Martha Lane Fox


Chancellor of the Open University


 Congratulations to Baroness Martha Lane Fox who is appointed the new Chancellor of the Open University.   A feminist and believe in the talent and potential of women. Her article on trolls, focused on violence against women.

“At the root of the problem is the sexism, both explicit and implicit, that is still rampant in this country. That’s the bottom line. We need to flush it out.

“It would be a great shame if the debate was restricted to a cacophony of noise about social media. We really do need to keep more focus on all the women who face harmful situations and actual violence against them. The debate must be focused on both ends of the spectrum,” she said.MARTHA LANE-FOX in her office


A moment of Serendipity in my life was setting up Lastminute and selling at the right time. I believe strongly in the importance of the support network, but I am also aggressive in going out there and looking for people, getting Alan Leighton for the chair for three years.”


It is harder being a woman, but it would be churlish to say that I’ve had problems.  Some people seem not to live in the 21st century. I have been very lucky. However there was one occasion. When Brent Hoberman and I were going to set up we went to see our first Venture Capitalist. I was very nervous and we did the presentation, then he looked at me and said: “What happens if you get pregnant?”   I have to say that not all VCs were like that. Now that I am Non Executive Director of Marks and Spencer, these are dynamic modern companies.

The last thing we want is tokenism.      There are hundreds of great women out there. we want broader working practices, more flexible working. But the top women in the city still are few by comparison with the men.   To believe in not enough talented women for boards and in business, is both sexist and patronizing.

The most challenging event in my life was learning to walk again.  Martha had been thrown out of a jeep in Morocco, smashing her pelvis in six places, and almost destroying one of her legs. Worst of all, lying on the desert ground, she was suffering from massive internal bleeding. “I don’t remember any of what happened next, but the doctors said there were bits of bone and blood floating around inside me. The danger was that they would spread to my brain.” She says if she hadn’t had the money from the sale of dotcom, to buy the best medical treatment and supporters carers, she would not have survived.

“It was difficult, and I could only proceed slowly, day by day, setting small goals constantly so I could see that I was making progress. Of course overall, the love and support of family and friends.  I think overwhelmingly what came through was never take for granted the love and support of family and friends.  How lucky you are.”

The most surprising event in my career  was from a recent event for Reprieve.

“One of my best friends, Shauneen Lambe, was the founder of Reprieve and involved in human rights and criminal justice. I have always been really interested in the penal system, but have always hated the idea of having my wings clipped, and it stems from the idea that how you treat people comes back to you, that you are sending into a spiral how you treat people. One of the prisoners, facing a bleak outcome, spoke so movingly and with great humility. It never ceases to amaze the strength of the human spirit and how overwhelming people can be in adversity.”


 Educating girls and women unlocks energies which drive social and economic development.  The work that CAMFED are doing in African schools, where they are getting uniforms, transport, mentors.    People in terrible situations can do amazing work.   These women are living in African villages with AIDS and economic problems, yet they manage to get a university degree. They are extraordinary. Camfed is dedicated to eradicating poverty in Africa through the education of girls and the empowerment of young women.   “When people say it cannot be done, they only mean it has never been done before.” Angeline Mugwendere, supported by Camfed through school and now the national director of the Zimbabwe programme.


Just three of the many significant men in my life.    My dad who  is eccentric, bright, academic, challenging. He sets high expectations for you as much as for himself.  Brent Hoberman.  He came to me, generous in sharing half his ideas and incredible support.  My boyfriend Chris who has supported me through the accident.”


Advice for entrepreneurs

It is very important to be optimistic, but also self-aware.

Also absolutely crucial, I had an absolute obsession with the cash, real cash flow not the multi-million turnover, but the cash, money in the bank, really critical.

Be disruptive: challenge authority. Not just taking people’s expectations so that you, young women don’t need to feel that they have to be any particular way. . Take inspiration from your family.  Total love and devotion to your family

Be constantly positive, but don’t be blind.    Delegate. You need to recognize that you are probably not the best person to do everything.    Get great people around you.

©2103 ionthecity






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