Dame Carolyn McCall sets a precedent for women in business as she takes charge at ITV
Today Dame Carolyn McCall becomes the first female chief executive of ITV. In doing so, she will also become the only woman currently serving as a chief executive to have held that position at two FTSE 100 companies. She recently left easyJet after seven successful years at the controls of the low-cost carrier.
It won’t be the first time that she has blazed a trail for female directors. In 2015 McCall was the first woman in 25 years to be chosen by her peers in business as Britain’s Most Admired Leader – an accolade that she retained the following year. In an interview with Director during her time at easyJet, she offered an insight into how she wanted to close the gender gap at board level.
“It’s not about looking from the top down; it’s about bringing women up from the bottom,” she said. “We need more women mentored, coached and encouraged so their confidence builds. I have always mentored women because it’s important that senior women reach out to people lower down the ladder.”
When McCall joined easyJet in 2010 Michael O’Leary of rival Ryanair dismissed her as a “media luvvie” (she had been chief executive of Guardian Media). But she brought impetus to the business: its profits soared from £54m in 2009 to a record £581m in 2015 and it entered the FTSE 100 in 2013.
McCall is coming to ITV at a time when the broadcaster has posted its first decline in ad revenue since 2010 and faces intense competition for audiences from Amazon Prime and Netflix. The tone for her first year might be set even before she starts: on 1 December when the draw for the final stages of the Fifa World Cup is held in Moscow. England’s defeat by Iceland in Euro 2016 may have been a night to forget, but ITV’s audience of 16.9 million that night was the highest for any channel since 2014 (England’s World Cup loss to Uruguay) – and there will be millions in potential ad income riding on how far Gareth Southgate’s men progress. ITV staff looking to make a good first impression on their new boss would be well advised not to mention the words “penalty” and “shoot-out”.