LONDON Weekend Television has won the main Women in Business Award, with the Macro Group, a distributor of semiconductors, and Loot, the London freesheet, sharing first place in the smaller companies category.
Commendations at yesterday's award, which, uniquely, recognises companies and other organisations that have done most to develop and promote women managers, went to Sainsbury and the NHS.
Geraldine Bown, managing director of Domino Consultancy, who presented the awards, highlighted the performance of these companies during the recession. They had demonstrated that, far from being a luxury, equal opportunity was something companies could not afford to be without.
Yve Newbold, the company secretary of Hanson, agreed. She said: 'It is organisations like LWT, Loot and the Macro Group who are leading the way for other UK companies. They demonstrate that developing women in management goes hand in hand with success.'
Greg Dyke, chief executive of LWT, agreed with the business case but said it was also the right thing to do 'ethically and morally'. He thought more business leaders should say this publicly.
LWT's submission stated that the commitment of its senior management had been 'unwavering' in the face of economic challenge. And conditions for the television company had been made worse by what Mr Dyke called the 'debilitating' franchise round.
David Thompson, chairman of Rank Xerox, which won the award last year, warned Mr Dyke that winning awards was dangerous. It put winners on the spot and they could not allow progress to slip back.
He said: 'The objective should be to do away with awards altogether.' He looked forward to the day when they would no longer be necessary.
Rank Xerox had more work to do on women's development, he added. 'We are at the end of the beginning.'
Mr Dyke agreed there was plenty of scope for improvement. LWT's targets are for 40 per cent of its workforce to be women by 1995 and 43 per cent five years later; the current figure is 37 per cent. Women account for 24 per cent of senior management, against 15 per cent two years ago.
The company provides a range of facilities including a journalism scholarship for black women, training secondments for female staff who want to transfer from secretarial work to video tape editing, and a range of courses.
The award was made on three criteria - cultural change, a balanced workforce and action to remove barriers.
Loot, where Heidi Bergemann is managing director, was selected because of its practical approach. It had been prepared to make special arrangements - for example, enabling mothers to work at home - so it could continue to benefit from the skills of its staff.
Macro Group's special feature was its role models - women who had made it to the top and were not only helping others up the ladder but also giving guidance to other companies.
Harriet Green, managing director, said the company was concerned to find the best talent whatever the creed, colour or sex. Its senior staff worked hard to make sure the best were not held back.
She herself had joined the company, a subsidiary of Diploma, as a salesperson only seven years ago.
The judges were Valerie Amos of the Equal Opportunities Commission, Ms Bown, Julie Mellor of British Gas (which sponsored the award), Mrs Newbold, Vern Zelmer of Rank Xerox and Clare Dobie.
No free Loot Loot, the daily paper, has pointed out that it is not a freesheet but a free ads paper. It sells 130,000 copies a week in London.
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