three participants in that meeting were women, and that is - even in 1995 - so unusual that each one of them commented on it.
It is against such a background that any attempt to list 10 women in business who are going to influence our lives should be judged. Plenty of women join merchant banks, law and accountancy firms, even industrial management trainee courses on leaving university. But for a variety of reasons, mainly linked to family life and the amount of hours expected of today's executives, all but a very few drop out before getting even close to the top.
Talent is breaking through, however. Overall numbers do not yet reflect the fact that women now account for about half the intake of the leading professional firms; each year brings more female partners, as well as more female senior executives in industry and finance.
Nor do those that don't make it always disappear to family-centred lives in the country. Increasing numbers of women are responding to large companies' unwillingness to be flexible by setting up on their own account. We only list a couple of contenders, but it is likely that there are a lot of future Anita Roddicks out there.
MD in charge of pension fund business, Deutsche-Morgan Grenfell
Though she tries to keep a low profile, Horlick, 33, is apparently known in the Square Mile as "Superwoman" because of her ability to combine her demanding post with marriage to a banker and having four children. Someone who has known her since university says: "She is so dynamic she's frightening." Horlick is one of a growing band of influential women in banking that includes Elizabeth Wade (see below); Jane Platt, aged 38, the recently appointed chief operating officer for BZW Asset Management; and Irene Dorner, 40, the newly appointed chief operating officer of HSBC Midland, the foreign exchange arm of the international bank.
head of investor relations, Barclays Bank
Another to have made her name in investment management. The job gives her responsibility for the image and reputation of the organisation in the City. Ultimately, her skill can affect the share price and the bank's rating in the financial services sector. Wade, 37, is married to a finance director and has two young children - a fact that she, in common with other high-flying women, says makes her work more efficiently. She expects to be in her post for about five years because the City likes to get to know the person who is, in effect, the institutional investors' everyday link with the board. As that suggests, it is an important role that could lead to even bigger things. All she will say is that because the job pays her to be nosey about all aspects of the business, she will be in a good position to choose where to go next.
finance director, BTR
There are other women finance directors of leading British companies, but what distinguishes the appointment of O'Donovan, 37, is that she works for BTR, the industrial conglomerate, and not a retailer or other organisation more noted for promoting women. She has impressed the senior management of this famously cost-conscious organisation with her business acumen. BTR, among other things, controls Dunlop and has a turnover of nearly pounds 10bn. O'Donovan is widely credited with helping to complete the company's pounds 1.5bn bid for the engineering company Hawker Siddeley, which was going on at the time she arrived. Colleagues past and present say she is extremely private and likes to get on with the job - something that apparently means regular 13-hour days. However, she is said to enjoy swimming and hill-walking and watching Manchester United.
marketing partner, Ernst & Young
Green, 39, has just been appointed marketing partner at Ernst & Young, one of the Big Six accountancy firms, which has an annual turnover of about pounds 400m and employs thousands of accountants. She has had a management role since becoming a partner seven years ago. Her job gives her a large share of the responsibility for presenting the firm to the public and to clients. Having worked in the area a decade ago, she is no stranger to marketing - though she is already learning how much professional service firms have moved on since those experimental days. She has two young sons and says marriage to someone with a completely different career - golf journalism - prevents her from taking the worries of work home.
vice-president (marketing), Avon Cosmetics
Avon Cosmetics is the UK subsidiary of US-based Avon Products, which sells to women in 120 countries through 1.7 million mostly female sales representatives. Wilmot has probably encountered less friction on her way to the top than most. This is because, as she acknowledges, she works in a field that attracts many women, while the company has a better- than-average record in employing women in senior positions: three out of the seven board members are female. Avon's UK turnover last year was pounds 188.6m. Wilmot, 35, plays a key role in ensuring that this figure is improved upon in coming years. Among the products she looks after are brands such as Avon Solution and Parfums Creatifs, as well as assorted lingerie items, fashion accessories and gifts. She is married to a GP and has two young children.
As one of Britain's rising barristers, Sharp, 38, is another example in the case for entering the professions. A "senior junior" at the distinguished defamation chambers of 1 Brick Court in the Temple, she is fast making a name for herself, and has acted on one side or the other in almost any libel action you care to mention. She is about to appear on behalf of Tony Berry and Alan Sugar against Terry Venables in the ongoing Tottenham Hotspur feud. Married to a consultant gynaecologist, she has four children aged between three and eight. She says the children help to keep work in perspective; some other legal women, however, apparently frown on her reluctance to take time off - she was mentioned in the papers when she went into labour with her first child while appearing in court.
A German-born entrepreneur whose jewellery marketing company, Cabouchon, helps to make other women almost as rich as herself (a recent listing of Britain's richest women included two of her consultants, with annual earnings of more than pounds 200,000 last year). Turnover at Cabouchon - which uses a network of agents, or consultants, and sub-agents to sell the goods on commission - reached pounds 24m last year. While some of her consultants reputedly adopt lifestyles to match their products, Doring, aged 35 and single, rents a flat in Kensington and drives a VW Golf.
managing director, Brands Hatch
Foulston, 27, runs Brands Hatch, the motor circuit that was owned by her father, the Atlantic Computers founder, John Foulston, until his death on the track in 1987. Her career began when she abandoned her university maths degree while still in her teens to run her father's personal racing team, turning a loss into profit. In 1990, following a boardroom battle that saw two long-term managers walk out, she persuaded her mother to appoint her as managing director of the company running Brands Hatch. She has already introduced a conference centre, new pits and renegotiated television coverage in the circuit's favour; she also talks of other ventures, including hosting pop concerts and exploiting Sunday betting.
managing director, Birmingham City FC
Brady, 26, was appointed to the post by the club's chairman, the soft- porn publisher David Sullivan, when he bought the ailing football club two years ago. A former advertising executive who left school at 18, she landed the position, Sullivan said, because he could not look after the day-to-day running and she was "the best person I knew for the job". Brady recently married the former Birmingham striker Paul Peschisolido, now with Stoke, and says that she has had to make a lot of sacrifices for her work. She prides herself on her long hours and tough business style. "I feel I have been cheated by not being born a bloke. I am probably more male than most men," she told a newspaper earlier this year.
founder, Fiona Price and Partners
Price could yet find herself working with any or all of the above, since she runs a company that specialises in tax and general financial advice to women. Fiona Price and Partners was founded in 1988, just after the 1987 stock market crash and, as Price ruefully says, in time for the recession and increasing regulation of the personal finance arena. The firm now has 14 staff - all women - and a turnover approaching pounds 750,000. Price, 35, senses that she has discovered a niche, for although money is essentially a "unisex commodity", men and women differ in their approaches to it. She followed a psychology degree with an MBA from City University School, and has spent her whole career in personal finance. She is also a professional "healer", and devotes the energy that used to go into rowing internationally to competitive riding in the countryside around her Sussex home.
While young women may front groups, sing, paint, act and perform, the picture behind the scenes is very different. Flavour of the month rarely becomes name of the year or personality of the decade. And by 40, the flavour is overwhelmingly male. Across the arts the picture is uneven for women under 40. Within the theatre, the creativity of some women appears to flourish and in the newer media, such as cinema and TV, women do find some doors open to them. But compare this to opera, classical music and even pop: only within the past few years have the four London orchestras, for example, even accepted women players, let alone women managers. Not a single woman heads our national theatres, our national opera companies and orchestras. Even A&R, the classic route to the top in record companies, remains without women in its higher ranks, while press and promo offices - traditionally a cul-de-sac in corporate terms - are crammed with them. As one record company watcher commented: "Until you're 30, you can be a babe or ersatz lad, but as soon as you start wanting to live your own life, you're just regarded by the lads with power as a stroppy old dog."
If the future is going to be female, in the arts, at least, it seems a long way off. It's hard, then, to predict the movers and shakers of tomorrow, but our critics have nominated 10 women under 40 with the talent and the staying power to succeed; women who, whatever the odds, look likely to help to shape the cultural world well into the next century.
director, Ikon Gallery, Birmingham
"Lizann", to anyone who knows her even casually, started life driving an art bus - a mobile temporary exhibition - around outlying communities in Scotland. Taking art to the people has remained her philosophy while making the Ikon Gallery in Birmingham one of Britain's foremost venues for contemporary art. By advertising exhibitions in Birmingham night- clubs and on music radio, she has won a large, youthful and Afro-Caribbean public. She has commissioned a considerable amount of new work for the Ikon, brought some of Latin America's leading artists to Britain for the first time, and is about to move the gallery into a larger building. A Turner Prize judge this year, 37-year-old Macgregor's public championing of conceptual and installation art makes her a suitably controversial but artistically correct enough figure to land one of the top gallery directorships within the next 10 years.
Winter, 38, is about to make her mark in the one area of theatre where women do notoriously badly - West End production. The former head of education at the English Shakespeare Company has spent most of this year as communications manager with Comic Relief and has raised its profile notably. She fought off some high-powered opposition to buy the rights for Reginald Rose's classic American play Twelve Angry Men, and will mount it in the West End next year.
By the time she directed her modest first feature, Vroom, she was already award-laden from documentary work. The television adaptation of Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit firmly established her talent and she was rewarded with Used People, starring Shirley MacLaine and Kathy Bates. Now she is directing a major Hollywood comedy with big box-office stars produced by Steven Spielberg's Amblin Entertainment - To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar, which stars Patrick Swayze and Wesley Snipes as transvestites. The film hit No 1 in America, which could make London- born Kidron, 33, the encouragingly eccentric future of feelgood comedy.
Taylor made her name when she left Chris Blackwell and Jeremy Thomas's company Oasis, where she was head of international sales and forged a bond with the director Benjamin Ross to produce his acclaimed Channel 4 short My Little Eye. The past two years have been dazzling: Milcho Manchevski's Before the Rain was the joint winner of the Golden Lion at the 1994 Venice Film Festival, and Ross's first feature, The Young Poisoner's Handbook, has attracted rave notices and impressive receipts. Now she's producing Ross's second feature. Although it's too early to tell whether Ross is another
Nicolas Roeg, Taylor, 31, certainly has the potential to follow in the footsteps of Roeg's producing partner (and her former boss), Jeremy Thomas.
theatrical literary agent at Casarotto Ramsay
At 32, Kenyon's career trajectory has, like her judgement, been exceptionally swift and sure. She left Manchester University with a first- class degree in English and Drama and after a brief stint as a PA at the BBC she went to the Royal Court in 1987 as assistant to Max Stafford-Clark. Within two years she was the literary manager. Three years later, following the death of the legendary literary agent Peggy Ramsay, she was offered the job of creating a new list of clients to complement the agency's star clients Joe Orton, Alan Ayckbourn, Caryl Churchill and David Hare. A formidable negotiator with considerable dramaturgical skills, she is fiercely protective of her clients, who include Phyllis Nagy and Sarah Kane, and has a blinding passion for theatre.
dance, mime and new circus officer, Eastern Arts Board
Straight out of college, Crane, 34, landed a dance animateur job in Humberside, quite a coup for someone so young and inexperienced. Her name constantly pops up in discussions about dance. Overseeing a huge region (stretching across seven counties) she sees endless performances and a never-ending stream of people after funding. But quality has been her benchmark. She doesn't shrink from making decisions and she is known and respected for her strong opinions. Crane also pursues other activities
with vigour and is fast carving a parallel media career for
Simpson Fox Associates
At 31, Capel is an appealing mix of the seen-it-all battle veteran and the isn't-life-wonderful optimist. Known throughout the publishing world as "George", she started conventionally, selling rights and permissions at the Secker & Warburg and Heinemann publishing houses, but such was her skill at handling auctions, she was headhunted while still in her mid-twenties to be group international rights director at the Random House conglomerate. Two
years ago she left to start up a literary agency within the Simpson Fox theatrical and film agency (starring Robert Fox, brother of James and Edward) and to date has signed up moguls (Michael Grade), new-right heavyweights (Andrew Roberts, Simon Heffer) and the smarter end of journalism
(Niall Ferguson, Kevin Jackson). Tremendously loyal, a fierce corporate in-fighter with a clear head for what the market
FRANCES COADY (main picture),
publisher, Granta Books
Coady, 37, hit the top of the tree when she became publishing director of the most important imprints at Random House, overseeing the fortunes of the Cape and Chatto hardback lists, and the Pimlico and Vintage paperback stables. Having become the Random House queen, could there be anything left to conquer? This week she starts at Granta Books, the tiny but high- prestige sister of the big-selling literary journal. Writers flock to her side, not just for the prospect of moving into a new income bracket, but for her legendary editorial skill: she's said to be the only person alive whom Salman Rushdie and Jeanette Winterson will allow to edit their writing.
associate director, Royal National Theatre
One of the first women to make a serious and lasting impact as a director at the RSC and the National, Warner is still only 36. Her productions of classics are noted for their spare design, textual clarity and the scope she gives actors. She ignored university and trained as a stage manager before forming her own company and stealing headlines at successive Edinburgh festivals. Her reputation for high seriousness (the nearest she's got to a comedy is Measure for Measure) is undercut by a dry wit and what can only be described as larkiness. Uninterested in "playing the game", the chances of her ending up running a national house are probably zero, but her bold choices and sheer skill mean she will continue to be highly influential.
Not just a knee-jerk choice. Actors tend to have little power or influence, being at the mercy of casting directors, but Thompson, 36, is likely to prove an exception thanks to her talent and resilience. A succession of screen roles culminated in an Oscar-winning performance in Howards End. Filming on her adaptation of Sense and Sensibility has just been completed. Were she a Jane Austen heroine, it would be said that "she married well": Kenneth Branagh's Hollywood connections will do her no harm.Reuse content