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FIRST WOMEN GATHER AT GALA TALENT SHOW

THERE&rsquo;S nothing a bunch of hard-working businesswomen like better than listening to one of their own knowing how to send herself up in style. So it should come as no surprise that the star of this year&rsquo;s First Women Awards, held last night in the luxurious surroundings of the Marriott Grosvenor Square, was Deloitte veteran Isobel Sharp, who calls herself &ldquo;the Susan Boyle of the accountancy world&rdquo;.<br /><br />&ldquo;As you can probably tell, I&rsquo;ve been around a while,&rdquo; she laughed, hopping up onto the stage to collect the gong for this year&rsquo;s first woman of finance. &ldquo;I was getting worried about all the beautiful people coming up here&hellip;&rdquo;<br /><br />Sharp certainly has a colourful history promoting the interests of women in business, including a stint at the heart of the Scottish Ladies in Accountancy Group &ndash; otherwise known, as she embellished with relish, as &ldquo;S.L.A.G.S&rdquo;.<br /><br />&ldquo;We&rsquo;ve now mastered all aspects of the business world,&rdquo; she told her enraptured audience as a parting shot. &ldquo;Ladies, the only thing we&rsquo;ve got left to conquer is car parking.&rdquo;<br /><br /><strong>COMIC TIMING</strong><br />The other ladies who gathered to celebrate at the awards, sponsored by Lloyds TSB Corporate Markets, included Emma Scott of Freesat, who won the first woman of media award; recruiter Angela Mortimer, the first woman of business services; Helen Barratt of BAE Systems, the first woman of manufacturing; and Financial Times Group chief executive Rona Fairhead, who took home the overall award for business of the year.<br /><br />The CBI&rsquo;s first ever female president, Helen Alexander, was on hand to introduce the evening&rsquo;s festivities in her first public speaking appearance in the role, looking decidedly nervous as she stepped up to the podium.<br /><br />And awards patron Sarah Brown also paid a fleeting visit to congratulate all the winners, endearing herself to the gathered ladies with a quite unprecedented knack for comic timing.<br /><br />&ldquo;Alas, it is still the case that only 11 per cent of top FTSE 100 directors are women &ndash; even Parliament is doing better than that,&rdquo; she deadpanned, to the audience&rsquo;s delight.<br /><br />Brave stuff, coming after the resignations of a large number of the Cabinet&rsquo;s female ministers in the past few weeks. But isn&rsquo;t it nice to know that at least someone in the world of politics still has a sense of humour?<br /><br /><strong>CASH IS KING</strong><br />Meanwhile, across town, an equally star-studded summer soir&eacute;e was taking place chez Roland Rudd, the boss of City PR outfit Finsbury.<br /><br />Political heavyweights such as business secretary Lord Mandelson, City minister Lord Myners and children&rsquo;s secretary Ed Balls rubbed shoulders with business notaries including M&amp;S boss Sir Stuart Rose, former BP boss Lord Browne, Permira chief Damon Buffini and Centrica chairman Roger Carr.<br /><br />The party also raised around &pound;10,000 for the NSPCC through an auction, including a hefty packet from WPP chief executive Sir Martin Sorrell, who bid for a dress designed by Rudd&rsquo;s wife Sophie to give to his own better half.<br /><br />Even Rudd&rsquo;s young son Ollie got stuck into the fundraising, heading a freelance operation guilt-tripping his father&rsquo;s distinguished guests into shelling out for canap&eacute;s &ndash; though the campaign almost got small business minister Baroness Vadera into a spot of bother when she discovered she&rsquo;d come out without any cash. Good job Royal Bank of Scotland&rsquo;s new boss Stephen Hester was on hand to lend her 20 quid.