Royal Mail set to go Greene with first female chief exec

And new rules mean there's more good news for boardroom diversity, too.

by
Last Updated: 25 Oct 2010

Ladies, rejoice: that marginalised sisterhood, namely women in boardrooms, is about to grow. Moya Greene, ex-head of Canada Post, has been confirmed as the incoming chief executive of Royal Mail, set to replace Adam Crozier, who left the postal service for ITV earlier this year. Greene will start in July, along with two other new female board-members, taking the number of women on the Royal Mail board to four (out of 14).

It’s all very forward-thinking of Royal Mail, given new rules announced today to encourage more women into the boardroom – but with big losses, an enormous pensions deficit to contend with, as well as the task of steering the company into part-privatisation, Greene certainly has plenty on her plate…

The appointment is seen as something of an olive branch from Royal Mail’s board to the Communication Workers Union, which had a troubled relationship with Crozier, to say the least. Greene is reportedly fairly union-friendly, having helped to reform Canada Post ‘without triggering widespread disruption’, while in her previous post as a civil servant, she oversaw the privatisation of a rail freight group with a similar lack of negative reaction from unions.
The stick didn’t work, so perhaps now the board is hoping that the carrot will. The CWU should certainly approve of her salary: at £500,000, it’s £133,000 less (20% if you prefer) than her male predecessor. Hmm. 

Unions or no, Greene has her work cut out: while Royal Mail saw a 26% increase in operating profits this year, its revenues were down for the first time in a decade. Then there are shrinking mail volumes to contend with, as well as the company’s burgeoning pension deficit, said to be around £10bn. And the real biggie -  piloting through Vince Cable’s big part-privatisation wheeze.

Greene isn’t the only lady helping to dismantle that glass ceiling today: in fact, an overhaul of the code of conduct for FTSE 100 companies has finally seen the introduction of guidelines to increase the number of women in boardrooms – so we’ve all got something to celebrate. That said, the Financial Reporting Council’s new code is, to be polite, a little vague. When assessing board candidates, companies should do so with ‘due regard for the benefits of diversity on the board, including gender’, it says. That’s nice and clear, then.  

Other rules in the shakeup include the previously-leaked policy that directors should be re-elected on an annual basis. While the idea is to give companies the chance to get rid of board members who are proving ineffectual, the CBI isn’t impressed, saying it could destabilise boardrooms.

It’s difficult to see a downside in more women being given an opportunity to enter the boardroom, though. And with Greene leading the way, let’s hope FTSE 100 companies take on a more feminine form sooner, rather than later.

In today's bulletin:

Shell snaps up US rival as BP's woes worsen
Pru seeks last-ditch discount on £23bn AIA deal
Royal Mail set to go Greene with first female chief exec
Netto deal may bode well for new Asda boss Clarke
Psychology at Work: Mind your language

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