BRITAIN'S 50 MOST POWERFUL WOMEN: The Definitive List - More than half of those on our roll of Britain's female elite are new to it. Women CEOs are increasing, and the Men Only status of some jobs is being eroded. But do women still have to behave like me

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

More than half of those on our roll of Britain's female elite are new to it. Women CEOs are increasing, and the Men Only status of some jobs is being eroded. But do women still have to behave like men in order to excel? Richard Reeves reports.

Rapid decisions, quick insight into character, and iron will; a firm jaw, tightly closed lips, and a habit of brief and incisive speech.

These qualities, according to Bertrand Russell in his book Power, are the ones by which 'men acquire control of important economic institutions ... the new type of powerful people becoming known as 'executives''.

Six decades later, it is women who are beginning to acquire control of our major institutions, as MT's latest 50 Most Powerful Women list shows. Not necessarily through firm-jawed ruthlessness - although iron will remains a necessary quality as women continue increasingly to win their battles on masculine terms.

Perhaps the best news in this year's definitive Power List is that 26 of the 50 are new entrants. This level of turnover demonstrates that the pool from which the list is drawn is getting deeper and the quality of swimmers is rising. There have been some remarkable performances - Dianne Thompson, Camelot's chief executive, having seen off Richard Branson in the battle to run the National Lottery, has soared from the foot of the list (number 48 in 2000) to enter the top five. BUPA's chief executive Val Gooding, who's been pressing the case for the private sector in the future of UK healthcare services, has moved from near the middle of the list (36) to fourth. Altogether, there are three new entries in the top 10 - Kate Barker, Belinda Earl and Judy Boynton.

Others haven't fared so well. Martha Lane Fox, the entrepreneur who made it to number five last time, now only just squeezes in at number 50, reflecting troubled times at Others have dropped out of the list altogether - such as Elisabeth Murdoch, who has yet to make an impact after venturing outside her father's business. Many have vanished from the list because they have retired, downshifted or just given up the fight.

Some new arrivals are young women, the sort who make you wonder what you've been doing with your time: Katherine Garrett-Cox, 34, chief investment officer at Aberdeen Asset Management, for example, or Adele Anderson, 35, chief finance officer at KPMG.

And this year's list is a blow against gender-stereotyping, with a cluster of new entrants in jobs previously marked Men Only: Clara Furse, at the helm of the Stock Exchange; Kate Barker and newly appointed Marian Bell, both quietly influencing monetary policy at the Bank of England; Judy Boynton, just in from the US, crunching the numbers for oil giant Shell, and Rona Fairhead, the new FD at Pearson. The financial sector has supplied the biggest increase in the number of female entries, while the pool of female CEOs has grown by just over a third, from 11 to 17.

Says Glenda Stone, who works with companies on improving the position of women employees: 'Stereotyped perceptions about what generally constitutes a job for a woman have been considerably eroded. Limited expectations and mindsets about gender-segregated roles in the workplace were not only unhelpful, but vastly outdated and parochial too.'

But is equality good for business? There is evidence from the US that companies with more women in senior positions are posting better profits, which ought to make even old-school CEOs sit up. The problem, of course, is one of cause-and-effect: it may be that successful firms are the ones that feel able to promote women.

Another sign of the success of women in business is that full-time political women have been squeezed out from the list. Of the six politicians listed in 2000, only Patricia Hewitt remains, promoted to number three in recognition of her energetic captaincy of that notoriously rocky boat, the DTI.

Cherie Booth and Anji Hunter (2, 34) benefit, of course, from their close links to the prime minister - but being a minister of state is no longer enough in itself to snag a place: Margaret Hodge, number 18 on the previous list, has been dropped altogether.

JK Rowling has arguably had more impact on social trends than most politicians.

The success of her Harry Potter books has been linked, among other shifts, to a reversal in the half-century decline in the number of children going to boarding school. Now worth an estimated pounds 226 million, she acquired her self-made wealth faster than any British woman ever.

On the downside, the number of women running FTSE-100 companies appears to have peaked at the grand total of one. Marjorie Scardino still sits alone on this pinnacle. And although some companies are appointing more women to their boards, the number of companies with no women at all is rising again, according to research by the Cranfield School of Management.

Progress towards greater gender equality in business and public life has reached a critical point. There may be more women making it further, but the pay gap remains stubbornly open and the number of women directors is flat-lining. Above all, the increased number of women in the workplace has barely dented workplace cultures and recognition systems.

As the figures on childlessness show, women are dealing with trade-offs that men rarely have to face. To succeed, women need to be as much like men as possible - which means, for many, not running home to sick children.

It cannot be a coincidence that at least a third of the women on the MT list do not have children, while almost all their male counterparts are fathers.

As a result, warns US economist Sylvia Ann Hewlett, successful but childless women end up suffering from 'baby hunger'. Hewlett's work shows that even stratospheric-flying women are working a double shift, retaining responsibility for the hearth and home. Recent research shows that women account for 85% of all time spent on laundry, and spend twice as long as men in cleaning the house. Plus ca change ...

Sociologist Heather Hopfl believes that 'the period in which women sought to define themselves as quasi-men is coming to an end'. But there's little sign of it. For all the talk of feminising the world of work, most of the change has been in the opposite direction.

Rather than women making work more feminine, work looks to have made women more masculine. Women are becoming better players, but the game remains a male one.

The stark reality is that most women cannot 'have it all' when work is constructed in the image of the male breadwinner. The life-choice of the majority of women bifurcates at the point of having children. Should they become a mum and pay the career penalty, or opt for a childfree life?

There are now enough women in public life for list-making of this kind to be more of an exercise in entertainment than in consciousness-raising, and it is thanks to the determination of women that we have got so far.

But a sea change in the gender distribution of power is now only possible if the boys get on board. Maybe what is needed is a list of powerful but progressive men - but it's probably best not to hold your breath.


Despite tough times for Pearson, where profits fell pounds 39m last year, Scardino's position as queen of UK plc remains unassailable. At 55 she is still the only female CEO of a company in the FTSE-100.

02 (02) - CHERIE BOOTH

Dubbed 'the new iron lady of Number 10', Booth, 47, is one of the youngest QCs of her generation, and earns more than pounds 250,000. She spoke out against the Government in defence of the new Human Rights Act.


The 53-year-old trade and industry secretary has been one of the more popular Labour ministers at the DTI. She treads a tightrope with ultra-sensitive issues such as the euro and executive pay.

04 (36) - VAL GOODING

With a CBE under her belt, the 52-year-old BUPA chief manages a pounds 2bn turnover while championing the role of the private sector in the future of UK healthcare services. Is chancellor Brown listening?


Riding high after beating Branson to the Lottery licence, the Camelot boss is behind a pounds 72m relaunch, and a new name, 'Lotto'. Thompson, 51, is rumoured to be considering the top job at the Co-op.


The 44-year-old London Stock Exchange CEO started well, floating the LSE on its own index. But failed mergers with LIFFE and Deutsche Borse have dented confidence in her leadership.


Replaced DeAnne Julius as one of the four external members of the Bank of England's Monetary Policy Committee in June 2001. The dovish 44-year-old was previously chief economist at the CBI.


CEO of Debenhams since September 2000, Earl's meritocratic leadership style has won the respect of City and staff alike. The 40-year-old plans four new stores this year, to make 100 in total.


The deputy chief of the Competition Commission recently made headlines with her report on women's pay. Kingsmill, 54, was also behind the investigation that blocked Lloyds TSB's bid for Abbey National.


Former Polaroid CFO, 47-year-old Boynton became Royal Dutch Shell's first ever female FD last year. If Shell's pounds 3.5bn acquisition of Enterprise Oil strays over budget, she'll want to know why.


'Having it all' icon Horlick, 41, won a pounds 6,000 bet with Branson that her fund would beat his. She is co-founder and CEO of SG Asset Management, which attracted funds of pounds 7bn in its first three years.


Alexander, 45, had a meteoric rise through the ranks from marketing manager to CEO of the Economist Group, where she follows in the footsteps of Scardino.

She is also a NED of Northern Foods.


Former treasury economist and ex-head of capital markets research for the Royal Bank of Scotland, Bell, 44, becomes one of the nine gatekeepers of the British economy when she joins the MPC this month.


Garrett-Cox, aka 'Katherine the Great', oversees funds of pounds 36bn as Aberdeen Asset Management's chief investment officer. At 34, she is the youngest on the board, and the only woman.


Mayhew, 53, is the closest thing the City has to a chief executive. She chairs the country's richest local authority, the Corporation of London, owner of Tower and London Bridges and much of the Square Mile.


The 41-year-old launched Go! and spun it out of BA last year. Now ousted by Stelios after the easyJet takeover, she pockets pounds 9.5m and is back on the job market. Headhunters worldwide are on her trail.


At 3i since January, Sarah Hogg, 55, is the first woman to chair a FTSE-100 company. The former newshound is a governor of the BBC and was head of the Downing Street Policy Unit.


With rising profits and 120 new stores on the way, 50-year-old Hodson, MD of WH Smith's UK retailing operation, is a contender to replace group CEO Richard Handover, set for early retirement.

19 (09) - GAIL REBUCK

Chairman and CEO of Random House, Rebuck, 50, is described as the most powerful figure in British publishing. She publishes 2,000 titles, and is also on the board of the Work Foundation.


Appointed FD of BTR in 1991, O'Donovan oversaw the BTR/Siebe merger that created Invensys, and has stayed there despite its poor financial performance. Is it time for the 43-year-old to move on?


The entrepreneur behind Cafe Rouge, 45-year-old Jones is CEO of Spirit, the managed pubs side of Punch Group. She's expected to take Spirit public if it isn't sold to an industry buyer first.


The BBC's prodigal daughter returned from the US this year to become its first female director of TV. Bennett, 46, previously turned around its science coverage with series such as Walking with Dinosaurs.


Last June, 53-year-old Malone, former US deputy assistant health secretary, became general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing. Her 330,000 members are vital to the success of NHS reform.


Mellor, 45, and Watson, 38, walk the talk of gender politics and flexible working thanks to their unofficial job-share as (part-time) chair and (full-time) deputy chair respectively of the Equal Opportunities Commission.


The 40-year-old entrepreneur has survived turbulent times at NSB Retail Systems, which she founded in 1995. Stricter accounting and a rallying share price are helping her bolster her City credibility.


Reed, 45, was appointed finance director of Marks & Spencer at a difficult time for the company in July 2001but remains well regarded. At M&S since she was 28, Reed was Richard Greenbury's PA.


The 43-year-old MD of News Group Newspapers, publisher of the Sun and the News of the World, has swapped jobs with husband Clive Milner. She was previously MD at Times Newspapers.


A driven newswoman, Wade, 34, is the youngest-ever editor of the world's biggest-selling newspaper in English, the News of the World. Last year she caused uproar by printing the names of paedophiles.


The former FD of B&Q was appointed group FD of Kingfisher in October 2000 - making Weir, at 39, one of the youngest FDs in the FTSE-100. The ex-McKinseyite has also worked at Unilever.


The 44-year-old ex-head of the Cabinet Office women's unit took over as director general of the National Trust last year. Her cost-cutting has ruffled feathers among the NT's 2.5m-strong membership.


The new Pearson group finance director, Harvard MBA and ex-Bain consultant Fairhead, 40, joined last October from ICI. Pearson is now the only FTSE-100 company with a woman in the top two jobs.


Britain's 'curry queen' founded her pounds 80m ready-meal business, S&A Foods, in her Derby kitchen in 1987. Prominent among the UK's Asian entrepreneurs, Warsi herself is estimated to be worth pounds 40 million.


MD and the chief administrative officer for Morgan Stanley's European operations, Fawcett was awarded a CBE for services to the financial sector in 2002. She is a respected voice on financial issues.

34 (23) - ANJI HUNTER

Tony Blair couldn't stop his most trusted aide choosing industry over government last November. Hunter, 46, will now exercise her sharp political skills as Lord Browne's head of internal communications at BP.


Harry Potter is now a global brand and Rowling, 36, receives 20% of sales from merchandise and 1% of the film's pounds 650m box office takings. She's worth pounds 226m and has sold 130m of her books worldwide.


When she joined the board of the Post Office Group in February 2001, Cassoni's pay caused an outcry - it was more than that of CEO John Roberts.

Since then, the 50-year-old FD has kept a low profile at Consignia.


Greg Dyke's right-hand woman has been controller of BBC1 since 2000. This year, Heggessey, 45, spent pounds 700,000 of her pounds 823m budget replacing the channel's 'globe' ident with multicultural images.


With Latin style and US savvy, Italian-American Bravo, 51, has turned Burberry into a top brand since becoming CEO in 1997. A successful flotation this summer would seal her success.

39 (20) - DELIA SMITH

The 'Delia effect' - peaking sales after a plug from Britain's culinary queen - is now in the Collins English Dictionary. The 60-year-old chair of Norwich City FC has sold 15m copies of her How To Cook books.

40 (28) - CAROL FISHER

As head of the Central Office of Information, as well as Government chief advertising guru, Fisher,

47, will tell spinmeister general Alastair Campbell where to spend his pounds 200m ad budget.


Director of the Consumers' Association, this up-front 54-year-old Scot has battled with government, supermarkets, banks and most recently the Financial Services Authority in pursuit of a fairer deal.


The former history teacher became MD of Guardian Newspapers in 2000.

Difficult times have beset the 40-year-old McCall, who has announced job cuts and a drop in profits - but she's handling it well.


Anderson, 37, has risen rapidly at KPMG, joining from university to become chief financial officer in the UK last year. She is tipped to become the first female senior partner in a Big Five company.

44 (44) - DAWN AIREY

Since featuring in our 2000 list, Airey, 41, has been promoted to CEO of Britain's most colourful terrestrial channel, C5. Last year's pounds 150m budget is predicted to rise to pounds 220m this year.


The 41-year-old group human resources director at Tesco formerly worked at Harrods, Quaker Oats and at Pepsi, where she became HR vice-president. At Tesco, Chapman reports directly to CEO Terry Leahy.


One of our '10 to watch' in 2000, Bailey, 40, CEO of IPC, makes it on to the main list this time, thanks to carrying out some slick manoeuvring during AOL's pounds 1.1bn acquisition of IPC last year.


Pringle's chief executive is credited with reviving the fortunes of the once-fusty knitwear retailer. Sales and brand-recognition have shot up since the 42-year-old joined the company in 2000.


Ex-US national economic adviser, top business academic and, since January, Dean of London Business School, the 54-year-old Tyson wants LBS to be on a par with Harvard, Stanford and Wharton.


Rabbi, broadcaster and head of health think tank The King's Fund, Neuberger, 52, is still a force to be reckoned with in the public sector. She is also a member of the Committee on Standards in Public Life.


Times have changed since she was the star of the web, but's co-founder, 29, remains a contender. Unlike many contemporaries, she's still at the helm and may even make a profit this year.



Britain's first black female minister, and first black female QC when she applied for silk in 1991, Patricia Scotland, 45, is junior minister in the Lord Chancellor's department and has been tipped as a successor to Derry Irvine.


The 38-year-old CFO of e-bank Egg has proved her worth lately, keeping losses in check and the share price on an even keel, despite dreadful trading conditions. She was formerly commercial director of Granada Media Group.


This aggressive 39-year-old US banker moved from Deutsche Bank to WestLB and completed Bernie Ecclestone's dollars 1.4bn bond issue for Formula One. Saunders was involved in WestLB's recent failed bid for Railtrack.


Steeped in sales since her first job as display sales manager at the Guardian, 41-year-old King was also MD of Capital Radio for two years. She's been MD of Yahoo! UK since October 1999. Will she be able to entice advertisers online?


A Labour stalwart all her life, Sally Morgan, 42, has taken on her rival Anji Hunter's former role as director of political and government relations at Downing Street. She has close ties with both Cherie and Tony Blair.

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