Why Chief Execs should demand Dr Who is a woman!

Published: 02 Feb 2017 By James Dunne

With apologies to anyone in our worldwide audience who hasn’t heard of Dr Who (which is pretty big in the States and the UK, where the TV show is produced), but there is a considerable debate going on in the British media about one of the most vexing questions of the day, namely, who will be the next actor to feature in this iconic role?

Dr Who began in 1963, with William Hartnell in the title role.  Including Hartnell, there have been 12 Doctors, each of whom has regenerated from the previous one. Each Doctor has had a ‘companion’, invariably a woman. In keeping with the prevailing mores of the time, the earliest companions were usually portrayed as helpless girls, prone to screaming loudly when the Daleks or Cybermen started getting nasty. However, in more recent years, the female companions, such as Billie Piper, have been a lot more feisty and seen as (almost) equal to the Doctor himself.

The show, which appears on the BBC, has been going for so long and is so popular that whenever the actor playing the Doctor decides that he wants to leave there is considerable speculation as to who his successor will be. Peter Capaldi, who is the current Doctor, has now signalled his intention to quit, and the internet is alive with rumours!  

If you Google “who will be the next Dr Who?” you’ll find there are quite a few contenders, with the favourite being Ben Whishaw.  Other actors getting mentioned include The IT Crowd's Richard Ayoade, Rory Kinnear and David Harewood (who would be the first black Doctor if he’s successful).

However, amongst the men, a couple of women are being seriously touted, notably Olivia Coleman. But what, I hear you say, is the relevance of this for the Director/C-Suite readership of exec-appointments?  The answer, I believe, is quite simple, and very important.

For any Chief Exec who recognises that his (or her!) business needs to a) have the widest, and best, possible pool of talent, and b) also needs to be at the cutting edge of technology, it makes admirable sense to have a female Doctor. She would be a great role model – a leader in a previously male-dominated world – giving an example to young women that they can succeed and would, I am sure, also give teachers and lecturers working in education, a real boost as they try to interest more women in a career in STEM subjects. It is, as we’ve written here before, vital that we have more people coming through in science and technology, yet the figures for girls studying maths, sciences, etc. at school remain stubbornly low. An Olivia Coleman in the title role of Dr Who might be just what’s required to cut that particular Gordian knot – and to enthuse up-and-coming female managers that the top post is not beyond them.

James Dunne, exec-appointments.com

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