Cheryl Smart has seen the Bedfordshire Chamber of Commerce change from an old boys’ network in her 25 years at the helm.
When she joined the Kimpton Road, Luton-based organisation in 1988 female staff were banned from wearing trousers – now there is no doubt who wears them!
Not only did MBE-holder Cheryl become the first chief executive of the business lobby group in 136 years but the world of local companies has, too. A large proportion of its members are women.
Cheryl said: “When I joined as export supervisor, after a career in industry, the Chamber was still very much an ‘old boy’s network.”
She adds that the internet has changed everything, making many roles at the Chamber defunct meaning the organisation has had to adapt. “Job roles are less fixed and everyone has to be prepared to multi-task,” she said.
She views setting up trade missions as the highlight of her years with the Chamber.
Cheryl took on the chief executive’s role in 2008. Her work was recognised in 2011 when she was awarded the MBE for services to business.