Last year we celebrated the inaugural year of the Great British Businesswoman Series, which saw us shine a spotlight on the fantastic women in business across the United Kingdom who are making a difference, and all of their achievements.
Across 20 categories, the Awards celebrated over 80 shortlisted businesswomen, spanning multiple sectors of the UK business landscape including construction, sport, food & drink, creative industries and many more.
We caught up with last year’s Rising Star Award winner, Ellie Long, Global Inclusive Hire & Campaign Lead at Rolls-Royce - to find out what winning this award meant to her, her career journey, and what we can expect to see from her in the future.
At the time of her winning, Ellie was working as an Early Careers Business Partner (EMEA & APAC) at Rolls-Royce, where she was passionate about attracting and developing a diverse talent pipeline and enabling individuals to reach their potential, delivering business.
Our panel of expert judges commended her ethics and efforts to challenge an industry in need of progress in regard to diversity and inclusion, with the real potential for change being in the early careers space - which was what saw her take away the Rising Star Award 2021.
We spoke with Ellie to discuss her winning and found out what this meant to her, and what effect this has had on her and her career since.
“Whilst I consider myself to be somebody who is bold in taking action and driving my career and ambitions forward, it was a real achievement and boost to be recognised for my hard work and efforts,” she said.
“The main impact is that I have continued to want to progress in my career, and have recently moved into a new role with Rolls-Royce as the Global Inclusive Hiring and Campaign lead. I have the opportunity to take the successes we have had within the early careers space and grow our initiatives to benefit all of Rolls-Royce which is really exciting!”
It is clear that the work Ellie is doing for Rolls-Royce, and everything she has achieved in her career to date, is helping to create a better, more inclusive environment for businesswomen, in a typically male-dominated environment, so we were intrigued to know more about her journey.
Ellie has been open about her struggles with dyslexia, and how this had an effect on her throughout her education - and the one subject that she enjoyed was business studies. Her passion for this subject and her success in it then led her to go to university to study business management. Her course allowed her to excel, and find her strengths in ways that other education hadn’t before. “I really started to see some of the strengths that came with being dyslexic and started to look at where I add value and can make a difference,” she said.
“My interest in HR was sparked by recognising a lack of female talent within senior management, and following my graduate programme, I was keen to continue my professional development. So, I completed my CIPD level 7 whilst working full time conducting a number of projects around female talent and diversity. I have since had a number of roles across HR, working in HR Ops and early talent roles for E.ON in the UK and Germany. Two years ago I made the decision to move into Early Careers at Rolls-Royce with the ambition to drive diverse hiring through our apprenticeship and graduate opportunities. I have had the opportunity to work with some fantastic colleagues to elevate our approach to early-career recruitment, redesigning the way we attract, assess and select.
“In my new role as global inclusive hiring and campaign lead, I have the opportunity to take the successes we have had within the early careers space and grow our initiatives to benefit all of Rolls-Royce.”
Here at the Great British Businesswomen Series, we pride ourselves in championing those women in business who are helping bridge the gap and create a more inclusive workplace - exactly like Ellie. Being in a stereotypically male-dominated industry like the car industry, we were interested to see if this had come with any significant challenges for Ellie, and if so, how she overcame these challenges.
“I consider myself very lucky to have come from a background where my family, friends and teachers have always encouraged me to drive my career forward and supported me with whatever role or opportunity I have taken on. But sadly, whilst organisations and society continue to promote and support female talent, we do not yet live in a society where all are treated equally,” she said.
“I have faced comments and assumptions based on how I look, have been called ‘young lady’ and been spoken over in meetings. Recently, it was assumed my car belonged to my husband as ‘surely he is the breadwinner’, and It has been assumed that I will pause my career to have children.
“It is only down to the fantastic support my friends and family give me, that I can rise above these assumptions, and I won’t pretend that it doesn’t play on my mind or cause anxiety. But, I am determined to use my platform to positively challenge and break the stereotypes that surround female leaders, and importantly be the role model I needed when I was younger. I have a seat at the table and so I will use this to bring other diverse talents with me.”
It is truly inspiring to hear how Ellie fought back against stereotypes, and how she is helping the next generation of businesswomen, and people of diversity, to do the same. As she continues her journey at Rolls-Royce, and her voice of female empowerment grows, we were keen to find out more about what we can expect from Ellie in the future - both personally and professionally.
“My purpose lies within early careers, and social mobility, really changing the outcomes for those who don’t have a champion, and giving everybody the opportunity to achieve their ambitions. We continue to have opportunities to educate young girls to pursue careers in STEM and the pandemic has seen the phrase ‘lost generation’ become commonly used, so there is a real opportunity here. I will also continue to support Derby Toc H, a local children’s charity that supports young people from underprivileged backgrounds and this really gives me my drive, to create opportunities for these young people and be part of the team determined to crack the challenge of social mobility,” she said.
As we look forward to continuing on our mission to champion and celebrate businesswomen in 2022 - we asked Ellie, what advice she has for all women in business, and those looking to grow their careers.
“Be opinionated! Don’t be afraid to be difficult, bold or challenged,” she said.
“We hear far too much that females are “being too difficult” or “challenging too much”, and actually I see this as you following instinct, speaking out for yourself, and having your own purpose or drive. Don’t be afraid to be outspoken, it is an experience for others to watch and learn from!”
If you’re a woman in business, with a story to tell, you can pre-register your interest for this year’s Great British Businesswoman Awards here.