Natasha Carlile and Cara Milton-Edwards: Women in Business Presidents

This week our Campus Celebrities are Durham University's WIB presidents, Natasha and Cara. We wanted to find out what 'Women in Business' is all about and why we need to drive for change. 

You might have seen the debate across social media about women in business. It’s been topical since May this year, when the sixth female FTSE 100 CEO was named as Alison Brittain, the new boss of Premier Inns and Costa Coffee owner Whitbread.

The FTSE 100 index measures the performance of the top 100 companies in the UK. The promotion of Alison Brittain from Lloyds Banking Group to Whitbread means that she’s joined the ranks of the other five women featured in the index. This group of women now make up 6% of the index’s CEOs. Is this progress? We guess so – but not enough.

While it’s amazing that the number of women among the top ranks of company bosses is (very slowly) growing, it’s reasonable to wish for a little more progress a little bit faster. Luckily, there are groups around the UK pushing for this. Durham University Women in Business is one of these groups, working to encourage women in the university to pave their way into the world of business. Her Campus spoke to co-presidents Natasha Carlile and Cara Milton-Edwards for more information about the group.

Why was DUWIB set up?

DUWIB was set up in 2010 with the aim of empowering enterprising students to expand and sharpen their understanding of business and to create an invaluable network for students both during and after their time at Durham.

How many members do you have?

We have a core executive committee of thirteen students and more than 1,000 students signed up to our mailing list.

Tell us about some of your events coming up.

We have a number of networking breakfasts, including those with Citi, JP Morgan and Allen & Overy. We also have a networking evening with Lloyds on 12th November. A full list is available at http://www.duwib.org.uk/events/

Who are some of the people you’ve had do talks or present events in the past?

Last year we had our inaugural ‘Find Your Career Calling’ event, where speakers included Nancy Radford, a midwife turned businesswoman and inspirational speaker, Casey Lam, a former Durham student, Blueprint Winner 2013 and founder of Tophat Teacakes, and Katherine Neill, a former Durham student, currently working as a consultant at Accenture.

What kind of work have your members gone on to do?

Our members go on to a wide variety of career paths, but common choices include banking, consulting and law.

Is the gap between men and women in business closing?

The gap between men and women in business is closing, but it is not a numbers game. Seeing the gap close is about giving men and women equal opportunities in the workplace, from using their different skill sets in different roles, to seeing both genders fully supported in their role within the family.

Do you think there is still a gender imbalance in the workplace?

In certain industries there is most definitely an imbalance, but this works for both genders. In law women are increasingly taking more jobs and yet in finance we still see men dominate. Society needs to encourage women and tell them that they have the skill set to achieve in whatever industry they choose. As businesses increasingly understand that a gender balanced work force will bring them the most success, society needs to catch up with the needs of business. 

What kind of qualities does a woman need to have to succeed in the business world?

Confidence is key. Although certainly a generalisation, women are more likely to be too modest or allow themselves to be held back by self-doubt. An ability to believe in one's own set of skills or to realise that a new set of skills can be easily learnt is a key attribute to continual success for women, in both the beginning and the middle of their careers.