Five for Friday: Shockingly low number of women leading the UK’s biggest companies

March 20, 2019

This week saw the number of women holding top positions in FTSE 100 listed companies dwindle to just five following the resignation of Veronique Laury as CEO of B&Q and Screwfix owner, Kingfisher.

It’s hugely disappointing that, in the age of gender equality – and in the same month the International Women’s Day was celebrated, only five per cent of FTSE 100 companies have female leaders at the helm.

In the meantime, we’ve listed below the five companies that do still have female CEOs in the hope it may inspire other top brands to consider the role of women in the boardroom. Hopefully we will need to add to this list soon.


Emma Walmsley, 49

Walmsley took over the CEO role at one of the world’s leading pharmaceutical companies in April 2017.

Last year she came top of the list in Fortune Magazine’s roster of ‘Most Powerful International Women’ in business.

Since taking office Glaxo’s share price has fallen 8.83 per cent.

Imperial Brands 

Alison Cooper, 52

Cooper has worked at Imperial since 1999 and took over as CEO in March 2010.

A graduate of Bristol University, Cooper reportedly enjoys a pint of Guinness and the occasional cigar. In 2013 the BBC’s Women’s Hour radio show voted her one of the most powerful women in the UK.

Imperial’s shares have soared since she took office in 2010 and are currently 21 per cent higher.


Dame Carolyn McCall, 57

Born in Bangalore, McCall is the former boss of FTSE 100 listed airline, easyJet. She has been CEO of the UK terrestrial broadcaster since January 2018.

McCall was awarded the Office of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 2008 for her services to women in business.

ITV’s share price has fallen 17.8 per cent since McCall took over as CEO.

Severn Trent 

Liv Garfield, 43

Garfield is currently the youngest serving CEO of a FTSE 100 company and was installed in the top position at the utility giant in April 2014

Before taking up the reigns at Severn, Garfield was CEO of BT broadband company, Openreach.

A graduate of Cambridge University, she reportedly once harboured an ambition to be a presenter on BBC children’s TV show, Blue Peter.

Since taking up the top job Severn’s share price has risen steadily and is currently 14 per cent higher.


Alison Brittain, 54

Brittain has been CEO of the Premier Inn and Costa Coffee owner since January 2016. Last year it was announced that she had overseen a deal to sell Costa to Coca-Cola for an impressive £3.9bn.

She graduated from Stirling University in Scotland and was the head of retail banking at Lloyds Banking Group.

Earlier this year she was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) for services to business in the Queen’s New Year’s Honour List.

Since Brittain took over as CEO, Whitbread’s shares today are around 29 per cent higher.