Reputation is what men and women think of us. Character is what God and the angels know of us.
So Hillary Clinton may not have broken through the ultimate glass ceiling just yet, although she’s given it such a battering that it has to go sooner, rather than later, surely.
In the meantime, another glass ceiling has been quietly smashed, one rather closer to home.
When I joined BMJ, way back in the early 1990s, I was told it was an industry “run by, and for, middle-aged men with greying hair and glasses”. It was true then, and, while it is less true now, we’re still a pretty male-dominated industry.
That said, in the intervening years, we’ve seen many, many more women enter the industry and rise to some pretty heady heights. “We” can now count managing directors, chief executives, board directors, chairmen, lorry-drivers, trade counter staff, branch managers, sales directors, finance directors, even a couple of editors-in-chief, amongst our number. We had an almost clean-sweep of female winners in our BMJ/BMF achiever awards a couple of years ago. We’ve seen our first female Master take the reins at the Worshipful Company of Builders Merchants, in the shape of Gill Moore – who, it is hoped, will be followed in a couple of years by a second – Pippa Latham.
Up until now though, one last citadel was left to be breached. Until last Friday. I cannot think of a better person to embody the concept of a lifetime achievement than the recipient of this year’s BMN award. Step forward and take a bow Chris Harding. The first female recipient of the award.
Never was the applause more genuinely heartfelt than on Friday afternoon. Only once before have I heard so many of our strapping industry chaps admit to teary-eyed moments at this award.
When I first met Chris, she was the secretary to the BMF’s marketing manager, the late, lovely Trevor Norman. She ends her full-time career in the merchant industry knowing more stuff about more people in the industry than anyone. If I had half the contacts and knowledge that Chris has in her head, I would be a far better editor. The BMF has been through some ups and downs over the last 25 years; always at the heart of it, from a marketing point of view, has been Chris, holding it together, knowing who to talk to to get stuff done.
Last year when Chis retired officially, finally, the BMF Young Merchants got together to bid her farewell. Not just the latest kids on the block either, but also those of us who have long since moved into middle-age, middle-management and beyond. We were all gutted to see her go, but glad that she was finally going to slow down and take some well-deserved time for herself. Always assuming that she can bear to tear herself away from things like the Conference, that is!!
Our friendship – both business and personal – has meant a great deal to me over the years. Thanks Chris. You deserved every single one of those watery eyes and hearty-handclaps on Friday.