First Women have the last word—Valerie Owen, Swan Housing

First Women have the last word—Valerie Owen, Swan Housing

Despite only 20 per cent of the construction sector workforce being female, Valerie Owen defied convention by becoming the first female chair of the £100m turnover Swan Housing Group.

Discover what makes her tick in her First Women have the Last Word interview.

The woman I most admire is Michelle Obama because she is an excellent role model, both as a professional and a mother, and an inspirational speaker and leader.

To juggle my work-life balance I have to be very organised, and have always maintained hobbies and wider interests (like being a leader in Girlguiding). Hobbies serve as a ‘valve’ – diverting me from the pressure of work.

My biggest career break was joining Jones Lang LaSalle with a remit to help set up architectural businesses in London and Paris.

The biggest influence on my career was my father. He loved me and my sisters unreservedly; he was unstintingly proud of us, and yet constantly challenged us to be our best and make a difference in the world.

One thing that makes me mad in business today is a lack of ethics, values and positive behaviours.

Are boardroom quotas necessary or nuts? Neither – having women on boards is common sense. Why fetter your business by recruiting from half the talent pool, only? 

My one tip on negotiating a pay rise is to win new, profitable business and maintain happy clients/customers, upfront.

In five years I see myself on the board of either a FTSE 250, or ideally a FTSE 100 company.

My number one piece of advice to young women starting their careers is: `Girls can do anything!’

My favourite wind down activity is spending time with my family, walking our crazy spaniel along the sea front.

The last book I read was Brick Lane by Monica Ali.

The one thing I can’t live without is my husband; I can’t imagine life without him.


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