The business on: Dorothy Thompson, Chief executive, Drax

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The Independent Online

The 'elegant' and 'demure' woman who runs the power generator?

Spot on. The fact that every profile or interview in which Ms Thompson appears describes her in terms such as these tells you something.



What exactly?

That despite all the worthy stuff liberal types spout about the shameful lack of female leadership at the top of British business, when it comes to women bosses, a whole different language seems to apply. No one uses these types of adjectives when talking about Philip Cox, Ms Thompson's opposite number at International Power.



What does Ms Thompson think?

That the issue of her gender is not especially relevant. She may be one of only a handful of female chief executives of large British companies, but she has consistently rejected attempts to persuade her to speak out in this context.



So how is it going at Drax?

It's tricky, as half-year results today may show. Drax's coal-fired power station in Yorkshire is the largest such plant in Europe and produces 7 per cent of the UK's electricity. It is also right at the centre of the debate about how to make the energy industry a great deal greener. Drax has made a big bet on biomass, but complains that the Government hasn't offered this technology the sort of support extended to, for example, wind energy.



Time to get lobbying then?

Indeed – and Ms Thompson knows better than most how the wheels of government turn. She got into the power industry after working with it on project finance for plants in the developing world, as part of her role at the Commonwealth Development Corporation, the Government-owned enterprise fund.



Still, isn't Yorkshire a long way from Westminster?

Fear not, Ms Thompson works out of Drax's plant three days a week, but spends the rest of her time in London. She lives in Islington – with the new government, Notting Hill would be better, but it's close enough.

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