Emma Liddiard with David Philpott, outgoing chairman of the Institute of Directors Kent branch
Unlike her male predecessor, Emma Liddiard will not be wearing an earring in her new role as chairman of an influential business group.
Unconventional David Philpott, former chief executive of Kent Air Ambulance, has stepped down from the Kent branch of the Institute of Directors after three years, and has passed the baton to the radio station chief.
Mr Philpott wears an earring from time to time, somewhat unusual in a world of business suits but welcomed as cool by younger members.
Ms Liddiard, owner of a horse and Shetland pony, is no wearer of earrings. She said: “I’m not really a jewellery person. When you spend as much time with your arms in muck as I do, jewellery isn’t safe, secure or hygienic.”
She pays tribute to Mr Philpott, with whom she judged the Kent Excellence in Business Award (KEiBA) for Entrepreneur of the Year, for persuading her to stand for the volunteer role.
She is the first woman in six years, the last was Alyson Howard, to chair IoD Kent.
No ardent feminist, she prefers to focus on business rather than the gender of the people running it. But she aims to make it “feel a little more accessible while still being exclusive”.
She wants fun to be a key feature and members and potential members “not to think it’s a stuffy old men’s club – because it’s not”.
Loughborough-born Ms Liddiard, 41, might have become a pilot like her older sister who flies for British Airways, and her brother with Flybe. Her parents met at the former Lympne airport and her father was a senior manager with British Midland.
She tasted the aviation world as a temp cabin crew member and was lined up for pilot training before deciding radio airwaves rather than aerial manoeuvres were more her thing.
Ten years ago, that medium brought her to Kent where her grandmother had lived, in Hythe, for many years. Through holidays, she got to know the county well and confesses to having Kent “in the blood”.
As MD of Heart, she has a staff of 30 and lives between Dover and Folkestone. She is married to a teacher and they have a three-year-old son William.
She said: “David has done a lot of hard work over the past three years.
“I want to build on what he has achieved. I hope I will inject the same sense of fun and enthusiasm. Hopefully, I can bring a fresh pair of eyes. It’s quite a surprise, but I’m looking forward to it.”