Business World

Sunday 17 December 2017

'We will all miss her enthusiasm and personal warmth' - Renowned businesswoman Dame Helen Alexander dies aged 60

Dame Helen Alexander was a former president of the CBI.

Helen Alexander put women at the heart of financial system (Fiona Hanson/PA)
Helen Alexander put women at the heart of financial system (Fiona Hanson/PA)

By PA Reporters

Businesswoman Dame Helen Alexander, the first female president of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), has died aged 60, the Economist has announced.

Dame Helen, who was chief executive of The Economist Group between 1997 and 2008, died on Saturday, the newspaper said.

Her long career included boardroom roles at companies including Rolls-Royce and British Gas parent Centrica.

She had also, alongside Sir Philip Hampton, undertaken the independent Hampton Alexander Review, which looked at increasing the representation of women in senior business roles.

Paul Drechsler, the president of the CBI, said Dame Helen was a "brilliant leader" and "determined in making the case for diversity" during her tenure in the role between 2009 and 2011.

He said: "More than that, people will remember Helen for being a great listener with a thoughtful sense of humour. She will be greatly missed by me and by everyone who knew her, both in the UK and beyond.

"My thoughts and the thoughts of those past and present at the CBI will be with her family at this very sad time."

Among her many roles, Oxford-educated Dame Helen was a non-executive director of PA Group, parent company of the Press Association, and at BT Group and Huawei UK.

The Economist described her as "self-effacing but a world-class networker", and said that business had "no better ambassador".

"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," the newspaper said in an article on its website.

"Helen relied on a quiet wisdom: listening not lecturing. No name was ever forgotten, no thoughtful personal gesture was too small."

Dame Helen, who was married with three children, had been fighting cancer for several years.

She had been chancellor at the University of Southampton since 2011.

University president and vice-chancellor, Professor Sir Christopher Snowden, said: "Dame Helen was very popular across the university, especially at graduations, where her friendly and caring character was most evident.

"She was always keen to help the university and its members and would regularly ask me about news of our successes.

"We will all miss her enthusiasm and personal warmth, and our thoughts are with her family at this very sad time."

Dr Gill Rider, chairman of the University of Southampton council, said: "Helen was a wonderful role model to a generation of men and women who followed her career and was always approachable, happily offering her support and mentoring.

"It was a delight and privilege to know her."

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