Inspiring Women

In good times and bad, British business needs strength in its leadership, in particular from those with fresh energy, new ideas and diverse perspectives drawn from different life and work experiences.

There is no shortage of experienced, capable and competent women who are willing to take their rightful place at the top table. There are examples of strong women leaders in every sector and women themselves can do much to inspire and support other women, sharing learnings and tips for success.

Kerry Dryburgh

Executive vice president, people & culture and chief people officer, bp

“No woman should be left behind in our progress – no matter what their background.

At bp we're proud to be seeing change, with six out of 11 of our Executive Leadership team being women. But we know there is still work to do and we are committed to continuing this journey.

It is often said that you can’t be what you can’t see. Together, we can role model the teams we want the world to see.”

Natasha Adams

Chief People Officer, Tesco

“I am still in awe of what my brilliant colleagues achieved and the incredible women at Tesco who were so important in all aspects of our response, from quick decision-making, to serving the nation.”

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Baroness Morrissey


“If anyone had told me at the launch of the 30% Club and the Davies Review that a decade later, the FTSE100 would reach 36% women on boards and the FTSE350 34%, I would have struggled to believe them. At the time, women represented just 12.5% and 9.5% of those positions.”

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Helen Gordon

CEO, Grainger Plc

“Women leaders matter because successful businesses should reflect the people they do business with.”

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Vanda Murray OBE

Chair, Marshalls plc

“It has never been my experience that women lack confidence or ability, or ambition. We have to challenge long-held myths and the poorly justified stereotypes about women’s advancement or ambition and shift the focus to organisational environment and culture. This is the real barrier to women’s progression in the workplace.”

Vivian Hunt DBE

Managing Partner, UK and Ireland McKinsey & Company

“Whilst progress on representation is perceptible, the pace of change remains disappointing. There is a need for far bolder action to make leaders accountable for participation, advance women into senior and technical roles, and tackle obstacles in the way of building truly inclusive, agile organisations.”

Mairéad Nayager

Chief HR Officer, Diageo

“True gender equality at work requires fundamental changes to working practices, including a shake-up of the policies and cultural norms around parental leave. Ensuring both men and women are supported to experience the joy of raising a young family, while continuing to thrive at work is better for business and for society at large.”

Erica Bourne

Chief People Officer, Burberry

“We need to continue to challenge ourselves to find new ways to develop our next generation of women leaders, and are committed to ensuring we nurture the aspirations of all our people.”

Fiona Cannon OBE

Lloyds Banking Group, Group Sustainable Business Director

“Having a leadership team with a diversity of perspectives is proven to drive greater innovation.”

Brenda Trenowden CBE

Global Chair, 30% Club, Partner, PwC

“The only way to truly develop the pipeline of executive women is to radically change the culture to be more inclusive. You can have as many diversity initiatives as you like and recruit lots of diverse candidates, but without a truly inclusive culture, none of it sticks. CEOs that don’t understand and address this, will find that their firms are left behind.”

Amanda Mackenzie OBE

Chief Executive Business in the Community

“Everyone of us has a part to play in ensuring that inherent in the make up of every company in Britain is equality. It should be a license to operate. Given the long proven business benefit, why would leaders destroy value by not treating women equally in recruitment, reward and promotion? ”

Alison Brittain

CEO, Whitbread

“The single biggest issue and the one that needs our greatest attention is that of the pipeline of female executives. Sadly, this is more a trickle than a torrent.”

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Jayne-Anne Gadhia DBE

Former CEO, Virgin Money

“The different sectorial, government and independent efforts are aligned in a common goal to increase women in leadership and are mutually re-enforcing. Most encouraging of all is to see British business now set to address the challenge.”

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Julia Gillard AC

Chair of the Global Institute for Women’s Leadership & former Prime Minister, Australia

“Promoting leaders who role model inclusive behaviours and rewarding them for doing so, creates change.”

Amra Balic

Managing Director and Head of EMEA Investment Stewardship

“The work is not done, we all know that. When it comes to dialogue and engagement with companies, it’s important to keep the foot on the accelerator. Progress is not linear, but we have seen meaningful changes which are a result of market level initiatives rather than regulation. The Hampton-Alexander Review has been a game-changer in this space.”

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Why equality matters

Denise Wilson
Chief Executive, Hampton-Alexander Review

Liv Garfield
Chief Executive, Severn Trent

Colonel Anna Kimber
Chief of Staff & Business Development
Sandhurst Group

Lizzy Buss
Head of Business Development, EMEA & APAC
State Street Global Services

Major Nics Wetherill
Doctor, Royal Army Medical Corps

Melanie Richards
Former Deputy Chair, KPMG in the UK

Béatrice Butsana-Sita
Managing Director, Capita Networking Solutions

Inspiration from beyond the FTSE

“ Progress lost takes years to regain… I urge governments to put women and girls at the centre of their efforts to recover from COVID-19. That starts with women as leaders, with equal representation and decision-making powers. Gender equality and women’s rights are essential to getting through this pandemic together, to recovering faster, and to building a better future for everyone.”

António Guterres
Secretary-General of the United Nations

“ One of the criticisms I’ve faced over the years is that I’m not aggressive enough or assertive enough or maybe somehow, because I’m empathetic, it means I’m weak. I totally rebel against that. I refuse to believe that you cannot be both compassionate and strong.”

Jacinda Ardern
Prime Minister, New Zealand

“ Gender inequality is an issue that touches almost every aspect of
society, we need to expand our coalition beyond just advocates
and activists. Imagine what’s possible if corporations, consumers,
shareholders, faith leaders, village elders and entertainers all begin
using their influence to set new, more equal standards and norms.”

Melinda Gates
Co-Chair Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

“ And no country can ever truly flourish if it stifles the potential of its women and deprives itself of the contributions of half of its citizens.”

Michelle Obama
Former First Lady of the United States of America