Julia Hailes MBE

Sustainability Pioneer


Marjorie Scardino in place of Anita Roddick – women in business (Apr08)

I was originally asked to speak at the Merrill Lynch ‘Shaping the Future’ event last year. Anita Roddick was scheduled to be the key note speaker and I was rather looking forward to seeing her again. She wrote the foreword to our Green Consumer Guide, published in 1988 and I had seen her quite recently as a fellow judge for ITV Eco Heroes Awards. She died only a few weeks before the Merrill Lynch event and it was re-scheduled for April this year.

Marjorie Scardino, CEO of the Pearson Group replaced Anita. She decided to take 5 principles that Anita lived by as her theme. They were:

1. Take risks: don’t be afraid to fail and learn from your mistakes
2. Be yourself: It’s OK to be different and be able to laugh at yourself
3. Communicate simply: How you communicate is just as important as what you say – clear, simple language spoken with passion
4. Businesses can lead: They can be a novel force for change
5. Never be satisfied with the status quo….

I found these simple mantras rather inspiring, perhaps because I like to think I run my work life along the same lines…..

But these weren’t the only themes of the evening. Aimed at women business leaders it’s no surprise that there was some discussion about why there weren’t more women in top management positions. In percentage terms the numbers look pretty small. Camilla Cavendish from the Times was also speaking at the event. She agreed with me that part of the explanation for this may well be that there are far less women than men who aspire to be at the very top.

When Marjorie said that her maternity leave had been little more than a week, I thought that it’s not so surprising that there aren’t more who want to follow in her foot steps. I certainly don’t – being self employed is a lot more flexible than working for a large organisation. I did work in the weeks after having my children but it was mostly from home….

I’m not sure what Anita did about maternity leave – I suspect she kept going at a pace…. She was like a whirl-wind… And an inspiration for the rest of us…

Anita Roddick, founder of The Body Shop


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