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Michelle McDowell Named 2011 Veuve Cliquot Businesswoman of the Year

29th March 2011

Michelle McDowell - a civil engineer who was responsible for the £70m redevelopment of the Royal Albert Hall - has been named Veuve Clicquot Business Woman of the Year.

McDowell, from Northern Ireland, developed a passion for engineering after her father brought home a leaflet on a course in Sheffield.

Now chair of BDP's civil and structural engineering business, McDowell also worked on the makeover of Wimbledon's All England Lawn Tennis Club in 1997.

Just 2% of board members in civil engineering are women.

McDowell said: “I see my role as this year's winner of the award to hopefully inspire and act as mentor for women in what is historically a male dominated industry and wider business world.”

She beat three other finalists including Susie Hewson, director of feminine hygiene brand Natracare.

Last year’s winner was JoJo Maman Bebe founder Laura Tenison – also an inspirational speaker.

Tenison started her business in 1993 with a single sewing machine and the Newport-based company now has a £21m turnover and 280 staff. The judges commended Ms Tenison's efforts to embed a sense of social responsibility into the company.

The retailer is now a trustee of the Nema Foundation, a Mozambique-based charity for infant mortality and offers work placements for Down's Syndrome sufferers.

"One of the most satisfying things is walking into our warehouses and seeing people whistle as they work," said Laura. "I hope I am a role model for business women. I want people to be happy in their jobs as well as having a healthy balance sheet. Corporate social responsibility is not about ticking boxes."

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