Rolls-Royce appoints first female chair

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UK engineering giant Rolls-Royce has appointed its first ever female chair.

The 115-year-old UK-based engine manufacturer has hired Anita Frew as the first woman to head the board on a £490,000 pay packet.

Frew, 63, is at present the chair of chemicals group Croda and is a non-executive director at Australia-based FTSE 100-listed mining company BHP. She will succeed incumbent Sir Ian Davis when he retires in October after nine years.

Frew had previously worked as a director at advertising group WPP alongside its founder Sir Martin Sorrell and has held board appointments in the UK and globally for the past 20 years, with recent former roles including deputy chair at Lloyds Banking Group.

Sir Kevin Smith, senior independent director at Rolls-Royce, said Frew was the outstanding candidate. He added: “She brings a wealth of experience from two decades of board appointments both in the UK and internationally, and her skills and reputation with investors and government institutions will be invaluable to the group.”

Frew takes over at a particularly challenging time for the company with the pandemic grounding aircraft and consequently demand for aero engines declining.

Led by chief executive Warren East, it has cut a fifth of its workforce – 9,000 jobs –  and asked investors for £7.3bn via new share releases and bond issues last year.

Earlier this year the Hampton-Alexander review found that the number of female directors in FTSE 100 companies had increased by 50% in the last five years.

The government-backed review achieved its target of 33% of board positions on FTSE 100 and FTSE 250 companies to be held by women by December 2020.

The number of women on these boards rose from 682 to 1,026 over the five years of reporting, the report’s authors said.

Late last year Rolls-Royce faced strike action as it planned to move some production to Singapore but this has now been averted thanks to a deal with unions that protected jobs at its Barnoldswick site.

Charles Rolls and Henry Royce produced their first car in 1904, moving on to aero engines during World War One. By then the partnership had ended when Rolls died after crashing his Wright Flyer aircraft in 1911.

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