International Women’s Day, and Women in The Boardroom.
As we celebrated International Women’s Day, women around the world reflected on the progress another year has brought, as well as the work still to be done in the pursuit of equality. Right on cue, promising news has emerged from the business world in the past week, suggesting positive inroads are being made towards better representation for women at boardroom level. Whilst women are still not quite smashing through the glass ceiling of the cooperate world, cracks are certainly starting to show.
According to research from LinkedIn, women are getting on to corporate boards at greater speed, and in greater numbers than ever before. interestingly, in five of the counties studied (America, Germany, India, Italy and Norway), women are in fact reaching director level faster than men, with American women taking 9.8 years to get to boardroom level after university, compared to 10.9 years for men.
Overall, it must be said, that women are still several strides behind their male counterparts, but reports that younger women are making impressive progress in the boardroom should be celebrated.
Britain is making good strides towards progress thanks in no small part to the 30% Club campaign, which has seen an increase in the number of female directors of FTSE 100 companies from 12.5% in 2010 to 30.6% today. In under a decade, women have begun to not only change the playing field, but the narrative too. This is a timely reminder of how much progress has been made, but also how much is still to be achieved.
Speaking of which…
The OECD found last year that women with a college degree working full-time earned roughly 26% less than their male counterparts. Furthermore, a World Bank survey of almost 200 economies, published last month, found that women had three-quarters of the legal and employment rights of men. as observed by finance.co.uk, (https://news.finance.co.uk/uk-companies-failing-to-tackle-boardroom-gender-diversity/), having women at the top of organisations may inspire more female-friendly policies lower down the chain, but the workplace still proves a prohibitive environment for women. With women making big strides forward in the boardroom, there is certainly cause to celebrate, but giant leaps are still needed elsewhere.
Closer to Home.
Earlier this month, as reported in the Guardian (https://www.theguardian.com/business/2019/mar/15/ftse-350-firms-under-fire-over-unacceptable-lack-of-female-directors), many top companies in the UK, including Greene King, JD Sports and TBC Bank, came under heavy criticism from an influential investor group for failing to adequately address gender inequality at boardroom level.
The Investment Association (IA) joined forces with the government-backed Hampton-Alexander review in criticising nearly 70 firms on the FTSE 350 index for failing in their commitments to gender diversity targets. 66 companies singled out by the review have just one woman employed at boardroom level, with three firms being called out for having none at all. The review called out 10 of the worst offenders, which included Mike Ashley of Sports Direct, identified as having made no progress at all towards the targets set more than two years ago.
IA’s CEO Chris Cummings said “companies must do more than take the tokenistic step of appointing just one woman to their board and consider that job done.” He went on to say “there is also compelling evidence that boards with greater gender balance outperform their less-diverse peers.
Whilst much progress is still to be worked towards, it’s no longer possible for big business to shy away from their duties towards fair gender representation. The review clearly states that “investors consider diversity to be a critical issue for business success”. With the course set towards progress and equality, the numbers promise to look a little different by next International Women’s Day.