Dame Helen Alexander, DBE, died on 5 August, aged 60, after a long fight with cancer.
Dame Helen was a greatly-admired businesswoman whose renowned charm, intelligence and business talent inspired a wide range of organisations to invite her to work with them at board and senior advisory level, including Rolls-Royce, Centrica, Bain Capital and UBM. She was the first woman to become president of Britain’s leading business group, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) and had been Chief Executive of the Economist Group.
She was also deputy chair of the Hampton-Alexander Review into the representation of women in senior levels of business, and chancellor of the University of Southampton.
Among her many other interests and responsibilities, Dame Helen was involved with not-for-profit organisations in media, the internet, the arts and education, as a director of the Thomson-Reuters Founders Share Company, the World Wide Web Foundation, the Grand Palais in Paris, the Said Business School in Oxford and her old school, St Paul’s Girls’ School in London.
But it was her chairmanship of the Port of London Authority that brought her to the attention of the organisers and Steering Group of the first ever London International Shipping Week, held in September 2013. Dame Helen was invited to join the LISW 2013 Board of Advisors (BoA), where, as the only woman, she made an indelible impression and invaluable contribution.
Dame Helen was still the sole female member of the BoA for LISW 2015 but, by then, her illness had begun to take its toll and she stepped down before LISW 2017. However, her great example encouraged three other leading women to join the BoA for LISW 2017: Inga Beale DBE, CEO of Lloyd’s; Helen Deeble CBE, CEO of P&O Ferries; and Karin Orsel, Vice President of the International Chamber of Shipping and CEO of the MF Shipping Group.
Dame Helen also has a fun and mischievous side: She served as Deputy Chairman of esure Group Holdings, an insurance company whose brands include Sheila’s Wheels, a women-only car insurer which caught the public imagination with its iconic ladies in pink sequins, beehive hairdos and catchy jingle. Dame Helen thoroughly enjoyed handing out her Sheila’s Wheels business cards at prestigious events, including at a launch reception of London International Shipping Week 2015 at the British Embassy in Athens during Posidonia.
Dame Helen, who was married with three children, will be greatly missed by businesses all over Britain and overseas, not least by the maritime community which she so ably supported through her association with UBM’s Seatrade, her Chairmanship of the Port of London Authority and of course as a member of the BoA for London International Shipping Week.