International Women’s Day – Hertfordshire Chamber of Commerce

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Friday 8 March is International Women’s Day, so all this week we are featuring some of the inspirational women we have met through our SHE Means Business event. Today we feature Managing Director Donna Schultz from the Hertfordshire Chamber of Commerce.

She Means Business – Donna Schultz, Managing Director, Hertfordshire Chamber of Commerce

Hertfordshire Chamber of Commerce was voted the fastest-growing accredited chamber of commerce in the UK in 2019 reflecting the economic importance and entrepreneurialism of the region. In January 2024 as it started its centenary celebrations, it appointed a new Managing Director, Donna Schultz.

To mark International Women’s Day, Donna shares her journey and the importance of women in leadership positions.

Chambers of commerce will be familiar to many business leaders, providing a valuable platform to raise the profile of businesses locally whilst giving them a powerful national voice. Collectively, over 50,000 businesses are members of a chamber of commerce.

“We open doors for businesses in Herts,” explains Donna. “We publish a bimonthly magazine Inspire, have benefit partners offering discounts on things such as private healthcare and have a regular networking and speaker programme. It’s about making sure Hertfordshire businesses thrive through collaboration. We keep the heart in Herts.”

Every year, Hertfordshire Chamber of Commerce runs its popular Women’s Leadership Conference, held this year on the 1 March, bringing together more than 200 people to hear inspirational speakers, case studies and sponsors. It is a cornerstone of the chamber’s annual events diary recognising the importance of women-led businesses in the county.

Donna joined the Herts Chamber team five years ago as a business development manager with her efforts quickly recognised with promotion to commercial director. When in 2023 CEO Briege Leahy decided to step down, the opportunity to take the role of MD was too good to turn down.

“Leading the Chamber is a very different role to those I have previously held,” says Donna. “In addition to managing a great team and running the organisation I am now looking at the future strategy of the Chamber.”

Part of that strategy is a series of ‘meet the neighbour’ events, with Herts Chamber members networking with members from chambers of commerce in neighbouring counties. They are, she says, proving extremely popular. So too are the 100th anniversary celebrations of the Chamber, marked by a series of events every month throughout the year.

Donna’s career has always seen her supporting businesses, working at an environmental health consultancy for over a decade. “I helped restaurants, pubs and hotels meet the ever-growing compliance obligations required by local and national government,” says Donna.

But after 12 years she felt she needed a new challenge. “There came a point where I wanted a new direction and challenge,” she says. It was with the help of a recruiter that Donna found herself at the Hertfordshire Chamber of Commerce.

“There is a perception that chambers of commerce are quite old fashioned,” says Donna. “But that is not true. There have been terrific female role models at the Herts Chamber, not least with our former CEO Briege Leahy, and our Board is pretty evenly split. It is an incredibly supportive environment, and we continue to work hard every day to change those pre-conceived ideas of what a chamber of commerce looks like.”

Donna recognises that she has been fortunate to have so many strong female role models throughout her life.

“The environmental health consultancy I worked for was led by a woman, and my mother had a successful career in HR,” says Donna. “They have all helped shape me and my career.”

The workplace continues to change at pace, and there is, Donna believes, more opportunity for women entering the workplace today than a decade or two ago. “But the majority of women continue to have to juggle work and home life,” says Donna. “There is a lot of pressure on women, often placed on themselves, to be the perfect mum, wife and in the workplace. Their journey is far from over.”

Donna and her team at the Hertfordshire Chamber of Commerce are on a mission to prepare the next generation with a local skills improvement plan looking to bridge the skills gap with sector summits in manufacturing, engineering, property and construction and life sciences.

She encourages the next generation to be brave, not to be afraid to try new things and to be confident in yourself.

“Don’t however stop being yourself,” she adds. “It is all too easy to conform… to be something you are not. Soak up all the knowledge around you and you can achieve anything you want.”

The Hertfordshire Chamber of Commerce under Donna’s stewardship is in great hands with the next generation of influential female business leaders in Hertfordshire waiting in the wings.


About She Means Business

Launched in 2017, SHE Means Business is our free bi-monthly lunch & learn event supporting entrepreneurs in Hertfordshire. A relaxed and friendly space to connect with like minded people, be inspired and learn from each other. Held in our Watford office, it includes a delicious lunch and is FREE! Find out more.

Our next event is on Wednesday 13 March featuring Mental Health – book your place

To receive information on future events join our SHE Means Business mailing list here