By Valentina Zarya
August 7, 2017

Over the weekend, Britain’s working women lost one of their most tireless champions. Dame Helen Alexander, a renowned businesswoman who made history by becoming the first female president of the Confederation of British Industry, passed away on Saturday. She was 60 years old.

To say Alexander had an illustrious career is an understatement. She was chief executive of The Economist Group (the parent of the magazine of the same name), and a board member or advisor to Northern Foods, British Gas parent Centrica, Rolls-Royce, Bain Capital and the British arm of Huawei, among others.

But she was perhaps best known for her work on behalf of the U.K.’s female workers. She and GlaxoSmithKline chairman Sir Philip Hampton joined forces to undertake the independent Hampton Alexander Review, which looked at increasing the representation of women in senior business roles. Last year, she and Hampton urged FTSE 100 companies to pledge to raise the share of women on their boards from 27% to 33% by 2020.

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The Economist published a beautiful obituary in Alexander’s honor on Sunday:

Her success owed much to a leadership style that lacked fireworks and did not seek fame, but deserved more recognition, for both its humanity and effectiveness. Helen relied on a quiet wisdom: listening not lecturing. No name was ever forgotten, no thoughtful personal gesture was too small. For all the fashionable fascination with big strategy, she was unerringly sensible and, where need be, decisive: nothing foolish would happen on her watch. She treated her colleagues with respect, set an example of discipline and solid values (the diary always cleared time for family), and in return inspired confidence.

 

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