Encouragingly a recent annual study of boardroom gender, from the Cranfield School of Management, revealed that the amount of women on top UK boards of FTSE 100 companies has increased to a record 15.6%. Out of 190 new board appointments made last year, 47 of these went to women.
Although impressive that this figure was previously just 6.9% in 1999 and stood at 12.5% last March, we are still a long way from the target set by Lord Davies in his review and recommendations, last year. The former Labour minister and ex-chairman of Standard Charter had recommended that the proportion of women on the top 100 FTSE boards should reach 25% by 2015.
Liz Field, CEO of the Financial Skills Partnership said despite making progress here, there is still a lot more work that could be done to adjust the gender balance. More importantly she feels this needs to be addressed at the level just below the one highlighted by the report.
“Recent research indicates that female participation at this level is actually declining rather than rising, a trend that needs to be reversed if we are to ensure a continuous pipeline of female talent,” she said.
Field suggests that more businesses introduce diversity monitoring, tailored development and mentoring programmes for women.
The danger here though is that woman who have done the hard work, and are next in line for the boardroom, could find that their male peers see them as someone who is only there to meet government targets. If women are offered tailored programmes and support, to achieve the same position as their male peers, how are they supposed to be respected and treated as a valid member of the board?
She added that the most progressive companies are those that are also “trying to tackle the most deep-seated causes such as unconscious bias.”