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Women on boards: two years on, work in progress

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Lord Davies: A fantastic achievement?

When Lord Davies published his ?Women on boards” report in 2011, business leaders were unsure what impact it would have. Two years on, the scene has been ?transformed , according to Davies. Every chairman and nominations committee ?gets it” now. They understand the business rationale for diversity.

While the FTSE 100 have made extraordinary” progress, he says that the FTSE 250 still have much to do: “It’s?been tougher for those companies. Smaller boards and less rotation has made it slightly more difficult for them to change their model as quickly.
Beyond non-executive board positions, Davies says British firms are also tackling the bigger problem of the talent pipeline and executive roles.

?Getting more women into executive directorships is a complex issue,” he says. There is definitely ?leakage , but I?m optimistic that a large number of companies are spending huge amounts of time to fix it. This isn’t something that you can change in a year or two; it will happen over the next decade. It’s our job to ensure that every company continues thinking about its talent pipeline and the development of both men and women.

Overall, the commitment to bring more women into executive and non-executive board roles has been a “fantastic achievement” by chairmen, headhunters, investors and the women themselves working collectively, Davies says.

Yet he warns that action is needed in other parts of British society particularly politics.

?We need more women at the board table, more female entrepreneurs, more female MPs and more women in the Cabinet,” he says. It’s amazing that, in the history of the UK, there have been only 31 female Cabinet ministers. Senior politicians need to get their own house in order. When half of the working population is female, having only four out of 22 Cabinet positions filled by women is not good enough.

REPORT CARD

FTSE 100: 8/10
“I won’t be happy until there are no all-male boards, so I’d give the FTSE 100 an eight. But, in terms of commitment to the cause, I’d give them a ten.

FTSE 250: 6/10
?FTSE-250 directors are getting it, but there is still a lot to be done. I?m optimistic that I?ll be able to give them an eight by the end of the year.

Recognising trailblazing women

The First Women Awards have been highlighting the achievements of women breaking the glass ceiling in sectors across the economy since they were co-founded by the CBI in 2005.

Last year’s winners included the FD of one of Britain’s leading oil and gas companies; the founders of an innovative online retail marketplace; and the first female president of the industry body for electrical contractors.

Nominations for the 2013 First Women Awards are open until 5 April.

This article was first published in the February 2013 issue of Business Voice, the CBI magazine.

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