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CITY'S FINEST TURN OUT IN STYLE TO HONOUR THE WOMEN OF THE FUTURE

CORPORATE party-goers have been busy this week with a string of shindigs in a row, and last night saw the City&rsquo;s female contingent descending upon the Marriott hotel in Grosvenor Square for the Women of the Future awards.<br /><br />The ladies weren&rsquo;t short of powerful supporters, either &ndash; even Tory leader David Cameron showed up to make a short speech and make small talk with one of the awards&rsquo; patrons, Cherie Blair.<br /><br />Cameron began by apologising for being late, explaining he&rsquo;d been tied up at a Conservative fundraiser down the road. &ldquo;As I was walking out, I told them I had to get to dinner because I was sitting between Cherie Blair and Tessa Jowell,&rdquo; he quipped. &ldquo;I think I convinced them there are no lengths I wouldn&rsquo;t go to to reach new members of the electorate&hellip;&rdquo;<br /><br />It&rsquo;s a good job he left straight afterwards, or something tells The Capitalist there&rsquo;d have been some frosty silences over the asparagus tart.<br /><br /><strong>CRACKING UP</strong><br />Speaking of powerful benefactors, one of the VIPs in attendance was Chris Lucas, finance director of sponsor Barclays. Lucas was probably glad to take a break from mulling over bonus payouts to get down to something a little more light-hearted, waxing lyrical about his passion for encouraging women in business, though he admitted the glass ceiling still exists.<br /><br />&ldquo;There is still a ceiling, but there are plenty of women who break through it, and we&rsquo;ve made really good progress over the past few years,&rdquo; he told The Capitalist. &ldquo;I don&rsquo;t like forcing numbers, but it&rsquo;s something I feel very strongly about &ndash; it&rsquo;s crucial to mentor and support women to help crack that ceiling.&rdquo; Hear, hear.<br /><br /><strong>LOVELY LADIES</strong><br />Awards were handed out to Annie Graham of Ernst &amp; Young, the youngest person and first woman audit partner to be appointed to the firm in Scotland; Capgemini, for the corporate award; HSBC&rsquo;s Birgit Neu, for mentor of the year; and none other than Sam Smith, chief executive of stockbroker FinnCap, for businesswoman of the year.<br /><br />Regular readers might recall this isn&rsquo;t the first award of the year for Smith, who actually featured in this column&rsquo;s rather more frivolous rundown of the ten loveliest ladies in the City back in the summer.<br /><br />&ldquo;I&rsquo;d like to think this one will be taken a bit more seriously,&rdquo; she laughs, &ldquo;but I doubt I&rsquo;ll get quite as many phone calls off the back of it!&rdquo;