I am an international hybrid and a long-time journalist with a broad span of intellectual curiosity and a passion for ideas to help business work better, with basic human values to underpin the process.

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Women Must Get One In Two Appointments To FTSE 350 Boards To Meet UK Targets

Women Must Get One In Two Appointments To FTSE 350 Boards To Meet UK Targets

One in two appointments to boards for FTSE 350 firms must be women if the UK government’s target of a third of women in senior leadership positions by 2020 is to be met.

The FTSE 100 is on track to hit the target with more than 30% of board positions occupied by women, says the report just out by the government-backed Hampton-Alexander review, revealing a jump from just 12.5% in 2011. But in the FTSE 350 almost one in four companies have only one token woman on their board, and there are still five all-male boards. In order to meet the targets now, half the appointments to board positions over the next two years will have to be filled by women.

Sir Philip Hampton, Chair of the Hampton-Alexander Review, while thanking those who have driven progress in recent years for their “significant and collective contribution”, said: “At the same time, too many companies still have a long way to go.”

50:50 representation of equally intelligent and qualified individuals across gender is clearly not impossible. In the FTSE 100, four companies - Next, the retailer, Rightmove the online real estate provider, Hargreaves Lansdown the financial services provider and Taylor Wimpey, the construction company.

I don’t know about you, but as a woman, that knowledge makes me want to try and support these businesses.

The HA review report also shows a welcome increase in the number of women in FTSE 350 leadership positions just below the board, with FTSE 100 Executive Committees at over 21% women for the first time. But as Dr Ruth Sealy tweeted this morning:

According to research by McKinsey, bridging the gender pay gap could add £150 billion to the UK economy by 2025.

In these times of economic uncertainty around Brexit ( and as I write this, my television news on in the background is talking about the ‘fading hopes for a November summit’) you might think that £150 billion as a welcome big number would jump out to the FTSE 350.

But then, I don’t believe that this conversation we have had in public and private for almost a decade in the UK around women in leadership positions in business has as much to do about qualifications as it has to do about bias, and entrenched power. I started this blog, Board Talk, in 2011, when Lord Davies launched the review for the UK government on the under representation of women in FTSE boardrooms.

A year later, a young man (gratifyingly, my son) gave me what he called an “unorthodox Christmas card” which has been on my study/home office wall ever since. As ever, it bears testimony to the brilliance of cartoons in The New Yorker.

 Thanks to The New Yorker - and in prominent view in my home office.

Thanks to The New Yorker - and in prominent view in my home office.

I posted it on Twitter from that card in 2012 and it seemed as if it went all the way around the world and back again, often tagged for my attention. Clearly it resonated with many women and men too, and it is as relevant today as it was then - we are just all six years older.

Mary Beard refers to the cartoon extensively in her book Women and Power: A Manifesto published last year after first appearing in the London Review of Books.

A journalist friend gave me a copy on a birthday - and I waved it around as a ‘must-read’ at an event last week when moderating a panel discussion around gender equality at the wonderful, deeply intelligent, deeply feminist grounds of the Royal Norwegian Embassy in London, where the current Ambassador Mona Juul will soon be leaving to become Norway’s Ambassador to the United Nations.

Norway, of course, set a mini nuclear bomb in boardrooms when a man unilaterally decided that it was high time for change and the government legislated quotas for representation by gender. So revisiting the topic at Oslo in London was poignant: as Norway too, finds that gender equality when it comes to leadership in business has stalled.

As I said on social media after the event in London last Friday (on LinkedIN)….and it appears to have resonated with a few people. Thank you and apologies to the Norwegian Embassy for shamelessly stealing their photos off Twitter. The event was co-hosted by Turid Solvang, founder of #FutureBoards, an initiative for better boardrooms fit for purpose for the challenges yet to come.

 Source for pics: Royal Norwegian Embassy in UK, London. November 9, 2018. Event with #TuridSolvang and #FutureBoards (with whom I sometimes work) held under privacy consideration Chatham House rules on comments , but ones quoted here are mine alone.

Source for pics: Royal Norwegian Embassy in UK, London. November 9, 2018. Event with #TuridSolvang and #FutureBoards (with whom I sometimes work) held under privacy consideration Chatham House rules on comments , but ones quoted here are mine alone.

Institutional investors have a huge role to play when holding listed businesses to account on diversity and inclusion, and the indications are that they ‘get it’, vying with each other to launch ‘gender-smart’ investing.

But intelligent investors, both male and female - and intelligent individuals everywhere (especially the younger generation) are beginning to wonder what is it that plcs ‘don’t get’ about gender equality ? This is an older person’s past time, even talking about it. My children are millennials - they just won’t stand for the bias. Business, beware.

Women are 50% of the population, and the ones often responsible for consumer decisions. Shutting us out of decision-making in business is what I believe is called ‘an own goal.’

(The handy link there is because this blog is read in some surprising places…. although predominantly in the UK and the United States.)

Photo Credit: Soren Astrup Jorgensen on Unsplash

















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