You are here
Addressing Board Level Gender Imbalance
The issue of a lack of women in top jobs has been debated by industry for years. Is the situation slowly rectifying itself, or is intervention necessary to ensure equal representation in the UK?
There are some signs that the executive-level diversity landscape is changing. Looking at individual cases paints a promising picture of women beginning to dominate the boardroom. Some of the world’s largest technology companies are now led by women, Meg Whitman is president and chief exec at HP and Virginia Rometty is soon to assume the same role at IBM. Closer to home, Ruby McGregor-Smith is CEO of MITIE (and non-executive director at Michael Page) and Angela Ahrendts and Cynthia Carroll have led FTSE 100 listed Burberry and Anglo American respectively for several years.
But it’s in isolation that these examples reflect positively. According to an article published in the Evening Standard on 4 November 2011, “women still account for only 14% of FTSE 100 directors, however, and critics argue that progress towards greater equality remains too slow.”
In an effort to increase the rate at which the gender imbalance in the workplace is addressed, the government and industry have instigated a range of initiatives to investigate, explain and offer practical ways in which increased female representation can be achieved.
How can increased female representation be achieved?
The creation of the Women’s Business Council was announced in early November by Theresa May, the home secretary and minister for women and equalities. The 10-strong Council will share advice with ministers on how to increase women’s contribution to future economic growth. Areas of focus are to include mentoring programmes for female entrepreneurs, and to provide advice about finance and work-life balance.
At the same, in the private sector Management Today were launching the Inspiring Women networking programme, aimed at promoting boosting the profile of women at work with mentoring activity, expertise sharing and practical input.
Much of the recent activity focusing on equal representation in the boardroom stems from the recommendations made by Lord Davies after his independent review published in February 2011. Suggestions include organisations setting targets for the number of women they aim to have on their boards, and for the executive search community to introduce a voluntary code of conduct to address gender diversity and determine best practice to ensure this through search related activity.
The response was the creation of the 30% Club, a voluntary initiative for members of the executive search industry to take part in, to ensure each stage of the recruitment process works towards the ultimate aim of 30% female representation at senior leadership level in the UK’s top companies by 2015.
Theresa May comments to Page Executive
“Addressing the gender imbalance in our boardrooms is an absolutely necessary part of growing our economy. The most forward thinking companies are realising that women can bring fresh perspectives, new ideas and experience to their boards. They know that a company board that better reflects its customers is better able to understand their needs. And they know that there is growing evidence that companies with more diverse boards do indeed perform better, with greater returns on equity and faster growth. Executive search companies have a key role in supporting greater diversity and I would strongly encourage all of them to sign up to the diversity code launched earlier this year,” she said in an exclusive update to Page Executive Search.
Lord Davies’ report can be accessed in full here.
Find out more about the 30% Club here.