We need legislation to get more tech women into boardroom

Clare Grant is director at the Women in Mobile Data Association. She shares her views about Lord Davies’s independent review into women on boards.  

While any initiative like the Lord Davies report which aims to spark companies into getting more women into their boardrooms is welcome, I’m not convinced that the report’s conclusion about getting businesses to sign up to voluntary targets or codes of conduct is the answer.

Where’s the incentive? It hasn’t happened so far, so why will telling companies to meet a 25% target by 2015 without any penalty or incentive work now?

Surely it’s better for the government to legislate and incentivise for options like flexible working and mentoring schemes which allow women to get there on merit?

Why not, for example, give tax breaks for companies that implement such schemes?

I agree that quotas aren’t the way to go. Women want to feel they’ve earned the right to be there. If quotas were forced on business, can you imagine the working relationship women would have with their male colleagues who’d know they didn’t get there just on merit?

Flexible working will help encourage women back to work because it will give them choice. At the moment it is very difficult for women to continue their career where they left off after having a child.

Shared maternity leave proposed by the UK government will help, but so will helping businesses to adopt flexible working hours, remote working or indeed career breaks for male and female colleagues.

Change also has to come from the boards themselves. If you look outside of the FTSE companies featured in the report (and let’s face it, most people have to), women find it tough going, especially in traditionally male sectors like technology.

In sectors like mine – mobile – where just 17% of IT and telecoms professionals are women, it’s going to take a cultural and educational shift to get more women into the sector, let alone the boardroom.

You only have to look at the virtually all-male board of the GSM Association which represents the interests of the worldwide mobile communications industry to see what a long road it is.

Groups like the GSMA and technology boardrooms up and down the country need to think long and hard about how to adopt diversity strategies and policies – like mentoring and periodic diversity audits – that help to bring the broader issues to senior management teams.

Starting with the GSMA, isn’t it time you led by example?