If anyone is to be celebrated for smashing the glass ceilings, then Ruth Kelly ought to feature at least in the top ten of the UK’s high-achieving women.
Most would undoubtedly be green with envy to read the social, political and economic achievements of Kelly. Women, as the newspapers continually tell us, tend to opt for one or the other these days – career or family – or at least leave child-birth until much later.
But not Kelly, who already has three children and a blooming political career in front of her.
Kelly’s curriculum vitae makes enviable reading. Educated at Queen’s College, Oxford, she later tacked on an MSc in Economics from the London School of Economics. For the first four years of her career she opted for journalism, bagging a job as an economic writer on The Guardian. Kelly then went to work at the inflation report division of the Bank of England until 1996.
By June 2001, she had been appointed economic secretary to the Treasury. Previously she worked as parliamentary secretary to Nick Brown at the Ministry of Agriculture and was also a member of the Treasury select committee between 1997 and 1998.
Some cynics have put her rising trajectory within the Labour Party down to Tony Blair’s political gender correctness. A columnist at The Independent has taken a particular dislike to Kelly, writing: ‘This second-term MP is the result of the same affirmative action campaign to put more women on the bench. She has one of those socially conscious accents that reveal how greatly she strains for acceptance by a class she wasn’t born into.’
However, without a doubt, Kelly is paying no heed to her detractors. In November last year The Spectator marked her as the ‘minister to watch’ saying: ‘One sporting member of the panel has likened the speed and acceleration of her career to a rocketing pheasant.’
It continued: ‘Since she over-achieves on such an epic scale, some have suggested that, like the Eagle sisters, she is really a pair of identical twins.’ So it’s clearly not only other women looking on in amazement.
And it should not be forgotten that Kelly’s eye is now trained on the accountancy industry, famously made up of mostly white middle-class, men.
Together with Melanie Johnson, Kelly jointly chairs the co-ordinating group on accounting and auditing issues. The group set up in the wake of the collapse of Enron in the US is reviewing whether the UK financial reporting and auditing systems need a shake-up. Their interim report was issued, after much ado, last Wednesday and although on first glance it seems like a whitewash, many doors have been left wide open to shake up the industry, if more evidence deems it necessary.
Already the industry’s leaders are wringing their hands feverishly at the prospect of a competition review. Auditors should not underestimate this women, she could turn out to be their nemesis, or perhaps their saviour.
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