|Birth||9 November 1967|
Diana Mary "Dido" Harding, Baroness Harding of Winscombe (born 9 November 1967) is an English businesswoman. She is chairwoman of NHS Improvement and former chief executive of the TalkTalk Group.
Raised on the family pig farm in Dorset, she was educated at St Antony's Leweston from 1978–85. She then graduated from the University of Oxford in Philosophy, Politics and Economics, where she studied under Vernon Bogdanor and alongside David Cameron; and then at Harvard Business School, gaining an MBA.
On graduation she joined the management consultancy McKinsey & Company. Leaving to become marketing director at Thomas Cook Group, she was then appointed commercial director at Woolworths Group. She then joined Tesco within Sir Terry Leahy's office as international support director, before being appointed commercial director of "added-value foods" in 2001.
Resigning her position in October 2007, she joined the board of directors at Sainsbury's as convenience director. She was named CEO of TalkTalk in 2010, during the period when the group split its Carphone Warehouse retail operation from the group telecoms operation. She was appointed as a non-executive director on The Court of The Bank of England in July 2014. She has also served on the boards of British Land and Cheltenham Racecourse.
In October 2015, TalkTalk experienced a "significant and sustained cyber-attack", during which personal and banking details of up to four million customers is thought to have been accessed. City A.M. described her responses as "naive", noting that early on when asked if the affected customer data was encrypted or not, she replied: "The awful truth is that I don’t know". Her "inflexible line" on termination fees was also criticised. Marketing ran a headline, "TalkTalk boss Dido Harding's utter ignorance is a lesson to us all". The Evening Standard noted that "It has been a tough week for TalkTalk boss Dido Harding, facing complaints from customers and calls for her head." The company admitted the hack had cost it £60 million and lost it 95,000 customers.
In February 2017, Harding announced she would stand down after seven years as CEO of TalkTalk in May 2017, to focus more on her public service activities. In October of that year she was appointed chair of NHS Improvement, which is responsible for overseeing all NHS hospitals, comprising foundation trusts and NHS trusts, as well as independent providers that provide NHS-funded care.
In January 2018 Harding joined the main board of Jockey Club, which runs many of British horseracing's most popular events, including the Grand National, the Cheltenham Festival and the Derby.
In May 2020, Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced that Harding was to be put in charge of the "Track, Test and Trace" effort as part of the UK government's response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Honours and awards
In February 2013, she was included in that year's list of the hundred most powerful women in the UK by Woman's Hour on BBC Radio 4. The following year, she was named in the ten most influential women in the BBC Woman's Hour Power List 2014.
She was created a Conservative Life Peer on 15 September 2014, taking the title Baroness Harding of Winscombe, of Nether Compton in the County of Dorset.
In October 1995, she married John Penrose, MP for Weston-super-Mare, who was Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport from 2010–2012, and in 2015 became Minister for Constitutional Reform. The couple met whilst working at McKinsey, have two daughters, and live in London during the week and Somerset at the weekend.
Harding is a horse racing enthusiast. A member of the Jockey Club, in 1993 she borrowed £7,000 from her bank to buy an Irish thoroughbred hoping to ride it in ladies' point-to-point races. In 1998, her horse Cool Dawn won the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
- Dido Harding (8 March 1999). Cool Dawn: My National Velvet. Mainstream Publishing. ISBN 1-84018-179-6.