THERE was glitz and glam when hundreds of people celebrated the role of women in business across Hampshire.

The winners of the Southampton Venus Awards 2016 were announced at a grand ceremony and gala dinner at the Hilton Hotel at the Ageas Bowl on Friday.

Held in association with Peter Cooper Motor Group the finalists along with sponsors and guests attended the ceremony and dinner in the splendour of the ballroom at the Hilton at the Ageas Bowl on Friday to hear who would be declared winners in each of the 15 categories.

The host for the evening’s celebrations was Shelley Jory-Leigh, Hampshire-born British Power Boat Champion and business woman.

More than 340 guests soaked in the atmosphere as they enjoyed a three-course dinner and entertainment from Cordelectra, a sensational female electric string trio, and illusion, magic and mystery from Colin Phillips, well-known Close-up Magician, Cabaret and Stage Artist – both acts brought the “Wow” factor to the evening.

Competition was fierce this year with 1,291 nominations and applications received in one or more of the categories – two of which are voted for by the general public.

Among the winners was the recipient of the Lifetime of Excellence Award, Gill Farnsworth, 87 and a long-time volunteer for this year’s charity sponsor Countess Mountbatten Hospice Charity.

She received a standing ovation when she went up to collect her trophy.

The hospice cares for people with life limiting illnesses across the south.

Every sponsor when presenting the “Venus” to their winner emphasised the outstanding calibre of their finalists. Tara Howard, founder of the Venus Awards, said: "The atmosphere was amazing and the highlight had to be when Gill Farnsworth from Countess Mountbatten Hospice received the Surprise award for Lifetime of Excellence at the end. “While every award generates excitement - it was the first time we have ever had the whole room on their feet for a standing ovation. “The Venue - The Ageas Hilton was a big hit and a big thank you goes out to all the sponsors and supporters of the awards for helping make it all happen."

Jennifer Todd, of Silk Bow Bookkeeping, said: “I am delighted to have already signed up to sponsor the Lifetime Achievement award for 2017.

“The camaderie among contestants and sponsors is incredible, which in turn has built firm friendships and brought new business relationships as well as incredible PR.

“The culmination of the process was the glittering awards ceremony and a sight to behold.

“My absolute pleasure and pain was taking five semi-finalists down to three which was a hard enough decision for my panel, but I feel privileged to know the three exceptional women in the final.

“And finally to see Gill Farnsworth be awarded the Lifetime of Excellence to double standing ovations - and not a dry eye couldn't have said more about the ethos of Venus. This is truly the best relationship builder I have ever seen."

Chris Godfroy, brand manager of Peter Cooper Volkswagen Hedge End, presented the award for Most Influential Woman to Dr Roxana Carare of Southampton General Hospital and the University of Southampton Dr Carare is leading ground breaking research into the cause and treatment of Alzheimers disease.

Mr Godfroy said: "The Peter Cooper Motor Group were really delighted to sponsor the Venus Awards in Southampton again this year. It is really important to recognise the enormous contributions women make to our society, in business and in our community.

“The Venus Awards go from strength to strength in providing such a platform and we're enormously proud to support them."

The Venus Awards Winners are:

Peter Cooper Motor Group Influential Woman Award

Dr Roxana Carare – University of Southampton

NatWest Inspirational Woman Award

Michelle Goodyear – Curves Eastleigh

Dutton Gregory Business of the Year

Caroline Payne – Maraca Jacks Ltd

Shirlaws Digital Media and Online Business Award

Freya Smith – British Nannies

Southern Daily Echo Business Mother of the Year

Laura Bowyer

BAT Entrepreneur of the Year

Melissa Edmunds – Zinch Designs

bandv Marketing and PR Award

Mo Morgan – Lakesmere

Rubicon Recruitment Employer of the Year

Old Mutual Wealth

Heart FM Employee of the Year

Liz Clarke – Evolution5 Ltd

Interlink Express Customer Service Award

Htec – Melissa Lane-Gilhespy

SMART Small Business of the Year

Teresa Francis – Feminine Wear

Enhanced Director of the Year

Gail Thomas – TW Metals

Lifetime of Excellence

Gill Farnsworth – Countess Mountbatten Hospice Charity

Sandler Training Manager of the Year

Sarah Susan-Powell – Wessex Cleaning Equipment and Janitorial Supplies

Silk Bow Bookkeeping Lifetime Achievement Award

Jo Richardson – Newsquest Southern Daily Echo

Rothmans LLP New Business of the Year

Samantha Kingston – Virtual Umbrella