views

MARTHA LANE FOX ON SIDE FOR CITY LADIES

WOMEN who&rsquo;ve made it to the top in business are creatures all too rare, even in this day and age, so it&rsquo;s refreshing to find someone who&rsquo;s willing to put her cards on the table when it comes to supporting the fairer sex.<br /><br />Martha Lane Fox &ndash; government digital inclusion champion and co-founder of lastminute.com &ndash; 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&rsquo;s reply was swift and sure. &ldquo;I&rsquo;d introduce 50:50 quotas in business for women and men,&rdquo; she retorted, &ldquo;because the best don&rsquo;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&hellip;&rdquo;<br /><br />Brave words indeed, to suggest &ndash; as we can only infer &ndash; 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&rsquo;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: &ldquo;What happens if you have a baby?&rdquo;<br /><br /><strong>SMACK THE BANKER</strong><br />Also on the debating panel at last night&rsquo;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&rsquo;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 />&ldquo;Do I think we should be handing out huge bonuses to people at banks bailed out by the taxpayer? No, I don&rsquo;t,&rdquo; he told The Capitalist. &ldquo;But would I rather that the wealth generated by the sector remains in our country? Yes&hellip; and if we go on with this smack the banker routine, Dubai, Shanghai and Mumbai are going to think it&rsquo;s Christmas Day.&rdquo;<br /><br />Et voil&agrave;: a new and willing champion for the City. It&rsquo;s certainly a tough job, but someone&rsquo;s got to do it.<br /><br /><strong>LORDING IT</strong><br />While we&rsquo;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 />&ldquo;I mean, we&rsquo;ve got someone who is now a peer of the realm and sits behind a table and shouts &lsquo;you&rsquo;re fired&rsquo;, and somehow he&rsquo;s a businessman,&rdquo; 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 &ndash; or simply &ldquo;Suralan&rdquo;, 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&rsquo;d expect, given the recent strike troubles, there was a bit of banter going on &ndash; although perhaps Leighton&rsquo;s opening shot was marginally below the belt.<br /><br />&ldquo;When I ran Royal Mail, we never had any problems,&rdquo; Leighton quipped on stage. &ldquo;But since I left it&rsquo;s all gone to pieces&hellip;&rdquo;<br /><br />It&rsquo;s a good job Crozier&rsquo;s got a healthy sense of humour.