A senior business leader has been accused of making racist and sexist comments about staff and allegedly said ‘blacks can get aggressive’.
Some 41 allegations have been made about Lady Judge, the chairman of the Institute of Directors.
Last night the 71-year-old announced she was temporarily stepping down after a draft legal investigation into her conduct was leaked to The Times.
The American-British lawyer told the newspaper she had ‘voluntarily decided to step aside temporarily and contest these allegations and the flawed process conducted so far’.
She also said the probe had not given her the opportunity to respond. According to complainants, Lady Judge told the IoD’s secretary general: ‘The problem is we have one black and we have one pregnant woman [on IoD leadership team] and that is the worst combination we could possibly have.’
Lady Judge, who has held a number of executive positions in industries from banking to energy, is also accused of asking employees to perform unreasonable tasks, allegedly pressuring others into helping her organise a fashion show.
An assistant was also reported to have spent an hour standing on a staircase so a painter could find the best light to complete a portrait of her.
The probe, drafted by lawyer Caroline Prosser, also found Lady Judge regularly gave people gifts to win their favour.
Miss Prosser said the IoD may also look into the behaviour of Sir Kenneth Olisa, Lady Judge’s deputy, as she claims other board members may have ‘enabled’ her.
In an email to the IoD, Sir Kenneth said the report ‘fails to comply with the principles of natural justice.’ He declined to make any further comment to The Times.
A spokesman for the IoD said: ‘Our HR department was made aware of a number of allegations… concerning the conduct of non-executive members of our board.’
The spokesman said the probe was carried out by Hill Dickinson law firm and the findings will be considered today.