"I don't think women fit comfortably into the board environment"

Today's government-backed Hampton-Alexander Review has found shocking explanations for why a range of FTSE 350 companies do not have more women on their boards, including "they don’t fit in", "they don’t want the hassle" and "all the good ones have already gone".

The story is here - http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-44310225 

The number of all-male FTSE 350 company boards fell from 152 in 2011 to 10 in 2017, but it's clear that much more needs to be done.

What do you think the next steps are to stop the archaic excuses and make real progress on creating gender balance at the top?

  • Shouldn't we be celebrating the real progress in moving fro 152 to 10 in 6 years rather than picking out random sound bites from the ill informed and backwards?

    This is more of a good news story in reality and as HR people we often suggest the carrot is far more effective than the stick?
  • In reply to Keith:

    Hi Keith,

    I think celebrating the progress which has been made is really important. Since the CIPD began as the Welfare Worker's Association in 1913, to improve the working conditions of women in UK factories, progress has been made in civil rights (employment, education, housing etc etc). Has it moved at pace with changes to the working population?

    Excellent progress for gender diversity on boards was made over 5 years from 2011 but progress in 2016 was slow. Shouldn't businesses be reminded to get back on track? It's an ambitious target that the FTSE 350 have 33% female representation on their boards by 2020 and it was the steering group of the Hampton-Alexander Review which said in 2017, "unacceptably five years on [there are] 11 All-male boards in the FTSE 250 (page 32). That wasn't BBC editorial.

    The reason the BBC article raised my eyebrows is because of the quotes lifted from responses which came from CEOs and Chairs – leaders with unequalled influence within the boardroom and beyond. The BBC called them the top 10 excuses but if you read the news story by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, they are called the worst excuses. I don't suppose we'll know how representative those excuses are till the referenced review is published on 27 June. 

  • In reply to Victoria Dmochowski:

    The bbc choose to go with a headline that gather attention to its story. Fair enough.

    We as a professional institute shouldn’t be so concerned with headlines but with the real progress being made.

    The FACT that in the survey period it went from over 40% of 350 boards having no female representation to under 3% is a huge and generational change.

    Sure there is much more to be done but the positive story is the real story here no matter what the headlines say.
  • Coming back to Katie's question, there are a few recommendations in the 2017 review that I find interesting. They are:

    • Have executive search firms support with recruitment of women to boards
    • Make the progress of gender balanced boards a key corporate governance matter
    • Investors should discuss with investee companies gender balance, particularly where progress is slow
    • Within the corporate governance section of annual reports, publish the number of women on executive committees

    This may be a matter of policy leading culture but if the 'archaic excuses' are long held beliefs, perhaps they need heavy-handed incentives to make changes.

  • In reply to Victoria Dmochowski:

    I attended a presentation on the subject of gender balanced boards last year. The ex-CEO of one of the largest oil companies spoke about how having a woman join the board changed the conversations - in particular he talked about how she raised the issue of work-life balance to the benefit of all board members. But the men would never have talked about it on their own.
    We need more male board members to talk about the benefits of having women on their boards - they are the only ones likely to influence their skeptic colleagues.
  • Clearly there is a lot of work to be done not just in Britain


    Its more amazing because a major theme  of the conference was Diversity - perhaps he ought to have gone to a few more of the workshops

  • The next steps for me are making sure that unconscious bias is tackled in the recruitment process, valuing traits/behaviours that men are more likely to demonstrate are issues for successful recruitment. Men are often in the recruitment position all the way through the company org chart so women often face numerous hurdles in their path to seniority, as we know many people tend to recruit in their own like. I work for a business that spends a lot of time on this area (it is a male dominated company) and training on harassment and diversity help when carried out regularly. So reinforcement of positive ways to change are also important as this smoothes the road for women to progress. I feel the gender pay gap reporting has also been a wake up call for many and can assist us in making salaries and bonuses fairer, companies which ignore this are showing a side to themselves many women are shocked by - would you want to work for them?
  • In reply to Clare:

    One of the things that comes up time and again is the lack of flexible working offered at recruitment stage - and the reluctance women have in raising the issue. At the same time flexible working has been shown to be a 'proven strategy' for supporting women's progress. In my opinion there's a lot of unconscious bias around flexible working and people who ask to work flexibly - and that needs to be eradicated.
  • In reply to Anna:

    There is digital software which can help with gender-balancing job descriptions, job adverts, organisations and boards. Apparently unconscious bias in the job applicant plays a part in whether they choose to apply or not.

    Could gender-balancing software water down job descriptions and make them bland?  I've seen a lot of 'copy and paste' job descriptions and wonder if software would overhaul that custom.

  • In reply to Victoria Dmochowski:

    Changing the wording on job ads and JDs could be an 'own goal' if it serves to attract more women who then encounter all the usual biases within the organisation.

    Yes women also hold unconscious biases, they experience imposter syndrome and stereotype threat, But they're not daft. They know that they will be judged more harshly in any managerial role than their male counterparts and that many embedded organisational processes (such as the myth that flexible working is only possible in junior roles) work against them.

    In my view it's far better to focus on changing the culture to what is now being termed "gender bilingual". Word will soon spread that this is an organisation which supports women - who will then apply to work there.
  • In reply to Victoria Dmochowski:

    Hi Vicky,

    Did you pick up on this piece on the BBC today?

    Why do some job adverts put women off applying?

  • In reply to Steve Bridger:

    Hi Steve,

    Yes, that's the story I link to.
  • In reply to Victoria Dmochowski:

    D'oh! Apologies... I didn't click on the click... but just lazily assumed it was a link to the software. My bad.
  • In reply to Steve Bridger:

    I did make it look like that...