A few weeks ago, my article was illustrated, some might say ruined, by an accompanying image of me. I did point out that this was highly unusual, but then today I’ve done it again. I will seek the appropriate help.

There is a reason, however. A couple of weeks back I spent my birthday attending the Devon Women in Business Awards held at the Winslade Manor hotel. Uniquely in my three and a half years as Leader at East Devon, this was a genuinely glamorous occasion: glittering, well-lit and extremely colourful.

Most of the attendees were women, as was appropriate, and rarely can the expression “and a good time was had by all” have been more apt. And why not? Because this was a timely celebration of the achievements of Devon women working in our business sector.

Only someone who has been living on the moon for a hundred years cannot have realised that women often have a harder path in most careers than men. The unique challenges for women in the workplace have belatedly become fully recognised. For every one woman who has never experienced sexism or even harassment at work, there are five whose experience has been very different.

I am old enough now to still be friends with women my age who I was at university with 40 years ago. Only recently, as they look back across their careers, have they spoken really openly about how hard it could be to be female in the workplace. I recall one great old pal saying to me back in the eighties that “nobody understands how difficult it can be for an attractive woman to be taken seriously”. I genuinely could not process that thought at the time. What could she possibly mean?

Forty years on, she now talks openly about the oily approaches from multiple men after she had given a business seminar somewhere, their unwelcome persistence, and the challenge this presented every day as she tried to build her business. And then, fascinatingly, how it was other women who’d then commission further work from her in an unspoken solidarity.

Taken with all the other challenges unique to women’s wealth, with the menopause now at last being discussed as a factor, my friend had trod a hard road to success – although she is quick to insist that this paled by comparison with the generation who came before her.

So it was in that context that I felt honoured to present on behalf of the Exeter and East Devon Enterprise Zone one of the many well-deserved Women in Business annual awards. The values of the organisers are aligned with us at East Devon District Council, both in supporting women in business and encouraging their economic achievement.

We chose in particular to sponsor the Eco-Friendly Business of the Year category because at the Enterprise Zone we are trying as hard as we can to create a positive place to host environmentally aware businesses as much as possible. These include a number which are actually conducting major research into reducing carbon emissions though new boilers, pipeline efficiency, eco-monitoring in agriculture, sustainable fireplaces, carbon capture tech, better data around carbon etc.

At the heart of the Enterprise Zone sits the Exeter Science Park with its cutting-edge energy-efficient technologies for its business and science tenants. The adjacent town of Cranbrook is powered by a sustainable district heating system, though please don’t email me lovely Cranbrook folk. I know it is not 100% quite yet!

Well done to all the winners and nominees. It was a superbly run and motivated event. More power to you!