Virgin Money is set to have the only female leadership team in the FTSE 350, after the bank revealed plans to appoint Irene Dorner as chairman.
62-year-old Dorner would join chief executive Jayne-Anne Gadhia at the Sir Richard Branson-backed bank, if appointed. Dorner was named the most powerful woman in banking by an US publication, and has held top jobs in the UK’s banking industry.
Since retiring from HSBC in 2014 after 32 years, Dorner has been responsible for dictatorships at major companies, including Rolls Royce Holdings. If she is appointed, she will be part of the first all-female leadership team at a British bank; and she will be among the first women-only top line-ups at any FTSE-350 company.
Gadhia, Virgin Money’s chief executive, is a champion of gender equality in financial services and previously promised Virgin Money will have a gender-balanced workforce by 2020.
She told MPs about the “very male culture” in financial services where sexism was “pervasive”, and referenced her time at Royal Bank of Scotland, when a distressed colleague revealed she was “expected to sleep with her boss”.
“That sort of thing of course means there are issues for women progressing through financial services.”
Margot James, the business minister, said earlier in the year that companies had doubled the number of women in board positions over the last six years.
A 2016 report by the High Pay Centre and the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development said that “as a FTSE 100 CEO it is more likely that your name is David than you being a female”, as there are just seven female executives in the FTSE 100.
Gadhia said the situation had improved, but “there is definitely a long way to go”.
Nicky Morgan, the Treasury Select Committee chair, told Sky News: “This is a really important milestone in the financial services sector, and shows that there are many talented women ready to take on senior roles in financial services just as Mrs Gadhia told the TSC in her evidence session today.”