This article was published before we became the Chartered Institute of Export & International Trade on 10 July 2024, and this is reflected in references to our old brand and name. For more information about us becoming Chartered, visit our dedicated webpage on the change here.

Today we celebrate International Women’s Day with thousands of events being held around the world to inspire women and celebrate achievements.

International Women’s Day (IWD) has been observed since the early 1900 and is now recognised globally.  It is even an official holiday in many countries including Afghanistan, China, Mongolia, Nepal, Uganda, Vietnam and Zambia. In some parts of the world men give flowers and small gifts to their mothers, wives and girlfriends while in other countries, International Women’s Day has the status of Mother’s Day.

Since International Women’s Day was first celebrated there have been significant changes in attitudes about women.  For example, we now have more women in the boardroom; the most recent Davies Report showed that the percentage of female board members has increased from 12.4% to 17.4%.

We also have female astronauts and prime ministers, women can work and have a family – women have real choices. Whereas once, the tone and nature of International Women’s Day was a reminder about the negatives, it is now a celebration of positives.

As the IOE’s contribution to International Women’s Day we want to celebrate some home grown dynamic and inspirational women. The First Women Awards created by Real Business recognise pioneering UK women who have opened up opportunities for others.

Here is just a handful last year’s winners – all remarkable women at the frontiers of business and industry:

Julie Kenny started Pyronix, a Rotherham based manufacturing company in 1986 and has taken the business from strength to strength. She has pushed Pyronix to its current position as a leading manufacturer of electronic security equipment, which now exports to 96 countries.
Julia Hobsbawm is a businesswoman who founded the ‘knowledge networking’ business Editorial Intelligence. Julia writes, teaches, and gives speeches on a number of topics including entrepreneurship, networking, women in business, work/life balance and business productivity. She is the world’s first Professor of Networking, having been made Honorary Visiting Professor by London’s Cass Business School.
Holly Tucker and Sophie Cornish founded Not On The High Street in 2006. They are passionate about creative small businesses and providing a platform for the people behind the products. Both Holly and Sophie have worked in women’s magazines, in advertising, and have run their own small businesses before starting “”.
Pam Maynard is General Manager for UK and Ireland at Avanade. She started at the company as head of enterprise applications and infrastructure consulting bringing 15 years’ experience in IT to the role. The company has seen a 100 per cent increase in profits under her leadership.
Diane Johnson is the first woman to be appointed as President of the Electrical Contractors’ Association and founder of Wired for Success, an apprenticeship scheme designed to help more women into industry.


Who do you see as a female pioneer in British business?  Why not nominate them for this Year’s First Women Awards? Nominations are open until April 5, 2013 – you can find more information here.

Finally, on International Women’s Day we would like to congratulate the IOE’s female members – well done on your achievements in promoting business excellence and global trade.