HR & Management

Growth company female board representation research highlights “shocking trends”

4 min read

18 November 2014

Former editor

Two separate pieces of research have shown that while FTSE 100 companies have moved towards greater boardroom diversification, those at smaller listed firms and private businesses are shifting in the opposite direction.

Female appointments for non-executive positions at Alternative Investment Market (AIM) companies during the last three years accounted for only 7 per cent of total hires, Norman Broadbent research reveals.

This is in contrast to FTSE 100 firms where initiatives such as Women on Boards and 25 by 2025 have boosted the figure to 27 per cent. In June 2014 the appointment of Patrice Merrin to the Glencore Xstrata board saw the end of the last FTSE 100 all-male executive team.

Other research compiled by Approved Index shows that whilst FTSE 100 and FTSE 250 companies have demonstrated “incredible growth” in female directors at 22.8 per cent and 15.6 per cent respectively, startups in Britain have a national average of 8.4 per cent.

Norman Broadbent’s study identified the retail sector as the one most embracing change at board level, with women now representing 26 per cent of non-executives.

Speaking to Real Business about the public market data, Francesca Ecsery said that the low number (7 per cent at AIM companies) did surprise her, especially because it is a proven fact that diverse boards are more resilient and profitable.

Quizzed on her perception of women on boards in todays’ market, Ecsery, who has 23 years experience of being a non-executive director, managing director and general manager at blue chip and startup companies, said: “There are not enough women on boards in today’s market. It is up to the board committees and search agencies to press the agenda forward.

“Women must realise however that networking is an essential part of this process. It’s something men have been doing well since the dark age.”

Ecsery calls for a “cultural shift’ in how boards judge and nurture talent, with a “significant effort and commitment” needed from the UK’s top companies to promote diversity down to the bottom of organisations.

“Public boards tend to go through processes to find out the right people and use third party companies, such as head hunting agencies, to do the leg work,” she said of the difference between public and private.

“However, whatever it takes to get women on the long list, the better chance they’ll have of getting on the board. Private boards are able to tap on shoulders, which is where effective networking comes in, as they don’t have to go though as many processes.”

Trilby Rajna of Approved Index said that the private company data, which was extracted by looking at the Fast Track 100 list of companies between 2010 and 2014, provides some “really shocking” trends of male superiority in the senior appointments of new businesses.

Despite startups being lauded as the “pioneers of innovation and technological advances”, he said, the culture is far from progressive.

“Emerging entrepreneurs do not have the excuse of a history of bad cultural practices to latch on to. They should know better,” Rajna added.

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