As part of International Women’s Day, at Patricia White’s we wanted to celebrate some of our inspirational female clients and their achievements.
One of those clients is Dr Liz Nelson OBE, who had an outstanding career holding many top jobs within the market research industry. However, she is best known for being the Founder and Chairman of one of the largest global market research organisations, Taylor Nelson, established in 1965.
Liz, originally born in New York, moved to the UK at the age of 20 to study for a Doctorate Degree in Psychology at the University of London.
Liz was inspired to embark on a career in market research by her tutor whilst studying at university. Her tutor, Hans Eysenck, would be offered consultancy market research projects and involve students to work on aspects to gain experience. Liz worked on a project and was inspired by her tutor, who was extremely intelligent academically but couldn’t adeptly deal with the commercial elements of products.
After gaining experience in several senior market research roles within different industries and building her commercial knowledge, Liz decided that she would set up her own market research organisation.
Liz said on her drive to set up Taylor Nelson:
“I had both the business acumen, market research knowledge, and I felt a lot of other market research companies were run appallingly by heads of departments with very little business experience. Some might say I was egocentric, but I thought I could do better!”
Although at the time there were very few women in top positions within organisations, Liz felt it was easier for a woman in the market research industry as there were many women working as interviewers in the sector already. She also had great support from colleagues she had worked with in the industry that joined her business, which provided a great family-feel culture. Liz also had chosen the best leaders to join her, who she feels enabled her to develop her leadership skills.
Liz certainly made a great success of Taylor Nelson and said on competing with some of the world’s best research organisations:
“It was an enormous thrill that we could compete with some of the “Big Boys” within the industry especially with a woman leading that company… To then go public on the stock exchange was tremendously exciting but very scary at the same time. I had never been in this situation. I had been answerable to some of my esteemed colleagues, some being friends, but now I was personally responsible to some big players.”
It must not be forgotten that as well as running an extremely successful global business Liz was a mother of three children and during the very start, they were just over five, four and two years old. She admits that she had superb support at home with a wonderful nanny that the entire family are still in touch with!
Although times have changed Liz’s advice to fellow women looking to reach the top would be:
“Don’t focus on gender. Work on being the best leader you can be and don’t be shy about using your power.”