Jacqueline Gold CBE has been described as 'Britain's most powerful woman in business'. She speaks to Jenny McNicholas about women in business and her journey to the top.
As its Chief Executive, Jacqueline Gold has transformed Ann Summers into a multi-channel retailer with an annual sales turnover of more than £150 million, 140 UK and Ireland stores, 7,000 party planners, and partnerships with brands including ASOS and House of Fraser.
"I began my career at 21 when I started working at my father's company, Ann Summers," she says. "I had no business experience or formal training but I was passionate about my idea. I took the concept of home parties and pitched it to an all-male board. After initially meeting resistance, I demonstrated how the party plan concept was a viable one and it was eventually given the go ahead."
Jacqueline's passion for business is clearly a big factor in her success, but her entrepreneurial spirit, determination and thick skin is what sets her apart.
"When we tried to open the first Ann Summers in Dublin in 2002, we faced an influx of objections. This didn't discourage me, it made me even more persistent. I received personal threats, including a bullet in the post.
"There were protests and the Dublin Corporation took me to court claiming the shop was not appropriate.
"As an employer of nearly 10,000 women, I am committed to ensuring that all women are given an equal opportunity."
The protests actually worked in my favour, as the day the store opened we had hundreds of people queuing outside. Luckily, I won the case and Dublin is one of our most successful stores. It's that famous, it's even on the bus tour of Dublin!"
Jacqueline is renowned for managing a company run by women, for women. And while she has managed to empower women in the bedroom, her next challenge is to tackle issues facing women in the workplace.
"As an employer of nearly 10,000 women, I am committed to ensuring that all women are given an equal opportunity.
"Gender inequality in the workplace is extremely frustrating, and let’s not forget it's actually illegal too.
"When I started in business 35 years ago it was a man's world and it was tough – it still is tough and more needs to be done to tackle this issue.
"Women getting paid less than men for the same job is an outrage and not enough is being done to tackle it. Don't get me wrong, I do feel, in recent years, more has been done to address inequality and I'm hopeful that the issue will soon be eradicated. It's not just up to the government. We all have a part to play.
"I want to be certain that one day, when my daughter grows up, she can be whoever she wants to be and isn't restricted by gender barriers."
"I am fully committed to ensuring that we achieve gender equality and I am keen to support the government in communicating the great progress they have already made and want to ensure that they continue to develop policies that support women. I'm currently working closely with the government to communicate and consult on a number of initiatives.
"I want to be certain that one day, when my daughter grows up, she can be whoever she wants to be and isn't restricted by gender barriers.
"If a shy, naïve 21-year-old, who had no business experience, can walk into a room of grey-suited men and then go on to create a multi-million pound global business because of the courage and will to succeed, then believe me you can!"
Writer: Jenny McNicholas
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