The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has recently made history, appointing Carolyn Fairbairn to be their first ever female director general in a move to better represent both small and large UK businesses in the EU.
Fairbairn, who has held top strategic roles at the BBC and ITV, will replace current director general John Cridland in November after his four year tenure in the role. With the CBI celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, it’s a hugely important period of time for a business that is looking to shed the criticisms that it has ignored smaller companies in favour of large-scale business.
The change in management at the independent business lobbying organisation will be a positive one on two fronts for the company. As well as hopefully giving Small to Medium Enterprises (SMEs) a larger voice within the European community, it will provide a positive role model to other women in business, of which a vast majority still don’t believe they have the credentials to make it to the top – despite the fact that many would be ideal candidates.
Fairbairn will look to improve the image of the CBI, which recently took a hit when a front-runner in the presidency campaign was found to be aligned with the Conservative party, despite the fact that all members of the CBI need to be politically impartial.
President of the CBI Sir Mike Rake backed the decision, stating that “Carolyn’s…wealth and breadth of experience will be critical in steering the CBI through choppy political and economic waters, including an EU referendum.”
Fairbairn herself was equally positive about the role, with the view that “the debate around Britain’s relationship with the European Union and the productivity challenge facing our economy will be two of the defining issues of the next few years, and I greatly look forward to representing the voice of British businesses of all sizes on these questions and many others.”
If she can negotiate the tough task of dealing with the EU referendum, Carolyn Fairbairn could well be both a breath of fresh air for smaller businesses as well as for women in business. Chief executive roles for women are still at a worrying low (4.6%), so by having female leadership in Britain’s biggest business group, there’s little doubt that the industry will benefit as a result.