WOMEN who’ve made it to the top in business are creatures all too rare, even in this day and age, so it’s refreshing to find someone who’s willing to put her cards on the table when it comes to supporting the fairer sex.<br /><br />Martha Lane Fox – government digital inclusion champion and co-founder of lastminute.com – was debating with other business luminaries last night at a charity dinner organised by former Royal Mail chairman Allan Leighton in aid of Breast Cancer Care, when a member of the audience piped up with a question about what she would do to change business if she were in government.<br /><br />Fox’s reply was swift and sure. “I’d introduce 50:50 quotas in business for women and men,” she retorted, “because the best don’t always rise to the top and there are enough great women out there to make the situation, at worst, the same as it is now…”<br /><br />Brave words indeed, to suggest – as we can only infer – that the gentlemen at the helm of many firms out there are inferior to the women who could take their place.<br /><br />Mind you, Fox’s opinion of her male counterparts has perhaps been coloured by the venture capitalist who, she related, had only one question for her after her original pitch for lastminute.com: “What happens if you have a baby?”<br /><br /><strong>SMACK THE BANKER</strong><br />Also on the debating panel at last night’s dinner, held at the Intercontinental Hotel on Park Lane, was larger-than-life former trade minister and one-time CBI boss Lord Digby Jones, who happily entertained the crowd in his typically flamboyant style.<br /><br />He’s also getting stuck in to his role as chairman of the international business advisory board of HSBC, and is more than content to add his voice to the ever-shrinking community of supporters for the banks.<br /><br />“Do I think we should be handing out huge bonuses to people at banks bailed out by the taxpayer? No, I don’t,” he told The Capitalist. “But would I rather that the wealth generated by the sector remains in our country? Yes… and if we go on with this smack the banker routine, Dubai, Shanghai and Mumbai are going to think it’s Christmas Day.”<br /><br />Et voilà: a new and willing champion for the City. It’s certainly a tough job, but someone’s got to do it.<br /><br /><strong>LORDING IT</strong><br />While we’re on the subject of Lord Jones and his sharp tongue, there were more people feeling the sting of his wrath last night than just those behind the public campaign against highly-paid bankers.<br /><br />Speaking during the debate about the need to reshape perspectives about business in order to put the economy on a better footing in the future, Jones put forward an example of his own.<br /><br />“I mean, we’ve got someone who is now a peer of the realm and sits behind a table and shouts ‘you’re fired’, and somehow he’s a businessman,” he sneered.<br /><br />Ouch. Something tells me there will be sparks in the House of Lords if his path ever crosses that of recently-appointed Lord Sugar of Clapton in the Borough of Hackney – or simply “Suralan”, to you and me.<br /><br /><strong>SEEING RED</strong><br />Seeing as the brains behind the event was Allan Leighton, it comes as no surprise that a healthy Royal Mail contingent turned up to support their former colleague, including beleaguered chief executive Adam Crozier.<br /><br />As you’d expect, given the recent strike troubles, there was a bit of banter going on – although perhaps Leighton’s opening shot was marginally below the belt.<br /><br />“When I ran Royal Mail, we never had any problems,” Leighton quipped on stage. “But since I left it’s all gone to pieces…”<br /><br />It’s a good job Crozier’s got a healthy sense of humour.