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Covid vaccine scientist wins prestigious business award

·2-min read
Professor Dame Sarah Gilbert, who led the development of the Oxford Covid-19 vaccine, has been named Veuve Clicquot Businesswoman of the Year (Sam Copeland/PA)
Professor Dame Sarah Gilbert, who led the development of the Oxford Covid-19 vaccine, has been named Veuve Clicquot Businesswoman of the Year (Sam Copeland/PA)

The woman who led the development of Oxford University’s Covid-19 vaccine has won a prestigious business award.

Professor Dame Sarah Gilbert was honoured at Veuve Clicquot’s annual awards ceremony, not just for her most recent work but for her decade of experience in developing cutting-edge vaccines at Oxford with university spinout Vaccitech.

On winning the Bold Woman Award, she said: “For the last 18 months a dedicated team worked hard to deliver the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine. It illustrates what can be achieved when academic institutions and the private sector work together, and this is something we must build on.

“We salute the success of the vaccine rollout by the NHS in the UK, but there is still much to be done globally.”

She told the PA news agency there is a good gender balance in her profession, but believes more needs to be done to help women achieve the top jobs in their career, such as by improving childcare arrangements.

The nominees for Veuve Clicquot’s Bold Woman and Bold Future Awards (Sam Copeland/PA)
The nominees for Veuve Clicquot’s Bold Woman and Bold Future Awards (Sam Copeland/PA)

She also believes there should continue to be a national conversation about the most productive working arrangements, following the huge shift to working from home as a result of the pandemic.

Asked what advice she would give teenage girls about to enter the world of work, she said: “It is good to decide what area to work in, but don’t be too specific or narrow down career options too early.”

Similar advice was offered by Sharmadean Reid, founder of The Stack World, who won Veuve’s Bold Future Award, which celebrates female entrepreneurship and leaders of the future.

The Stack World is a cross between a membership federation and an editorial outlet, launched to offer advice and help to women entering business.

Ms Reid said she launched The Stack World to offer practical benefits to a new generation of businesswomen, providing access to financing, new customers and advice.

Her company is on track to reach 10,000 members within its first 12 months.

Sharmadean Reid (Sam Copeland/PA)
Sharmadean Reid (Sam Copeland/PA)

She told PA one of her aims is to help women have the confidence to progress, adding: “The biggest barrier to getting started in business is confidence, so I talk to women about believing in what they can do.

“My advice to girls would be to explore and experiment with as many career options as possible.”

Veuve Clicquot president Jean-Marc Gallot said: “It has been an unprecedented year and this year’s winners truly reflect the extraordinary circumstances that we have found ourselves in.

“They have demonstrated pioneering female leadership and innovation and contributed to much more than simply business growth.”

He told PA that Veuve’s research shows that half of women believe it is more challenging for them to create a company than for men, while only one in three can name a successful female entrepreneur.

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