Editorial: Our best list of heroines yet

Observant readers will notice I'm the only male featured on this page.

by Matthew Gwyther, MT editor
Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013

July is traditionally our women's special, with the announcement of our 35 Women Under 35 list, and we have as many female contributors in this edition as we could commission without being subject to charges of sex discrimination. The 2009 list is the best yet, and we've even got one woman in the 35 who used to be a man. Never let it be said we're not behind diversity.

We also have the youngest-ever woman to appear in the list - 19-year-old inventor Ruth Amos, taking three years out after her A-levels to build her business. When she started, every major bank refused her business banking - too busy stuffing it into Nevadan sub-prime mortgages, probably. Almost two-thirds of our high achievers studied what are traditionally thought of as male disciplines at university: science, business, law and economics. Interestingly, a third attended Oxbridge or the London School of Economics, which will please our diarist Howard Davies, the LSE's director.

We have another public-sector boss under the profile spotlight - David Nicholson, CEO of the National Health Service. With 1.3 million staff and a £120bn annual budget to burn his way through, his is one hell of a job. Despite the brickbats of swine flu, MRSA and the Mid Staffordshire scandal, Nicholson has enjoyed a pretty good innings so far, watching record levels of investment go into the NHS.

But with recession, the NHS gravy train is heading for a derailment - or a long spell in the sidings. With the Government planning next year to spend £4 for every £3 it receives, something's gotta give. Many in the private sector feel they've borne more than their fair share of the pain so far: wage freezes, redundancies and, at businesses like British Airways, even being asked to work for nothing. One sees little evidence of that yet in the pubic sector, where, for all the increase in costs, productivity actually fell by 3.2% between 1997 and 2007, according to the Office for National Statistics. There were declines not only in health and education but also in public order and safety.

Taxes will have to rise steeply to pay for this deficit, and public spending needs to move in the opposite direction - although few politicians of any stripe have the moral courage to admit it. This is going to leave Joe Public in a lousy mood. Indeed, I predict that the issue of public-sector, final-salary-linked pensions - now a rarity in the private sector - will become a very sore point over the coming years.


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