Member Spotlights

Gay White

by Lisa Sweeney on Aug 17, 2022

Full name

Gay White

Job Title


Company Name

Gay White Consulting Ltd.

Members receive exclusive insights and opportunities

The Corporate Governance Institute provides it's members with exclusive content, a network of directors and business leaders, details of available board positions, and the tools and resources required for a successful governance career.

Learn More

Already a member? Log in here

What does leadership mean to you?

To me, the measure of a good leader is how many leaders they leave in their wake, so leadership brings the best out in others. I very much like the idea of servant leadership – when a leader steps back to let others develop and is there to support and inspire, but can take the helm in a crisis.

What is the most important lesson you have learned, from your personal or business life?

To be curious is a real gift – always interested in learning new skills. I have found that the more I stretch myself, the more I grow, and as a female leader, it is essential to build one’s confidence. It is never too late to develop new skills and branch out into something new.

Is there someone who has had a major impact on you as a leader?

I was fortunate to have direct experience with a most effective leader – the late Cormac McCarthy. I was his colleague when he joined the finance function in First Active and became CEO and later CEO of the Ulster Bank Group. He was a robust and transformational leader who cared about his employees. But the most striking thing about Cormac was that he was very aware of his limitations and never tried to deny them; instead, he brought a strong team around him to complement his skill set.

Of course, as a female, I think of such leaders as Margaret Sweeney and Brid Horan, to name just a couple, who worked hard in male-dominated industries to come through the glass ceiling before we ever heard that concept.

Have you experienced failure? If so, what did you learn?

I always think that when things don’t work out as expected, there is a reason and always something to be learned. Because of that, I can’t really say that I experienced failure. At one time, when I found my job was less than stimulating, I decided to look for that stimulation elsewhere. That’s when I began my studies as a mature student. I first did a BA in Psychology and then went on to do an MSc in Organisational Psychology, all as a distance education student, while I moved into an L&D role. That was life-changing for me.

Who do you admire in the business world and why?

There are so many leaders I have encountered that no matter how much they have on their agenda, they still can find the time to meet with a colleague who has a problem, although they know that they will have to catch up on their schedule later. They never look as if they don’t have time to help out a colleague. Yet they can manage to ensure that they get downtime too. It’s a little like on the plane when you are asked to put the mask over your face before helping others – if a leader doesn’t engage in self-care, they can spin themselves out.

What advice would you offer to new or aspiring board directors?

Do your homework – make sure you are aware of your responsibilities as a director. Join a network. Ensure that you are in tune with the company and believe in their offering and how they do business. During the difficult times, your passion for the company and what they do will take you through, and you can be at your most effective.

If you were able to run one company, apart from your own business, which would you choose and why?

That’s a tricky one – I am very much interested in all aspects of education – particularly for those who don’t have as easy access to it as most people, for whatever reason. As I strongly believe in the power of education, perhaps something around educating girls in countries that don’t value educating their girls. Otherwise, I love the work of the Hospice, easing the inevitable final journey that we will all make in the end.

Become a member of the Corporate Governance Institute
Gay White
Member Spotlight

Related Posts