Thomas Cook boss tells PM to change ‘antiquated and outdated’ school holiday system

Thomas Cook boss Harriet GreenBy Sophie Griffiths,

The chief executive of Thomas Cook has told the prime minister to look at changing the school holidays, which are currently “antiquated and based on outdated ideas”.

In an interview with the Times on Saturday, Harriet Green, who sits on David Cameron’s business advisory council, said she believed the education system was to blame for the higher prices charged by travel companies during school holidays, which Cameron recently criticised the travel industry for.

“The school year is very antiquated and based on outdated ideas that the children need to help to bring in the harvest,” Green said. “I would change the construct of the school year and have three equal holidays. It would be in everyone’s interests — not least working families like my own — that we had staggered times and different slots for families to go away.

“It does not work in offices either if everyone is scrabbling for exactly the same time. At the moment everyone pushes for August. I have shared my views [with David Cameron] on this.” Fining families who take their children out of school during term time is “slightly judicious administration, personally it doesn’t feel right to me”.

The Cook chief executive, who won the Veuve Clicquot business woman of the year last week, said she believed sexism continued to exist within the boardroom, and that she had always sought to promote other women.

“I think your company, board, government or cabinet should reflect the community or consumers they serve. You don’t want everyone to be the same age, with the same background and the same education,” she explained.

“When I came to Cook all my direct reports were men, British or German. Now I have six different ethnicities and a third are women. Headhunters don’t put forward balanced score cards, with the gay guys, the women, the Indian or African person, they are just looking for the vertical, conventional person.”

It came as Green revealed she had put herself forward for the Cook job after reading about the company in the paper and how they were looking for a chief executive.

“I sent off my CV to the chairman and said, ‘I think you need me’. Why wouldn’t you do that?” she said. “What’s the worst that can happen? He could have put it in the bin. More women should do that. I think I’m the pushiest person I’ve ever met.”

Green also compared herself to a “landa” –  a cross between a lion and a panda. “Sometimes I am a real lion, I can roar, make things happen, I can change the course through will, energy and just being incredibly aggressive and assertive. But I can also be a big panda. If a company is sick, you have to be gentler — big eyes, big hugs.”

Sourcedby TTG Digital

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