First Women have the last word—with Louise Brooke-Smith

First Women have the last word—with Louise Brooke-Smith

Discover what makes this CEO, chartered surveyor and town planner tick. Part of the First Women have the Last Word interview series.

The professional woman I most admire is Helen Suzman, one of the leading lights of the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa in the 1960’s through to her death in 2009. She stood up for what she believed in, was strong in the face of adversity and wasn’t afraid of the repercussions.

To juggle my work and life balance I try hard but don’t always succeed! While it helps to be a bit of workaholic, so you don’t actually mind or even notice when you burn the midnight oil, that has to be balanced by a very understanding partner and kids!

My biggest career break was when I was offered, and accepted, a job as a building surveyor for an aid agency in Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo) in the mid-1980s.

It opened my eyes to working overseas in some fascinating places and to realising that there is so much we can share in terms of good practice and expertise.

The biggest influence on my career was my dad who never stopped telling me to take every opportunity that comes along because it might not come along again. And that if you do, ‘you can achieve anything you want to, if you really put your heart and soul into it’.

One thing that makes me mad in business today is insincerity, such as people not being open and honest.

Are boardroom quotas necessary or nuts? I am still to be convinced that quotas are not patronising mechanisms of solving a company’s cultural deficiencies.

Far better for an organisation to grasp some of its outdated approaches to business, accept that things need to change and put proactive measures in place to ensure that the ‘pool to fish’ in is big enough to allow for anyone to shine and come forward.

My one tip on negotiating a pay rise is you don’t get if you don’t ask, so ask! The worst that can happen is they say no.

In five years I see myself still being involved with my company which will have expanded internationally. On a personal front, further establishing an exciting and varied non-executive portfolio.

My number one piece of advice to young women starting their careers is as my dad told me, take every opportunity that comes your way and aim high.

My favourite wind down activity is watching a good thriller on the telly and then sleeping.

The last book I read was In Search of Kazakhstan: The Land that Disappeared by Christopher Robbins.

The one thing I can’t live without sadly at the moment I am sad to admit it’s my iPhone.


About Louise Brooke-Smith

Louise Brooke-Smith is a chartered surveyor and chartered town planner with experience drawn, over 30 yrs, from the public and private sectors in the UK and overseas. She is CEO of Brooke Smith Planning, the Birmingham-based planning and development consultancy, established in 1994, serving clients globally.


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