The Barbara Cox Woman of the Year 2023 is Sara Sloman, Chief Strategy Officer at EV fintech business Paythru and Director of The EV Café.
She received the prestigious award at a special ‘Women with Drive’ event, attended by over 150 guests and organised by Cox Automotive Europe to celebrate International Women’s Day.
Sara was one of six women shortlisted from over 50 entries by a judging panel which included previous winners Caroline Burnell and Lorna McAtear.
Kate Ruberry-Shoemack, Head of People & Communication at Rygor Commercials and Erin Baker, Editorial Director at Auto Trader were also presented a Highly Commended award. Also shortlisted for the award were: Mariam Aslam-Digger, Commercial Director at Rhino Group; Kate Howdon, Head of HR for eStar Truck & Van; and Dal Dosanjh, Head of Marketing Communications at epyx.
Announcing the winner, Martin Forbes, President – Cox Automotive International said: “We received so many strong nominations for this year’s Barbara Cox Woman of the Year award, choosing just one winner was always going to be an incredibly difficult job for our panel. But their duty was to do exactly that, and Sara is very deserving of this accolade.
“She is someone who has become a hugely well respected individual in our industry. She is described as having endless drive, enthusiasm and tenacity for improving our industry, and she does this by sharing her knowledge and own experiences. Throughout her career she has given her time to mentor women in our industry. Having experienced gender bias and discrimination during her career, she understands exactly what other women may be facing on their own journeys and has worked hard to influence and change policy and improve things for women in automotive.
“Her work in the sustainable transport and energy sector is truly inspiring, as is her drive to leave a legacy where we see strong leadership from all age groups with recognised diversity and accessibility. She’s overcome personal adversity too. Having recovered from an aggressive blood cancer, she now takes on extreme physcial challenges with the target of raising £5,000 a year for charity. Sara is a phenomonal person and I am honoured to have been able to present her award today.”
Commenting on her win, Sara said: “I’m overwhelmed to have won this award and promise here and now to pay it forwards and use the profile this brings to continue to embrace equity for women in the automotive sector. To be a part of this process has been inspiring. While on one hand it’s been about celebrating individuals, on the other, it’s been about collaboration and recognising the opportunity we have. It’s given us all an opportunity to take stock of what we’ve achieved and to create new connections. The six finalists have today pledged to work together and push forward as a group and I can’t wait to see what comes next!”
Sarnjit Kaur, Chief People Office, Cox Automotive added: “Meeting the six inspirational shortlisted women today, has been an inspiring experience. I’m thrilled for Sara and equally delighted that we were able to recognise Erin and Kate’s achievements. The automotive sector has made huge strides towards diversity and inclusion in recent years and while there remains much more to do, this award and our Women with Drive events reinforce why we must continue to champion equality and continue to empower one another keep driving change. Each and every one of us, male and female can foster and create an inclusive environment.”
As well as the prestigious award, Sara received £5,000 to spend on her own personal development. She has already pledged that her bursary will go towards establishing an initiative that will help women get a foothold in the automotive sector, and supporting Shelter, the housing and homelessness charity.
Now in its fifth year, the award, run in partnership with AM and Fleet News, is named after Barbara Cox, the business pioneer who served as director of Cox Enterprises, Cox Automotive’s parent company in the USA. It recognises a woman that demonstrates a commitment to innovation, leadership or community.
The full judging panel this year was Caroline Burnell, Head of Marketing and Communications, eStar truck and van; Lorna McAtear, Head of Fleet, National Grid; Sarnjit Kaur, Chief People Officer, Cox Automotive; Liam Quegan, Managing Director – Wholesale and board sponsor for Women With Drive, Cox Automotive; and Mandy Cluskey, B2B Publishing Director, Bauer Media Group.