CBI appoints Carolyn Fairbairn as director-general

Fairbairn becomes first female director-general of the business lobby group and will replace John Cridland who has served in the role since 2010

CBI appoints Carolyn Fairbairn as director-general

When it comes to wielding influence over the powers that be, businesses aren’t much use on their own. Which is exactly why organisations like the CBI exist – to lobby the government on behalf of British firms and act as an overarching voice for the wider business community. And, while any new appointment at the CBI is likely to be of interest to employers across the UK, the selection of its first ever female director-general is particularly noteworthy.  

The CBI announced today that Carolyn Fairbairn will take over from John Cridland, who is due to step down as director-general in November after five years in the role. The news follows hot on the heels of the Institute of Directors’ appointment of Lady Barbara Judge as its first female national chair.

While many considered the CBI’s deputy director-general Katja Hall as the favourite to succeed Cridland, the organisation has opted for an external hire in the shape of Fairbairn, a former director of strategy at both the BBC and ITV. Fairbairn also served as non-executive director of the Financial Services Authority from 2008 to 2011 following the collapse of Northern Rock and is currently a non-executive director at Capita, the outsourcing and professional services firm, a role that she will depart before taking up her new position with the CBI. 

It’s safe to say Fairbairn’s in-tray will be pretty full when she takes over the reins, with the looming referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU certain to dominate the agenda over the next 18 months. 

“The debate around Britain’s relationship with the European Union and the productivity challenge facing our economy will be two of the defining issues of the next few years and I greatly look forward to representing the voice of British businesses of all sizes on these questions and many others,” said Fairbairn. “Now perhaps more than ever, thriving British companies hold the key to the future prosperity of our country.”

Cridland added: “While I will be sad to leave the CBI later this year, I am delighted to pass the baton to Carolyn, who will become the eleventh director-general of an organisation that I have been proud to serve for more than 30 years.”

Fairbairn’s appointment follows the announcement earlier this month that Paul Drechsler, chairman of Bibby Line Group, has been nominated to succeed Sir Mike Rake as president of the CBI, with members asked to enforce his appointment at the CBI’s annual general meeting on July 13.

We wish Fairbairn and Drechsler well in their new roles. 

Adam Pescod
Adam Pescod

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