“Last chance” to promote women to top jobs in the UK

The Financial Times reports,

Britain’s boardrooms are “in crisis” over their failure to increase the number of women in their ranks and will face quotas if they do not embrace new voluntary targets to double the female representation on boards within four years.

Lord Davies, who has been leading a government inquiry on the issue of women in the boardroom, has recommended that FTSE 100 companies aim for at least a quarter of their boards to be made up of women by 2015, while FTSE 350 companies should clearly outline the percentage of women they expect to see on their boards by 2013 and 2015.

But he warned this was the “last chance” corporate Britain would have to force through change itself and said statutory quotas would be brought in if voluntary targets failed to produce results…

Lord Davies conceded that a huge culture shift needed to occur in corporate Britain to bring about change at the top.

“I’ve been very disappointed at the reaction of some chairmen and I have been disappointed at the reaction of some of the investors,” he said, noting that attitudes had ranged from “disinterest” to a belief “there isn’t a problem and that talent’s not there”.

Vince Cable has welcomed the Lord Davies’s report ‘Women on Boards’, saying,

The report is clear that a business-led approach is the best way to increase the number of women on company boards, and we will therefore engage with business in considering his recommendations. Likewise we encourage regulators, investors and executive search firms to take forward those recommendations that fall to them.

The BBC adds,

“There is a business case, not just an equality case, for better diversity in the boardrooms of UK PLC,” said Hay Group’s UK managing director, Lesley Wilkin.

“Simply put, a diverse leadership team is a more effective leadership team.”

For more details on the report, see the BBC’s full report or you can get the full report ‘Women on Boards’ here.

UPDATE: A subsequent report in the Financial Times highlights research from Norway on the difference made to boards by having more women on them:

Because Norway has the highest level of participation of women in the boardroom globally, having introduced a 40 per cent quota in 2008, it makes for a useful gender lab.

Broadly, the researchers found it was not gender as such that underpinned women’s different perspectives, but rather the varied professional experience and value systems they tended to bring to the boardroom. More women than men in the research sample had higher degrees and non-business backgrounds. They were less likely than men to tolerate ethical lapses such as insider trading.

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