Women on Boards

Women on Boards

Image courtesy of Jacky Flemming, all rights reserved. 

Women make 20.4% of Directors on FTSE 100 boards and just 11.1% of UK bank CEOs are women. Although there has been an increase in recent years, representation of women remains stubbornly low.

Ensuring women’s equal representation on boards is not only about equality in the workplace but also access to power. Women have a right to participate in decisions that affect our lives and it’s a matter of good governance that our institutions are representative.

We are wasting talent and losing opportunities for growth and innovation. Evidence shows that more women in senior management and boardrooms leads to better corporate performance, a boost to the bottom line, and allows businesses to tap into to new insights about their customers, when women currently hold 80% of consumer power.

What can be done?

Positive action measures such as quotas can help make change quickly, they can break the glass ceiling and have shown to be successful internationally, for example in Norway where in just 6 years, the percentage of female boardroom members increased from just 6% to 44.2%.

However quotas are not, and cannot be the only answer to improving women’s representation on boards. Whilst they may provide a short term boost, long term changes in work places are needed to shift working practices away from anti-social working hours and a culture of “presenteeism”, towards more flexible workplaces which cultivate a healthy work-life balance and support employees with caring responsibilities.

More must also be done to tackle the supply-side of women in boards. Investing in schemes which encourage girls into science, technology, engineering and maths, tackling the number of female applicants and appointees to graduate schemes in business and ensuring women are equally represented at all levels of management are just a few of the changes needed to ensure women achieve equal access to power.

It is important that debates around women on boards must not detract from how unequal economic policies can impact men and women. The recession has had a huge impact on women’s economic inequality pushing women in low paid, insecure work. Whilst getting more women on to boards is important we must also continue to focus on the majority of women who are working low paid jobs.

Who else is working on this issue?

The government have been keeping track of women on boards and produce regular updates on the level of representation. The 30 per cent club was launched in 2010 to improve the representation of women on FTSE 100 boards and the organisation Women on Boards provides mentoring and support for women taking on board level positions.