Linda Cook
Europe’s Top 25 Businesswomen: 1-7

Europe’s Top 25 Businesswomen: 8-13






14. Linda Cook

Position: Executive director of gas and power, Royal Dutch/Shell group

Age: 47

Linda Cook has travelled far from the day when a foreman barred her entry to an oil rig for (the apparently unpardonable sin of) being a woman. He left his pick-up truck across the dirt road, just to make sure. Since that moment in 1980, at the start of her career, Cook has risen quite a way from the whiff of roughnecks. She ran Shell Canada for a year, becoming the first woman chief executive of a major oil and gas company.

She was quickly promoted to the main board in 2004, summoned as part of the management shake-up that followed a scandal involving overstated oil reserves. Cook now heads one of three central businesses after the unification of Shell’s Dutch and British parent companies.

Cook, who is married with three children, is a calm, open communicator. Asked once to explain her success, she replied with a Chinese saying: “I got where I am because of luck and hard work; the harder I work the luckier I get.”

She grew up in Kansas, the eldest in a family of six children, and all were expected to work in the family dairy business while they were growing up. But an epiphany about where her career lay came at the age of 16, when she began pumping petrol at a service station, and she went on to earn a petroleum engineering degree from her home-state university.

…………………………………………………………………………………………………

15. Stine Bosse

Stine Bosse

Position: Chief executive, TrygVesta

Age: 45

As head of TrygVesta, the second-biggest insurer in the Nordic region, Stine Bosse is responsible for more than 3,700 employees, two million customers and €2.65bn in premium income.

She recoils when you point out that this makes her one of the most prominent women in Danish business, but is happy to say she is comfortable with power. “As an executive you have power and you have to like the taste of power. You have to like the big publicity and the big responsibility.”

Some of that responsibility has involved making big changes at the once placid insurer. And probably her biggest challenge has been preparing the company for the sale of 40 per cent of its shareholding to the public, which was due to be completed this week.

Peter Horn, publisher of a business magazine aimed at female executives, says: “Stine Bosse always makes sure she is only judged by her actions, not by her sex. Therefore she refuses to campaign together with women’s organisations for the strengthening of women in Danish business.”

Danes campaigning for a bigger presence for women in business accuse her of not fighting actively for other women. Her response: “We’ll only be able to tell whether there are [different] male and female ways of reaching the top once there are as many women managers as men.”

Bosse trained as a lawyer and has four children.

…………………………………………………………………………………………………

Amelia Fawcett
16. Amelia Fawcett

Position: Vice-chairman, Morgan Stanley International

Age: 48

Amelia Fawcett is probably the most powerful woman banker in London. As vice-chairman of Morgan Stanley International, she has been instrumental in the bank’s rise to prominence in Europe.

An American who also holds a British passport, Fawcett joined the bank as a lawyer but proved so adept at banking that she quickly rose to the top.

Fawcett also sits on the Bank of England’s Court of Directors, which manages the Bank’s non-monetary policy affairs, and is involved with various charities. Her work with small businesses in deprived communities, especially in London’s East End, earned her a Prince of Wales Personal Ambassador Award in 2004. Prince Charles said: “She is constantly trying to identify emerging problems and seeking new ways in which she can make a difference.”

One of Fawcett’s most valuable business lessons is: “The ‘soft’ option is never an option, as ignoring a problem and hoping it will go away just makes things worse. Direct, candid feedback at the time is essential; people deserve that honesty, and are likely to thrive as a result.”

…………………………………………………………………………………………………

17. Kate Swann

Kate Swann

Position: Chief executive, WH Smith

Age: 40

Kate Swann holds what many would describe as one of the least enviable jobs in corporate Britain: turning around WH Smith. The stationery and newsagent chain delivered the worst performance in its more than 200-year history just after Swann joined as chief executive in 2003.

One of her first steps into the limelight was to preside over a profit warning, soon followed by investor and media outrage about her pay package of more than £1m (”Swann feathers her nest”).

Few commentators gave her much hope (”Goodbye, WH Smith. We’ll not miss you” - Janet Street-Porter), but Swann has since won plaudits for her turnaround programme, which is focused on cutting costs. “Swann’s ugly duckling is turning out pretty,” remarked one analyst.

Swann has not shied away from unpopular decisions, drawing furious criticism from her employees for halving the staff discount. Yet investors are still waiting for a long-term vision about how the venerable chain can compete with the ever-more powerful supermarkets.

Swann started her career as a commercial executive with Tesco almost 20 years ago, followed by stints at Coca-Cola Schweppes, Dixons, Currys, Homebase and Argos.

…………………………………………………………………………………………………

Marie Ehrling
18. Marie Ehrling

Position: President, TeliaSonera Sweden

Age: 50

Marie Ehrling is a Swedish prototype: a strong woman, persuasive communicator and a good team player. And then there is that other Swedish issue - a big role in your life for the state. Since 2003 Ehrling has been president of the Swedish branch of TeliaSonera, the Finnish-Swedish telecom group, whose main investor is the Swedish government. Before that she spent nearly 20 years with the state-owned airline SAS.

While TeliaSonera, which has a presence in the Nordic and Baltic region as well as Turkey and Russia, generates solid profits, the fixed-line business is shrinking. This has squeezed margins and - according to the management - made cuts in its workforce of nearly 30,000 unavoidable. This is very difficult in a company with such a big state shareholding, even though Ehrling has been described as the most powerful businesswoman in Sweden.

Ehrling joined SAS in 1982 after graduating from the Stockholm School of Economics. Over two decades she rose steadily to within striking distance of the top, but she lost a power struggle with Jorgen Lindegaard, the group’s chief executive, and left in 2002. She was frequently praised by the Swedish press for her calm and professional manner during SAS’s many public and financial embarrassments.

”Ehrling is very realistic, she communicates well with everyone. That has always helped her,” says Martin Kreuger, editor of Chef, a Swedish business magazine.

…………………………………………………………………………………………………

19. Laurence Danon

Laurence Danon

Position: Chief executive, France Printemps

Age: 49

In the heart of Paris, behind the magnificent Boulevard Haussmann, is the office of Laurence Danon. From there she manages Printemps’ 17 department stores, famed for their focus on fashion, beauty and decoration.

Danon is one of the most powerful women at Pinault Printemps Redoute (PPR), the French retail group, which also owns Gucci, the Italian luxury goods company. Printemps employs more than 5,500 staff who generate revenues of roughly €1bn a year.

Danon studied physics at the Ecole Normale Superieure university before attending the Ecole des Mines, whose graduates make up France’s executive elite. She joined the civil service and at the age of 28 was head of a public office for investment assistance in the Picardie region. “I was full of energy,” Danon recalls.

Like many French civil servants, she joined the business world after a few years, rapidly climbing the career ladder in the chemical industry before joining Printemps.

Her husband and two children see her mainly at weekends or during holidays, which she likes to spend at her villa in Corsica.

Europe’s Top 25 Businesswomen: 20-25

Get alerts on Nordic AS when a new story is published

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2020. All rights reserved.
Reuse this content (opens in new window)

Comments have not been enabled for this article.

Follow the topics in this article