LAUNCHPAD: Tech City UK boss Shields steps down

It's been less than 18 months, but Joanna Shields has stepped down from her job as chief executive - as the number of women on FTSE 100 boards tops 20% for the first time.

by Emma Haslett
Last Updated: 30 Oct 2014

After less than 18 months in the job and newly anointed with an OBE, Tech City UK boss (and former Facebook head of Europe) Joanna Shields has announced she will step down from her role as chief executive - on the day she was appointed non-executive director at the London Stock Exchange.

Shields said she’ll still play a ‘lead strategic role’ as chairman at the government-backed organisation.

‘The government has created a policy landscape that’s transformed the UK’s start-up scene,’ Shields said today. ‘Our goal now is to build on these foundations and help growth-stage businesses scale rapidly and generate jobs.

‘I will continue to champion the UK’s digital industry as chairman of Tech City UK and in my role as business ambassador.’

Replacing Shields when she departs on February 3 is the brilliantly named Gerard Grech, a former executive of BlackBerry and Nokia. Considering both those companies’ current fortunes, that doesn’t bode brilliantly for London’s future as a tech hub – but Shields was reckons he’s the right man for the job.

‘He is an East London resident who’s had a front row seat in the evolution of web and mobile platforms over the past decade,’ she said.

‘He brings a strong combination of start-up and corporate development knowledge to the team’ – as well as, presumably, a healthy experience of what it is to look on as your rivals whizz past. Well, the Yanks do keep saying us Brits need to embrace failure more…

Considering Shields is one of the top women in tech, her loss will be felt across the UK's business community - although according to figures published this morning, the make-up of FTSE 100 boards has risen to more than 20% women for the first time.

A survey by the Professional Board Forum's BoardWatch shows on January 9, women made up 20.4% of FTSE 100 directors, up from 17.4% last May.

The organisation reckons the good news could mean the government raises its target to 25% female membership by 2015, but before the glass ceiling-deniers start celebrating victory, it's worth pointing out that (as academic Gloria Moss wrote on MT just last week), just 18 women hold executive directorships on the FTSE 100, compared with 292 men. So let's not start getting excited just yet.

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