Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Board diversity and female executives

It is a rather unattractive characteristic of a blogger to say 'I told you so'. You come over as a smug know-all. But I can't resist it. All of a suddent there is a flux of reports (see recent study published by "Women Like Us") and articles taking the same line on female representation on boards that I was promoting a year ago and, no doubt, others were trying to get heard in the public debate long before that.

Surely it is obvious that improving the representation of women on boards is about much more than merely opening up those board positions? It is primarily about encouraging the appointment  of more senior female executives who will be available to fill the higher roles. If that does not happen first then the boards appoint 'token women'; you find a small group of women have many board appointments (to make up the numbers) and companies do not benefit from the improved diversity.

I know, I keep going on about this and getting really irate when David Cameron goes for the easy soundbites or Vince Cable threatens to legislate (again). Of course these folk don't want to address the hard part; which is improving childcare; and not penalising women for taking career breaks; and encouraging flexible working arrangements. The macho culture of working eighteen hour days, six days a week and dealing with emails on your mobile for much of the rest of the time is unhealthy, ineffective, inefficient and is almost as if designed to exclude women. However, changing attitudes is hard to legislate for. EU Commissioner Barnier, who loves threatening to legislate, might also take note.

Anyway...Kate Walsh in The Times writes (11 March 2012);

"THE proportion of women holding senior executive management positions in FTSE 100 companies fell last year despite the government’s efforts to address the gender imbalance.

Research from Korn Ferry Whitehead Mann, the headhunter, found that female representation on the management board — the level just below the main board — fell more than 2% last year to 15%.
This was not on the agenda at the London Stock Exchange’s event to mark International Women’s Day last Thursday and will make for uncomfortable reading for Lord Davies, the former banker and trade minister, who has been pushing companies to have more women at the top level.

Despite an increase at the most senior level — where female representation grew from 12.5% to 15% in the past year — the board below, which provides the pipeline of future talent, has seen a 2.2% decline.
The research also identified 17 FTSE 100 companies with no female representation at management board level. These include Associated British Foods, owner of Primark; Wm Morrison, the supermarket chain; Schroders, the fund manager; Tate & Lyle, the food giant; and Shell."
 There is no sensible reason why women cannot have children and hold senior jobs. Yes there will be compromises, they will need family help or childcare and will miss some family occasions but really the myth that 24/7 dedication to work is essential is just that, a myth. It benefits timeservers over balanced and capable; and favours men over women.

A good quote from David Frost (the one who was director general of the British Chambers of Commerce) "Our flexible labout market has long been acknowledged as a significant competitive advantage and a driver of investment and growth in this country - it's time we made best use of it"

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