Dido Harding

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The Baroness Harding of Winscombe
Diana Mary Harding

(1967-11-09) 9 November 1967 (age 51)
EducationSt Antony's Leweston
Alma materUniversity of Oxford
Harvard Business School
Occupationformer CEO, TalkTalk Group
SalaryGBP £6,842,000 (total compensation, 2014)[1]
SuccessorTristia Harrison
Political partyConservative
Spouse(s)John Penrose
Parent(s)Lord Harding

Diana Mary "Dido" Harding, Baroness Harding of Winscombe (born 9 November 1967)[2] is an English businesswoman. She is chairman of NHS Improvement [3] and former chief executive of the TalkTalk Group.[4]

Early life[edit]

Harding is the daughter of Lord Harding, and the grand-daughter of Field Marshal John Harding, 1st Baron Harding of Petherton, who commanded the Desert Rats in World War II.[5]

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;[2] and then at Harvard Business School, gaining an MBA.[6]


On graduation she joined the management consultancy McKinsey & Company.[7] 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,[5] before being appointed commercial director of "added-value foods" in 2001.[6]

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.[8] She was appointed as a non-executive director on The Court of The Bank of England in July 2014.[9] 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.[10] 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.[11] Marketing ran a headline, "TalkTalk boss Dido Harding's utter ignorance is a lesson to us all".[12] 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."[13]

In February 2017 Harding announced she would stand down after 7 years as CEO of TalkTalk in May 2017 to focus more on her public service activities.[14] 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 October 2017.

Honours and awards[edit]

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.[15][16]

Personal life[edit]

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 have two children, and live in London during the week and Somerset at the weekend.[17]

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.[18][19]

In February 2013 she was assessed as one of the hundred most powerful women in the UK by Woman's Hour on BBC Radio 4.[20] The honour was repeated the following year, when she was named in the ten most influential women in the BBC Woman's Hour Power List 2014.[21]


  • Dido Harding (8 March 1999). Cool Dawn: My National Velvet. Mainstream Publishing. ISBN 1-84018-179-6.


Coat of arms of Dido Harding
Baroness Harding of Winscombe's arms are those of her father, John Charles Harding, 2nd Baron Harding of Petherton, but on a lozenge shaped shield.
Coronet of a Baron
Argent, on a Bend Azure, between two Lions passant guardant Gules, two Kukris in saltire between two Martlets Or.


  1. ^ "Executive Profile: Diana Harding". Bloomberg. Retrieved 30 March 2015.
  2. ^ a b "Dido Harding". Brough Scott. Retrieved 30 March 2011.
  3. ^ "Baroness Dido Harding - NHS Improvement". improvement.nhs.uk. Retrieved 26 January 2018.
  4. ^ [1] Archived 26 February 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ a b Andrew Parker (3 December 2010). "New chief rings the changes at TalkTalk". Financial Times. Retrieved 30 March 2011. Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |publisher= (help)
  6. ^ a b Sarah Butler (9 October 2007). "Business big shot: Dido Harding". The Times. Retrieved 30 March 2011.
  7. ^ David Prosser (17 November 2010). "The Business On Dido Harding, Chief executive, TalkTalk". The Independent. Retrieved 30 March 2011. Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |publisher= (help)
  8. ^ James Hall and Rupert Neate (15 December 2009). "Ex-Tesco high-flier Dido Harding to head demerged TalkTalk". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 30 March 2011. Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |publisher= (help)
  9. ^ "Court of Directors". Bank of England. Archived from the original on 7 May 2015. Retrieved 23 June 2015. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  10. ^ "TalkTalk cyber-attack: Boss 'very sorry for security breach'". BBC News. BBC. 23 October 2015. Retrieved 23 October 2015.
  11. ^ Scully, Rebecca (28 October 2015). "cityam". cityam. Retrieved 29 October 2015.
  12. ^ Pemberton, Andy. "TalkTalk boss Dido Harding's utter ignorance is a lesson to us all". marketingmagazine. Retrieved 29 October 2015.
  13. ^ "City Spy: The TalkTalk hack is just another 'occupational hazard". Evening Standard. 28 October 2015. Retrieved 29 October 2015.
  14. ^ Mark Sweney (1 February 2017). "TalkTalk chief executive Dido Harding to step down". The Guardian. Retrieved 1 February 2017.
  15. ^ "No. 60993". The London Gazette. 19 September 2014. p. 18258.
  16. ^ "Karren Brady and Sir Stuart Rose among new life peers". BBC News.
  17. ^ "John Penrose". The Conservative Party. Retrieved 30 March 2011.
  18. ^ Dido Harding (8 March 1999). Cool Dawn: My National Velvet. Mainstream Publishing. ISBN 1-84018-179-6.
  19. ^ "Diana Harding: Executive Profile & Biography". Businessweek.com. Retrieved 10 January 2015.
  20. ^ "BBC Radio 4 – Woman's Hour – The Power List 2013". BBC. Retrieved 10 January 2015.
  21. ^ "Woman's Hour Power List 2014 – Game Changers". BBC Radio 4.