Karren Brady was born on 4th April 1969 in London. Her mother Rita is Italian and her father, Terry Brady, is an Irishman who made a fortune through his printing and property business. Shortly after finishing her A-levels, Karren managed to get herself a job as an advertising trainee at Saatchi. At the age of 20, Karren was working for David Sullivan at a sports newspaper where she became a director. After persuading David to buy Birmingham City football club and letting her run it, she became one of the youngest managing directors at the age of 23.
Throughout the start of her career at Birmingham City football club, it was seen as a challenge by Karren as it became apparent that working in such a male dominated sector meant receiving sexist and abusive comments daily. In a famous incident, the first time she entered a bus full of football players, a player apparently made an indecent comment to Karren, to which she sold him immediately. Even though she had the power to do this, it set a firm example to the rest of the players of what she wouldn’t stand for.
During her time at the football club, Karren encountered some difficult conversations and difficult people, not just from players but also away supporters. She has stated that a big part of working in a male dominated sector is accepting that not everyone is going to like you. But it is important to like yourself, be good at what you do and ensure your manager respects you.
Along with achieving the position of managing director at Birmingham City football club, Karren Brady appeared as a guest interviewer on The Apprentice in 2008 and later became an assistant to Lord Sugar on the show in 2009. A year later Karren Brady became Vice- Chairman of West Ham United. Her business interest went further than just football, she has interests in music (with Simon Cowells Syco) and retail (with Sir Phillip Green’s Arcadia group). In 2013, she became a Small Business Ambassador for the government and in 2014, Karen joined the House of Lords.
Returning to work as a woman
After addressing a woman in the workplace summit, Karren stated that she doesn’t believe 50/50 equality will happen between men and women within her lifetime. The biggest barrier for women when returning to the workplace is childcare. If you do not have high quality affordable childcare, then women will not leave their children to return to work. It is important to find a company that will respect you, pays you well and offers opportunities that you want and need to succeed. More needs to be done to encourage women back into work and help them advance in senior management roles.
Karren Brady pointed out the gender pay gap that is affecting every industry and highlighting that women are paid less in their 40’s than they are in their 20’s. Knowing these figures as a mother who wants to return to work after raising their children is very daunting and off-putting, especially if they want to enter a male dominated sector.
Rules for success
To help inspire women in every industry who want to be successful in whatever they do, on Karren’s website are 10 rules for success that she lives by. Each rule has a brief explanation of how Karren Brady has used that rule within her journey of becoming a strong business woman.