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(ILLUSTRATION BY MICHAEL DALEY)



Dame Helena Morrissey is a heroine in the City for founding the 30% Club, which in only eight years has almost achieved her target percentage of female board members in the FTSE 100. She also runs a global billion-pound fund for Legal & General Investment Management, is active in politics, philanthropy and the arts, the bestselling author of A Good Time to Be a Girl (HarperCollins, £14.99), a pescatarian with nine children and a cockapoo puppy.

So how does Dame Helena differ from previous “superwomen”? Isn’t she just another overachiever who, while doubtless a positive role model for aspirational girls, is bound to make most other women feel like failures? And in what sense could she possibly be underrated?

The first point about Helena Morrissey is that she is not over-privileged. Her parents were teachers in Chichester; she read philosophy at Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge, after being educated at the local comprehensive. Having survived anorexia, she sublimated her perfectionism into a punishing work ethic: she gets up for work at 5 am. By the age of 35, she was a high-flying CEO. Though she is undeniably rich, her children have never been pampered. After the fourth child, her husband Richard gave up his journalistic job (he says he had “reached a ceiling”) to look after the family. Twenty years on and now in his mid-fifties, he is thinking about the next phase — but the prospect of grandchildren is, she remarks pointedly, “creating a new dynamic around Richard’s future”.

Despite having achieved so much, Dame Helena appears to be looking for new worlds to conquer. She comes across as much more likeable than most corporate high-fliers and her book is by no means bombastic. With all the stress that comes with success, she looks younger than her 52 years. Helena Morrissey is passionate and persuasive about everything she does. She seized every opportunity to gain the support of the Cameron government for her goal of breaking the male stranglehold on senior management in Britain, but was then closer to the “Orange Book” (free market) wing of the Liberal Democrats than the Conservatives. When in 2013 the Lib Dems were engulfed in a sex scandal centred on Lord Rennard, Dame Helena was asked to review the affair. She concluded that “no further action be taken against Lord Rennard” — a result that displeased many but enhanced her reputation for impartiality.

She has moved on in the meantime, perhaps because of the Lib Dems’ Eurofanaticism. Helena Morrissey is deeply committed to Brexit. At the time she was CEO of Newton Investment Management, whose New York-based parent company BNY Mellon imposed silence on all staff during the referendum campaign. She insists that she did not leave Newton as a result of the ban, but within a few months she had moved to Legal & General, whose chief executive,     Nigel Wilson, is a fellow Brexiteer.
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Anonymous
March 8th, 2018
9:03 AM
Interesting that the illustration comes straight from a photo I quickly found when I googled her

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