On Saturday, I will become only the second woman in the City of London's 800 year history to step into the Lord Mayor's Coach for the official ride at the Lord Mayor's Show. I am excited to be the latest custodian of this amazing role and to become one small link in an unbroken chain which stretches back over eight centuries and into the future too. Being the second woman in the role is exciting for me too - a lot of emphasis is put on the first woman in a position (a role that has been mine on several occasions), but being the second shows the normalisation of female leadership that has taken place in the 30 years since Mary Donaldson become the first female Lord Mayor in 1983. I am only the second woman in my role, but the City is now a place of global female talent.
I hope that throughout my mayoral year, I am able to raise the profile of women in business to better enable younger women to fulfil their ambitions and to aim high. One of the themes I'm going to be pushing heavily throughout my mayoralty is the importance of capturing the benefits of diversity and difference in the City's talent pool. The City's diversity and openness is one of the keys to its success and longevity. The City thrives on an innovative climate where ideas can be bounced around and conventional thinking can be challenged.
Cities are arguably mankind's greatest invention of necessity. Urban dwellers often have the greatest access to education, culture and opportunities and cities become hothouses of innovation, economic activity and creativity. However, as populations continue to increase, city governments around the world face daunting challenges. Growing urban populations need housing, water, sanitation, energy and transportation infrastructure - which will need to be delivered amid resource shortages and a changing climate. There is a unique opportunity here for the cluster of City of London services to come together, innovate and provide knowledge and expertise to solve these problems. Which brings me back to my theme for the Mayoral year - diversity - if we're going to come up with the best possible solutions to these challenges, then we need to draw from the widest possible talent pool: if we all come from the same background and think in the same way, where are the new ideas going to come from?
Alongside the priorities and themes I am bringing to the role are the aspects that remain the same no matter who is wearing the Lord Mayor's robe, including travelling overseas as a flag-bearer for British- based business. I already have a passion for foreign travel, and this chance to travel as Lord Mayor, and help forge the next round of connections between British businesses and their counterparts overseas will be a privilege for me. Not only that, but it provides an excellent opportunity to learn from the experience of others, and bring this back to the UK and use it to create innovative solutions that we can take all over the world.
Beyond the role of the Lord Mayor, the City of London is an ancient institution in its own right that has stood firm throughout many turbulent times and it brings with it many varied, esoteric traditions. Some, like the "passing of the water" ceremony, in which the Lord Mayor inspects a jug of water drawn from the Thames to examine its purity, may seem almost too quaint for words, but equally, some of our oldest traditions have become pillars of London's modern day society. The City of London Corporation was one of the first organisations to see the value of green spaces for all Londoners, buying Hampstead Heath and Epping Forest in a precursor to the green belt. The City's philanthropy is another tradition to be proud of, and has recently been the subject of a major exhibition called The City Story. The City Bridge Trust, the City charity, distributes grants to hundreds of community charities each year, changing the lives of thousands of Londoners. In addition to this, each Lord Mayor chooses a small number of charities with a personal connection to them which they feel would benefit from a boost in fundraising and awareness, and they become the Lord Mayor's Appeal for the year. I have chosen four charities which punch well above the weight that their size would imply. They are Beating Bowel Cancer, Princess Alice Hospital, Raleigh International and Working Chance. I'm going to take every opportunity I have this year to beat the drum for the great work they do.
It's going to be a busy year: I'll be visiting around 30 countries, making 700 speeches (somewhat in contrast to the Silent Ceremony in which I became Lord Mayor!), and all the while doing everything I can to promote the City as a place to do business, to visit and to enjoy. It is a great time to be doing it!
Fiona is an energy and infrastructure lawyer and led the legal team that delivered the restructuring and privatisation of the National Grid. She is a world-leading legal advisor on energy reforms designed to increase efficiency and attract investment, and has worked in more than 40 countries on regulation, infrastructure projects and market implementation, particularly in the electricity sector. Most recently, Fiona worked with the World Bank on regional transmission-line projects to enable post-conflict countries, such as Liberia and Sierra Leone, to import electricity. She was the first female partner at CMS Cameron McKenna in 1981 and received a CBE in 2002 for her contribution to the UK knowledge economy. She is the 686th Lord Mayor of the City of London, and begins her term on Friday 9 November, for one year.