The Lord Davies Review has resulted in a 50% increase in the number of women in non executive positions on our FTSE100 boards. But why is this so important for individual businesses and the economy?
Having a senior management team which reflects society and a business which provides equal opportunity for every employee seems an obvious choice and something every business leader strives for. Statistics, however, show us this is not happening, either in the FTSE 100 or in our SMEs. The EY report “Is Gender Diversity profitable?” released last week, based on research from 91000 companies across 22 countries, again suggests that the payoffs of policies that facilitate women rising through the corporate ranks more broadly, could be significant.
Other research on US firms finds that mixed-gender boards outperform all-male boards (McKinsey 2012b) with profits up 48%, shares values up 35%.
Since the Lord Davies Review in 2011, policy makers have shown increasing interest in the representation of women not only within the FTSE 100, but also across the FTSE 250 and STEM industries (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) and there has been much talk about what needs to be done to achieve parity in representation and pay.
Many successful projects are already being delivered via a multitude of platforms, by large corporates, SMEs, the third sector and charities and whilst this is welcomed, it is not coordinated and much of it is not measured.
When I meet the deliverers of these projects, what I continually find is that they are focusing on 3 key areas, which align themselves to the conclusions drawn by my recent research for the British Chambers of Commerce into Women and Work within the SME environment.
It is clear that in order for women to participate fully in the UK workforce and achieve their individual and joint ambition, we need a coordinated strategy focusing on:
- Reducing the cost of childcare in the UK and increasing the availability of quality childcare outside the hours of 8 – 6 and in school holidays.
- Embedding agile working practice into the DNA of all our working environments
- Ensuring that our young leave education work ready and fully informed about the routes to success in a broad range of careers.
It is encouraging to note that politicians are realising that the acute shortage of women on FTSE 100 boards is just one symptom of a problem which starts in the classroom and continues through recruitment, retention and returnship and this needs tackling from a number of angles.
The government has recently announced that an independent review on increasing the number of women at the executive level in FTSE 350 companies will be led by Sir Philip Hampton, Chair of GlaxoSmithKline, with Dame Helen Alexander, Chair of UBM as his deputy chair.
This review aims to answer the question “Why are there so few women at the top?”
Committee Chair Maria Miller said
“Women have been gaining the best degrees at University for two decades and they make up half the graduate intake in many major companies, yet only a handful achieve executive level positions and females represent only 23% of senior management. It is concerning that business is not responding to the changing shape of the UK labour market at a time when we have more women in work than ever before.
The select committee will ask six key questions:
- What definition should be used by business and Government to monitor female participation in the executive layer?
- What is the current situation of women in senior roles/executive positions
- What are the barriers to women achieving senior positions
- What measures can companies take to increase the number of women in executive positions
- What should the Government be doing to improve the situation
- Should quotas be introduced.
If you are involved in the delivery of a programme which supports women’s progress in the workplace and you would like to comment, or you are an individual with evidence which you feel is relevant, please do email me on firstname.lastname@example.org before the 15th March 2016.
I will be hosting an interactive discussion entitled 'Why Equality is the hottest topic at the board table' on the 23.3 at Eaves Hall as part of their Business Expo, book here https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/eaves-hall-business-expo-tickets-21553195187