Women must move into commercial roles, says outgoing Premier Inn boss


Women must move into business roles if UK wants more female CEOs, says outgoing Premier Inn boss

Women must take center stage and move into business roles if the UK wants more female CEOs, according to the outgoing boss of the Premier Inn owner.

Alison Brittain, chief executive of Whitbread, said the key to having more female bosses at the FTSE is to “grow the pipeline”.

The 57-year-old said there is a “cadre of talented women waiting” to take over as chief executive, but too many of them work in “functional roles” such as human resources.

When she leaves Whitbread in the new year, only nine of the UK’s 100 largest listed companies will have a woman in charge.

Brittain is taking on one of the biggest jobs in football, a world that has traditionally been dominated by men. The Manchester United fan will become the first female president of the Premier League.

Brittain has spoken of the importance of companies setting targets for diversity, but said she’s “not a big fan of quotas.”

And she said yesterday: ‘The key is always the pipe. It’s encouraging women to move up through the business aspects of our business and into the senior executive cadre, not just in functional roles, but in business roles as well.

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‘I think we need a little bit of encouragement as well, from the perspective of having some people here to show that it can be done, that you can handle your work and family life and everything else.

‘It’s never easy, but it’s doable. I think there’s something cool [female] role models now on the FTSE 250.’

Gwen Rhys, executive director of Women in the City, which advocates for women in business, agreed that women tend to place themselves, or are placed by men, in “softer skill” areas, including human resources and training.

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She said they ‘don’t take responsibility for profits and losses early enough’.

Meanwhile, Whitbread revealed a £307m profit for the six months to September, recovering from a £19m loss a year ago.

Sales were a quarter higher than pre-Covid at £1.35bn.