Vala Goodfellow gives her take on dwindling numbers of high paid women

As numbers of women highflyers in the City dwindle, Valda Goodfellow wants more women to fly solo

Valda Goodfellow, managing director of Goodfellows
Valda Goodfellow, managing director of Goodfellows

News that only one in eight top city jobs go to women – and those women who are at senior level are in traditionally lower paid jobs – will strike a chord with many of our region’s successful business women.

I have seen many talented women who don’t put themselves forward. But in some ways we women are part of the problem, tacitly complicit in keeping ourselves on the lower rungs of the career ladder. Some of that has to do with women caring more than men about what others think of them, and not grasping opportunities for fear of being thought of as pushy and arrogant.

Coming from a family of artists my girlhood ambition to run a factory was seen as unusual, but back in the 1980s the North East manufacturing sector was thriving and I knew I wanted to work somewhere that made things, and to be in charge of something.

I left school to start work at a TV manufacturing company, and my employers sent me off to college to learn to type, as that was what all the female employees had to do.

I pretended the course was full so I could get on the production control diploma course instead, and started my career in manufacturing.

Several years later I joined Mr Lazenby’s gourmet sausage company as production director, was subsequently promoted to managing director and have since gone on to build several multi-million pound companies.

I am not saying that to blow my own trumpet, but to show I understand about how tough it can be. I do not claim to be Wonder Woman, although I have worked hard I have also been lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time, and been encouraged by people who saw my potential.

One of the reasons the UK ranks 18 out of 136 countries in the world gender gap index is down to how society views women, how we view ourselves, and how we allow others to view us. We can sabotage ourselves through a lack of confidence.

Men will apply for jobs that are several notches above their current role, whereas women play safe and go for a job that is only half a step further up.

Another factor is the drinking club and golf course deals that form part of the ladder-climbing culture prevalent in some big corporations.

Women do not tend to have the same mutual support network so lack this advantage.

Forget about the numbers and focus on what we can do as individuals. Why wait to be given opportunities when you can take control and create them?

The first step is to recognise your own value, because if you don’t, neither will anyone else.

And if you keep banging your head on the glass ceiling, stop playing by someone else’s rules and set up your own business. You’ll go further and faster that way, and there is nothing like the buzz of being in charge.

When you have the skills and experience, all that stands between you and the top job is the confidence to match.


David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer