Helen Fraser – Chief Executive of The Girls’ Day School Trust, the UK’s leading network of independent girls’ schools

The Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction 2014 - Judge.

What motivates you?

Working with great people, seeing talent develop, watching people hit their stride at work and in life

What has been the biggest learning curve in your career?  

Coming into the Girls’ Day School Trust, after 37 years in book publishing (last job MD of Penguin Books) and finding I had so much to learn – about education and about what works in schools and at work for young women

What matters more, ambition or talent?  

I think talent is pretty important.  I’ve always thought that you should surround yourself with the best people you could possibly work with – and that way you can get great things to happen in an organisation.  Attitude is important too – courage, and determination.  Pure ambition can get in its own way.

What advice would you give to your 30 year old self?  

‘You will be able to combine motherhood with a career – don’t worry about it so much’

Who do you admire?

I admire women who step where other women haven’t – Marjorie Scardino as the first ceo of a Footsie 100 company, Libby Lane as the first woman bishop – it’s never easy being the first and only

In what place are you happiest? 

On summer holidays with my husband, daughters, step daughters, their partners and my six step grandchildren – 15 in all

What’s your biggest extravagance? 

I have one or two shops whose clothes I really like . I know if I go in there I’ll buy something

How would you change government policy to help women in the workplace?

I’m not sure there is a lot more the government can do – we’ve had an equality act for decades.  I think it is about changing attitudes in organisations – and recruiting, retaining and promoting more women so that there is a real pipeline of talent between 30 and 50

Do you believe in quotas? 

I do – for now.  It is hard to see at the current glacial pace how we will get to 50:50 on company boards before I am dead.  I think it is also really important that there are more executive women directors as well as non-execs.

Describe yourself in 3 words? 

Optimistic, energetic, happy

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