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Dame Carolyn Fairbairn

Photograph of Dame Carolyn Fairbairn

“Caius and my years there taught me how to argue, how to stand my ground, the importance of facts, and why you should question most things you assume are true.”
Dame Carolyn Fairbairn (1980 Economics), Director-General of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI)

I was only the second year of women at Caius so we were still quite a novelty. Q staircase by the Porters Lodge, where I spent my first year, was designated an all female staircase – all the better to keep an eye on us.

I chose to read Economics without really knowing what it was, and always thought I would change to Law. But it was a fascinating time for economics – a fierce battle of ideas between Keynes and Friedman, with Cambridge at the heart of it – and I got hooked. I had an inspirational Director of Studies – economic historian Dr Iain Macpherson – who was both challenging and encouraging to his very first female economists. There were two of us, and we became firm friends. His supervisions were a highlight of the week. Caius and my years there taught me how to argue, how to stand my ground, the importance of facts, and why you should question most things you assume are true. I think it also gave me confidence for when I headed out into the working world.  

I have spent most of my career in roles that are all about analysing, communicating, thinking things through – and Caius gave me a great start. It also gave me lifelong friendships and a sense of perspective on the world.