‘My pay deal was only notable because I’m a woman’ –Garrett-Cox

Katherine Garrett-Cox
Katherine Garret-Cox

Alliance Trust chief executive Katherine Garrett-Cox has claimed that her £1.3m wage is only questioned by her critics because she is a woman.

Ms Garrett-Cox was this week named the Veuve Clicquot’s business woman of the year but it comes in a year when she has faced a storm of criticism from some Alliance shareholders over her stewardship of the Dundee-based wealth manager.

Her remuneration package was singled out during a recent showdown with activist shareholder Elliott Advisors as the US hedge fund looked to parachute a trio of new directors onto Ms Garrett-Cox’s board amid claims of underperformance.

She eventually had to bow to pressure from Elliott, which owns 12 per cent of Alliance shares, and appoint two of the three proposed directors after a month-long battle leading up to April’s AGM.

Prior to the crunch meeting, influential investment adviser, Pirc, had advised shareholders to vote against Ms Garrett-Cox’s pay package.

However, speaking in the wake of her new award, Ms Garrett-Cox told a BBC radio interviewer that that she believes that she has faced greater scrutiny because she is a woman.

“I have to think that there is probably an element of that,” she said, adding: “I can decide many things in terms of the business I manage, what I get paid is not one of them.

“I have to confess to being completely overwhelmed by the level of coverage I’ve had in the last few months. Would that have happened if I was a man in the City? Probably not.”

In the same interview, Ms Garrett-Cox also called for women to be given an higher profile in the male-dominated world of finance.

“A lot of people have been asking me over the past few days why we need to have an award still focussed on women. I think the straight truth of that is that there are still far too few women in business in general.

“I think the most important thing and the reason that I’m really proud to win this award is that I think the last time a woman from financial services was recognised in this way was a very long time ago.

“We need to develop and inspire executive level women that will be best equipped and well equipped to step into boardrooms in due course.

“When I speak to aspiring women in the financial services sector, the single thing they tell me that causes them to doubt whether they are in the right place is the tone from the top. We haven’t made as much progress as we should have done.”

Commenting on the Alliance’s recent boardroom upheaval, Ms Garrett-Cox said that the experience had taught her resilience, which every leader must learn. “I haven’t met a single successful business leader who hasn’t had a setback,” she said.

“It’s not about that, it’s about how quickly you jump back in and how you deal with it.”

Ms Garrett-Cox added that she had “drawn a line” under the situation.

She said: “We have had more than our fair share of negative media attention.”

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