Editorial: The Marzipan Phenomenon

When our picture editor returned from the photographic studio with the shots for this month's cover and the subjects' biographies pinged into my in-box, I got my customary annual feeling of mild envy. As usual, our 35 Women Under 35 are all ridiculously youthful, hugely successful and wear their daunting business credentials lightly. Their jobs are notably varied: there are head-hunters, lawyers and accountants, but the youngest, at 24, runs a metal-pressing business in the Midlands rust belt; another is a space scientist who works on preventing asteroids colliding with the earth and thus doing away with mankind faster than global warming ever could.

by Matthew Gwyther, MT editor
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

These 35 women are the ones to watch - the future leaders of UK plc.

But to what extent are women winning the top seats in British business?

Every time we produce the 35 Under 35 list it's customary to ask BoardEx, the corporate research company, to look at the number of company directors within that age bracket in the UK. Among a sample of 1,419 London Stock Exchange and AIM-listed companies, they found a total of 162 directors who were still in their salad days. Of these individuals, 142 were male (88%) and a mere 20 were female (12%). The proportions have not changed since last year.

Maybe this is the female 'marzipan layer' in practice. We know that a full 30% of British managers are women but most of them have yet to rise higher than the stratum just below the board, the male 'icing' on the corporate cake. So, our feature continues to justify its existence, and we hope that membership of the MT 35 Women Under 35 list will be a badge of pride worn into the full glory and the twilight of their careers.

Incidentally, Monstermob, the ring-tones company with a record-breaking four directors (all male) under 35, was recently reported to have fired its obviously past-it 42-year-old CEO by e-mail - a thoroughly macho and modern way of giving someone the bullet. Perhaps they'll try sending a P45 by text message next time.

By contrast, the subject of the MT Interview is an old stager on the corporate scene: Paul Myners. He is the chairman's chairman. He was in the vanguard during one of the most turbulent periods of Marks & Spencer's history, and the battle scars he bears from seeing off Philip Green will take some time to heal. He also chairs the Guardian Media Group, the Trustees of the Tate and is a member of the Court of the Bank of England. Less sexy but no less important is his chairmanship of the Low Pay Commission - for which he gets £500 a day. Not bad for a man whose first job was teaching in a girls' secondary school in Wandsworth.

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