I was pleasantly surprised by the Women of the Future Awards event last night, which recognises women’s achievements across all business sectors.

I was pleasantly surprised by the Women of the Future Awards event last night, which recognises women’s achievements across all business sectors.

I was blown away by the achievements of many of the women in the room, including Sarah Outen MBE, the first and youngest person to row solo across the Indian Ocean when she was just 14, who was highly commended for her achievements.

Winners included retail professional Asda’s Middlesbrough general store manager Lindsay Goldsbrough, who was named Business Woman of the Future.

Event sponsor Hobbs’ chief executive Nicky Dulieu, who also attended, admitted she felt huge admiration for the winners, although a high achiever herself.

Despite the feel-good factor, I felt slightly uneasy about the lack of men in the room. Even the address of business secretary Vince Cable with his Government and business clout wasn’t quite enough to put the gender-specific awards on an even footing.

Part of the reason for the awards is be proud of and prove the strength of women. But men need to see it for us to truly celebrate and keep us on an equal footing in business and in society as a whole.

Speaking to the audience Cable said more needed to be done to work towards equality between men and women. Indeed, according to the European Commission 85% of non-executive directors in the workplace are men - quite a shocking statistic.

But I don’t agree with the European Commission’s proposals to have at least 40% women non-executive directors on the boards of big listed companies by 2020, as announced last week. Women still need to prove their skills and “positive discrimination” could actually be to the detriment of equality.

It would appear women in retail are snapping senior roles with more frequncy than ever with the likes of Hobbycraft chief executive Catriona Marshall recognised for their confidence, experience and skills that are earning them top jobs and not because a company needs to hit certain statistics.