Meet Nadia Manzoor, smashing stereotypes as the youngest female board member in the UK
At 30 she’s the youngest female director on the London Stock Exchange
At 30, Nadia Manzoor is the youngest woman in the world to sit on the board of a company listed on the main market of the London Stock Exchange. She was appointed by the JP Morgan American Investment Trust – and is almost half the average age of non-execs currently sitting on UK boards.
Known as Nads to her friends, she read Law at Cambridge before becoming a corporate lawyer at a leading magic circle firm – and being made partner at her hedge fund just 18 months after joining while still in her twenties.
Although her achievements mark her as exceptional, Nadia is in many ways just a normal girl. She was an extra on Emmerdale. She tries to do yoga. She goes to Glastonbury. But for women aiming for top directorial positions, her role – running a global marketing strategy for a hedge fund – is nothing short of inspirational. In spite of this says she “loves the challenge”.
Nadia tells me: “It’s only intimidating if you let yourself be intimidated. I remember my mum (who is my inspiration and absolute hero) wearing trouser suits (very unusual back then) and big shoulder pads back in the early 90s to give the men a run for their money.”
Thankfully it’s not like that now, and Nadia can be more often found in Issa dresses, Louboutins and Nike Air Max than shoulder pads.
Her own board, at JP Morgan, is almost 50 per cent female – but the industry in general has a long way to go to reach gender equality. Figures released this year show that although 550 women have been appointed to board positions in the last four years female positions are still currently at only 26.1 per cent at FTSE 100 companies and 19.6 per cent at FTSE 250 firms. The current aim is for a third of UK board room positions to be held by women by 2020.
Nadia says her experience of the investment management industry is around “95 per cent male”. She says: “I work hard because I want to be the best. But, sometimes I feel like I need to do more work because I’m younger and a woman – to make sure people see me on their level and take me seriously.”
She added: “I think diversity is key for the success of boards of the future. Mixing experience with fresh perspectives and different generational thinking is hugely important. We have already come so far in the last decade but I would love more women (of all ages) to feel confident in themselves to put themselves forward for jobs like this.
“I would never have considered myself if I hadn’t been headhunted – and we need to change that attitude. It is also hugely important to me to support charities like the Princes’ Trust and Mosaic, which are out there encouraging all young people – especially girls and boys from disadvantaged backgrounds – to follow their dreams.
“I really want young people to put aside industry stereotypes or worries they have and dream big.”