Interview with Emily Cox, CBI

A businesswoman who was honoured for her services to gender diversity has been appointed as North East chair of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI). Richard Dawson speaks to Emily Cox to discuss her new role and what her priorities are for the region over the next two years

In addition to her responsibilities as North East chair of the CBI – a role she took up in January – Emily Cox is also director of public affairs at Virgin Money and on the board of both the NewcastleGateshead Initiative and international music venue, Sage Gateshead.

She brings a wealth of experience and passion for the region to the chair of CBI North East and is clear on what her priorities are moving forward.

“Having taken on this role, I’ve discovered that you get a lot of information coming at you from the CBI central office, which is brilliant, but I very quickly realised that I was going to get lost unless I prioritised” she says.

“There’s four key things that I think our priorities are here in the North East” she continues.

Emily breaks these down into securing stability and certainty for the business community over Brexit, investing in the digital sector on both infrastructure and skills, giving the North East a much louder voice in the Northern Powerhouse and something Emily calls “responsible capitalism”.

On the Northern Powerhouse partnership, Emily reflects, “when you work out that the North has a bigger economy than Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, it’s unacceptable that we don’t get more attention from Westminster and from the rest of the world because together, we’re definitely stronger.”

This idea of responsible capitalism is also at the centre of Emily’s vision for the region.

“What I mean by that is two things,” she explains.

“Firstly, I think the North East has a really strong and fine tradition in philanthropy and looking after our own. We also have a tradition and interest in promoting the people from our own region.

“I think you do that by hiring a diverse workforce, paying a fair wage, paying your taxes etc. But equally, it’s about playing a part in our communities, whether that’s through volunteering, paying it back or taking leadership.

“In these uncertain times, we need people who are going to stand up and talk from a principled basis about what brings us together, not about what divides us.”

Emily wants to galvanise CBI activity around the four priorities she has outlined. With only a two-year term to make progress, there’s clearly no time to waste for the new chair of the CBI’s North East division.

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