The FTSE 100 lost one of its few female directors on Monday.
Laura Wade-Gery, who was the multichannel director of U.K. retail and online operations for Marks & Spencer and a board member, said she is leaving the company following her year-long maternity leave. Wade-Gery, who’s 51, was considered one of M&S’s brightest stars and even a CEO contender, but that job went to Steve Rowe while Wade-Gery was on leave. When Rowe took over in April, he rejiggered the responsibilities of his executive team and simplified the firm’s management structure, which fueled speculation of whether there would be a role for Wade-Gery when she returned.
A year ago, M&S announced that Wade-Gery, who joined M&S in 2011, would take four months of maternity leave, but last December she extended it to September 1.
On Monday, both parties announced the departure with pleasantries. M&S chairman Robert Swannell thanked Wade-Gery and wished her the best, while Wade-Gery herself said that the time she was away from M&S saw “some significant changes in both my personal life and in the business.”
“I concluded that the time was right to move on from M&S,” she said.
Perhaps that’s all there is to it, but the exit of such a high-profile woman following her maternity leave echoes the challenges facing new mothers in the U.K. that a British charity, and an economic research institute, and a group of MPs all highlighted recently.