Born in Cape Town, Val Corbett has had a career in the media spanning national newspapers, magazines and BBC television. She was founder director of an independent TV production company producing several programmes for BBC TV and Channel 4. After that she co-wrote six novels but now gains far more satisfaction from connecting women through her Network, based in central London.
Formerly with the late-lamented Hoxton Apprentice restaurant which trained long term unemployed to get a permanent job, she retains her interest in this field by supporting the work of the House of St Barnabas.
Lady Val is co-founder of the Spouse in the House Club for partners of MPs and Peers and is Chair of Women’s Aid in West Hertfordshire. Her late husband was Lord Corbett of Castle Vale and their daughter, Polly Hudson, is a columnist on the Daily Mirror.
We tracked Val down to answer some questions on her inspiration and passion
What inspired you to get involved with the Hoxton Apprentice?
I am passionate about helping people who want to help themselves. A hand up not a hand out. I have seen many young people coming to us without skills, education, and with a background of such poverty – not so much in money, though that also, but in terms of no parental back-up and awful housing – that it is a wonder they can function. In the 6 months they are working in the restaurant, you can literally see the change in confidence and self-worth. And as we have around 70-75% success rate (based on them still in work six months after they leave us), with an NVQ2 certificate in food prep and hygiene etc plus on-the-job training, they stand more chance of turning their lives round. But government funding was drastically stopped and it was near impossible to raise enough to keep the project continuing so alas it is no more. And when youth unemployment in London is nearly two million. Sigh.
Tell us about your networking lunches?
In such difficult business times, I felt it was important for women to network with other top-calibre executives to make contacts which would be useful. Thus emerged the Hoxton Apprentice Professional Women’s Network which has evolved into Lady Val’s Professional Women’s Network. Networkers are either chief executives, senior partners, all like-minded women executives, women who know-how and know-who.
We meet every 2 months for a three-course lunch and a speaker – unlike other lunches she begins talking before the first course and continues throughout the lunch. Contacts made via the Network tend to bring either more business or more friends and frequently both. The £45 cost includes £10 for House of St Barnabas who train unemployed in their restaurant.
Lunches are from noon to 2:15 ish and currently at Browns Courtrooms im St Martin’s Lane, a few minutes walk from exit 4 Leicester Square tube. Do come and join us.
There’s a special place in hell for any woman who doesn’t help another woman.
How do you feel Women’s networks benefit their members?
I have worked with, and for, women my entire career. We are simply terrific (though NOT those who appear on The Apprentice!)
But we have faults which preclude us smashing through the glass ceiling – and it is ourselves. We lack the total confidence and conviction which men seem to have (and if they don’t, they act like they have it.) This self-denigration holds us back. Women’s networks help this because they have a dual function. Yes they connect us to other, similar women who know the lives we lead. But they also are able to galvanise us, to make us aware that we CAN get there (that’s if we want to, of course and that’s another story!) The Networks I belong to make me aspire to be like the women I meet – and apart from that, actually it is great fun as well.
Tell us what you are passionate about outside of your Network?
I have worked for many years for Women’s Aid. It’s a long-felt desire of mind to eradicate domestic violence (and after that I will deal with the Middle East!). Actually I hate that domestic violence label. It’s violence pure and simple. I help run a refuge in West Hertfordshire (always full) and am on call every Monday evening and every 6th weekend. We have instigated 10 week courses to change mindsets; have a children’s therapist and counsellor – all to make a woman realise she doesn’t have to put up with violence. We’ve helped hundreds of women and thousands of kids, many of them damaged, I fear, irretrievably. But if women and their children have just an insight into a different kind of life while living in our house – Sanctuary House it’s called – then I am happy. Well, fairly happy – I know it is sticking plaster on cancer so I do push hard for courses to change perpetrators and to make them aware of the harm they do to families and society.
What piece of advice would you like to give to our female members?
Share. If we women don’t help each other, who will?
Do you have a mantra that you would like to share with our members?
Yes, it is the motto of my Network: “There’s a special place in hell for any woman who doesn’t help another woman.” Madeleine Albright, former Secretary of State in Bill Clinton’s government said it first but we have taken it to our hearts. And minds … and lungs… kidneys …