The Guardian Monday 5th October
The Women of the Future awards pay tribute to Britain's female high achievers. Patron Cherie Blair explains why women-only awards are still relevant - and important - today
"The awards aren't patronising. I passionately believe that the greater the role women play in our economy and society, the better our chance of overcoming the challenges we face. It's why I am such a strong supporter of the Women of the Future awards, which identify rising female British talent. If past experience is any guide, then this year's awards will help produce another crop of hugely talented and energetic women.
Winners are not just chosen purely for their commercial prowess, although many demonstrate that they have this in abundance. All demonstrate a capacity to light up their chosen field. They come from the worlds of art, media, commerce, science and more. Many have overcome real personal hardship to achieve their goals. Others are following neglected or untrodden paths.
I know that such recognition of female talent provokes strong feelings. Some people question whether the 'glass ceiling' or 'sticky floor' still exists. A recent Guardian blogpost really got people talking. If one article on equality can incite such strong opinion, surely that's evidence that it has not yet been achieved?
For every success story there will be many other tales of women, here and around the world, struggling to overcome the barriers in their way. I hope, in a small way, to break down such barriers through the work of my foundation, which helps women in developing countries build a successful business, thus achieving real financial independence for themselves as well as making a contribution to the wider economy.
The importance of awards like this is to give a platform to individuals who, through their own achievements, show why female talent must be given the same opportunities as male talent. The awards encourage others to follow in their footsteps and pursue their own dreams.
Think about why it is important, even after years of fighting for gender equality, to celebrate female talent. It isn't patronising. We aren't 'patting women on the head' for achieving the same as some of their male colleagues.
Every woman I have met in my role as patron of the awards has been a genuine leader, innovator or outstanding businessperson in their own right. They have been determined to use the recognition they've received to help them achieve more.
That's good for women. And it's great for our economy and society. " Cherie Blair:
• The Women of the Future awards 2009 are hosted by Real Business magazine, in association with Shell. They will be held at the Marriott Hotel, Grosvenor Square, London, on Thursday 12 November 2009. For more information, Click here This year's shortlist
has now been announced. For more information about Cherie Blair's foundation, Click here