Winning the Business Woman of the Year title nearly 12 months ago has resulted in the most incredible and memorable year of my professional life. It has increased our profile and helped us to break barriers to progress, unlock potential and upskill with greater impact and the PET-Xi team’s resolve to change lives has never been stronger. I’ve loved every single minute of it!
As Business Woman of the Year I’ve had a new voice with which to encourage women to follow their ambitions. I’ve travelled the length and breadth of the country and spoken at over 100 events with the message “Real queens fix each others’ crowns”, encouraging women to mentor other women starting out as well as supporting those women further along their career paths. It’s been really important to me to make a difference in this way.
It has opened up opportunities as a role model for both women and business to speak on policy and strategic issues, including Sky News, British Chambers of Commerce, PricewaterhouseCoopers and Selfridges.
Inspiring Young People
We’ve achieved more in-school activities to inspire young people to aim high across the country than ever before. Our Future Leaders course is one example – Coventry City Council chief executive Martin Reeves was so impressed by the students that he invited one teenager to shadow him for her work placement. This perfectly highlights the opportunities PET-Xi can provide and the difference we can make to those who want to improve their skills. I’m thrilled to have recently become a board director at the Historic Coventry Trust, chair of the Coventry Music Trust and board member of the NSPCC Coventry Business Group – all areas I love which allow me to bring a specific focus on bringing young people into actively participating in their city.
We’ve been busy expanding our business training, focusing on helping businesses to upskill those employees with no skills or low skills to enhance their performance and progression and make businesses more competitive and more ready for the future. This is spearheaded by our programmes which help businesses and their employees to (1) develop crucial digital skills in Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint and IT Security and (2) learn vital work skills through apprenticeships as a credible alternative for so many to bring progression opportunities within their own reach – we’re so proud that 20% of our workforce have taken this route!
PET-Xi was voted 2017 Coventry Telegraph Company of the Year – we’re honoured to be recognised by our peers in Coventry & Warwickshire’s business community – winning is a testament to the hard work, dedication and spirit of every member of our staff.
Achieving Social Mobility
I’ve always believed that every business has a duty to raise up the society it operates in by reaching out and drawing in those marginalised from society and the economy, giving them an opportunity to find their strengths and use them to make a difference in the world.
When we do this we build strong businesses, strong communities, a strong and resilient economy and country, driven by purpose and passion. PET-Xi’s social mobility activities are how we deliver on our beliefs to our staff and community and help people to move to higher social and economic circumstances, regardless of those they have come from – for example:
• We’ve launched Route 10 – an initiative where we reinvest company profits into directly employing those who simply have no other chance, because of multiple barriers including severe disability, depression, self-harm, drugs and addiction, ex-offending and leaving social care.
• We are helping those from socially disadvantaged areas, the unemployed, the homeless and work returners get into work or better work opportunities by improving their increasing their skills through programmes such as ITQ and Microsoft Office.
• Within PET-Xi we’ve adopted a broader, more inclusive approach to recruitment which values character, potential and aspiration over skills and experience. Recognising that barriers can be broken and skills can be taught has resulted in us celebrating some inspirational performances and contributions of staff who have taken non-traditional routes to employment.
Active Community Participation
We’ve always been active in community and business networks, making sure we support with our time and our enthusiasm as well as financially – this year our support has been bigger and better than ever.
• We were a very active Bid Sponsor of Coventry’s successful bid for UK City of Culture 2021 and continue to support the Bid team as they build a programme to inspire those from the city as they celebrate it.
• As a board member of both the Coventry & Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce and the Coventry & Warwickshire Champions, I am involved in developing businesses and opportunities for women.
• I have become a big fan of the Wasps Netball team since they formed at the Ricoh Arena in 2016 and PET-Xi Training is now Education Partner to Wasps Netball to encourage more girls to consider careers in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM).
• The whole PET-Xi team has participated in more community events than ever before – including Wasps Netball games, Coventry 2021 events, the NSPCC, Coventry Blaze Ice Hockey community activities, Zoë’s Place and Coventry Rugby Club, numerous local breakfast meetings, sporting days and school fairs.
• I’ve also been appointed Deputy Lieutenant representing Her Majesty’s Lord-Lieutenant of West Midlands. This was a really proud moment for me and my family, which has given me many opportunities to address diverse community groups, celebrate their achievements, help raise aspirations and encourage voluntary, civic and commercial community participation.
Becoming Business Woman of the Year has enabled and brought together all of these opportunities. It is such an important award – I’ve loved encouraging the next generation of businesswomen and will continue to encourage real queens to fix each others’ crowns by supporting and mentoring other women.
Inspired by what we’ve achieved, we’ve got very exciting plans for more barrier breaking activities this coming year. It’s truly incredible what can be achieved when we support each other!