More women receive honours in New Year list

Damehoods and CBEs for female business and arts leaders rises to 38% as government-backed plan to get more women in boardrooms yields results

The proportion of women gaining the most senior awards in the 2016 New Year honours list has soared, with top businesswomen – including the EasyJet chief executive, Carolyn McCall, and the Net-a-Porter founder, Natalie Massenet – among the most prominent recipients.

The budget airline boss and the fashion entrepreneur are both being made Dames for work in their respective sectors, forming part of a 2016 list of senior honours – a CBE or above – that was 38% female, up from 31% 12 months ago.

Massenet said she was completely overwhelmed and humbled by the news while McCall, a former chief executive of the Guardian Media Group, said being made a Dame was a real honour and that she was delighted to receive it.

Among other well known businesswomen honoured was Jacqueline Gold, chief executive of the underwear chains Ann Summers and Knickerbox, who receives a CBE for services to entrepreneurship, women in business and social enterprise. She said she “can’t wait to take [her six-year-old daughter] to the palace to see mummy recognised.

“I hope it encourages more women to realise that the difficulties they face are not a barrier to success. My career has been about empowering women in the bedroom, but now I want to empower women in the boardroom.”

Judith Hackitt, chair of the health and safety executive
Judith Hackitt, chair of the health and safety executive, has become a dame. Photograph: Martin Argles/the Guardian

Women now make up 26% of directors on FTSE 100 boards, according to the latest Lord Davies report on women in the boardroom. When the government-backed campaign launched in 2011, just 12.5% of directors on the boards of Britain’s 100 largest listed companies were female.

However, in the FTSE 250 index, which consists of smaller listed companies, Davies says that only 19.6% of directors are female. Meanwhile, much of the total improvement in women breaking onto UK boards has been attributed to higher numbers of female non-executive directors. Currently, only six FTSE 100 chief executives – one of whom is McCall – are female.

Gold said she thought the progress towards equality in the boardroom is still slow and that in some industries it was still a struggle for women. Sir Jonathan Stephens, chair of the honours committee, said that his team had made efforts to broaden the pool from which it makes its selections. Over the whole list, 48% of the honours went to women.

Stephens added: “It’s a constant focus across the honours system to seek to make it as representative as possible to broaden diversity. We do that most of all by trying to reach out to get the widest possible range of nominations, recommendations themselves are obviously made on merit.

Heather Rabbatts, non-executive director of the Football Association and former chief executive of Lambeth council.
Heather Rabbatts, non-executive director of the Football Association and former chief executive of Lambeth council. Photograph: Tom Dulat/Fifa via Getty Images

“The independent committees often seek to reach out to different areas in their sectors and the cabinet office works to spread news of the honours system across all region of the UK. So we are constantly working on that. It’s very good to see more women recognised at a senior level and hope to see more of that in the future”.

Judith Hackitt, chair of the health and safety executive, and Heather Rabbatts, non-executive director of the Football Association and former chief executive of Lambeth council, also became Dames.

There is a CBE for Nicola Shaw, chief executive of HighSpeed 1, which runs the railway between St Pancras in London and the Channel tunnel, as well as Tracy Long, a founding director of Avalon Productions and Classic FM.

Helen Dickinson, head of the British Retail Consortium trade body, receives an OBE for her work in the industry, having led the BRC for three years and notching up more than 20 years of experience working with retailers.


Simon Goodley

The GuardianTramp

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