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Getting women on boards is not about financial reward – it’s about attitude change

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Research has clearly demonstrated improved financial performance when there is a more equal gender mix throughout the organisation, and in particular on boards.

Boards should remember that recruitment is a two way process: it’s not just appointing women to join the existing board but it’s important for the board to make membership an attractive career option.

I think the initiative to have reward transparency is very positive – once organisations are required to be open about salaries and associated rewards, this should provoke people to question the approach used to decide how rewards are allocated, thus ensuring the issue is debated widely.

Reporting on diversity – gender just being one aspect – is key here. Having an executive with responsibility for the company approach, strategy and drive for diversity and inclusion is very important. 

However, this only works where this individual has visibility and credibility within the organisation and s/he can influence and promote such a policy. Diversity and inclusion can never be the responsibility of one individual, they are an intrinsic part of the way a company operates.

Linking bonuses to diversity targets may be one way of addressing diversity issues in the financial sector. I am sure those who are compiling the report are considering other options and it would be fascinating to know what they are.

Women are successfully gaining roles as trustees and on many boards in a voluntary capacity. They are increasing their skills and experience, recognising the transferability of their skills and the value they bring. However, there is some but not enough progress in women being appointed to non-executive roles and a disappointing small number of women gaining executive positions. There is still a way to go to achieve equality.

Concerned with issues surrounding gender diversity in business? Don’t miss Real Business’s First Women programme:

Drawing on years of the First Women movement and the phenomenal network of pioneering women the Awards has created, this programme features The First Women Awards and The First Women Summit  designed to educate, mentor and inspire women in all levels of business.

Ruth Sacks is principal lecturer of leadership and professional development at Westminster Business School.

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