November 8, 2013
There has been so much written lately about women on boards and what is holding women back from becoming board members. The evidence highlights that gender diverse companies are less volatile, have a higher ROA and a lower employee turnover rate, yet this still seems not to have spurred on employers to take up the board equality issue. My question is why have so few women progressed to board level? Personally, I disagree with quotas, believing that the best candidate should be appointed. Do we really need a quota to swing the pendulum into a more balanced position? Regardless of your view, the evidence is clear; companies with gender mixed leadership outperform those who have little or no senior female representation. Why then would companies choose to not reset their gender balance in senior positions?
The Lord Davies 2013 report highlights that progression is good, (since 2010 the percentage of female held board appointments has increased by nearly 50%), yet while Cranfield University revealed this week that women now account for 19 per cent of FTSE 100 and 15 per cent of FTSE 250 board positions, less than half (42%) opted to disclose measurable objectives to increase the number of women on their boards.
The Lord Davies report focusses on the pure numbers of women on boards, the percentages of female board members on the FTSE 100 and 250, how it has grown and expectancies for the future. But as we approach the 2013 Women in FM “Your Journey” conference I am interested in the journey of women to senior positions – the pitfalls and the possibilities.
The 2013 Women’s Business Council really address the journey that women are on and how to support them along the way. The reports looks at Starting Out – supporting the choices of girls and young women, Getting On – supporting women in the middle phase of their working lives, Staying On – supporting women’s continuing development or Enterprise – helping women gain the necessary skills to set up and run their own business.
This report acknowledges that at each stage in our lives there are different challenges and opportunities which need to be addressed. The 2013 Women in FM Your Journey conference will seek to explore and share insights within these phases.
I once hear a female CEO once say, “You can have it all…. just not at the same time?” Is that it? Or is it that we need to redefine what it is.” Last year women outstripped men in entrepreneurial start-ups … why? Perhaps because we do want to be leaders, we do have ambition just maybe not in the environment that is currently on offer or in a way that is currently being valued.
One thing, however, crystal clear amongst all the articles and books that I have read on the subject, we are moving to a place where it is unacceptable for the voice of women to be absent from the boardroom.
Debra Ward is Chair of Women in FM
The Women in FM (WiFM) annual conference takes place on Tuesday 12 November at the ITV Studios, Southbank and has ‘the journey’ as its theme. For more information click here; and to register for the event click here.