How many women are on your board…?

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How many women are on your board…?

The figures are still nowhere near even, though more so than back in 2013, says this piece titled ‘Women make up less than a quarter of UK boardrooms’ over in The Guardian.

 It starts powerfully.

‘Despite the fears of Tesco chair John Allan that men are becoming an “endangered species” in boardrooms, the majority of UK company directors are still male and pale.’

Things are improving, it seems, but we’re far from there yet.

‘And while women’s presence in the boardroom has grown over the past four years, according to our research at the Directory of Social Change, their positions tend to be non-executive and it’s still a rare company that has a female chair or CEO.’

Overall picture

The Directory of Social Change examined 399 corporate boards to arrive at their picture.

Here are the key parameters:

• ‘Analysis of the data shows that the overall percentage of women on boards was around 22%’. This is up from 13% in 2013

• The recent research also suggested 16% of companies today have no female board members, compared with 33% in 2013. Clearly, there is movement, but still, says the piece, ‘it is astonishing that so many boards continue to exclude women entirely’

• It’s still a tiny proportion of companies with ‘equal numbers of female and male directors, or with female-led boards’: ‘not quite 4%’, compared with 2% in 2013

Lazy claim

Interestingly, too, the six companies in the sample that were female-led were not at all what you might call stereotypical. There was quite a strong science bent.

The list consisted of: ‘a co-operative, a pharmaceutical group, a manufacturing company, an electronics company, an engineering firm and an information technology service provider’.

The piece rightly then calls ‘the lazy claim from so many businesses that recruiting women to boards or senior management is too difficult in certain sectors, especially IT, science and engineering’.

These two pictures seem at odds.

(One of the six companies – Renishaw plc – is actively campaigning more broadly to ‘shatter outmoded stereotypes’, and argue for more women in engineering, expands The Guardian…)

Beware tokenism

And there’s a real need to watch out for ‘tokenism’, is another theme.

It’s good that almost 44% of the 399 companies had met the Government target which asked ‘FTSE 100 boards to aim for a minimum of 25% female representation by 2015’, says The Guardian.

‘However, less than a third (29%) had three or more women on their boards’, it says. Which is ‘significant’ because, it adds, research suggests one third is the tipping point – ‘at which women start being able to make a significant difference’. Here’s where that threat of ‘tokenism’ comes in.

‘There will always be a risk of tokenism if there is only one woman on a board whereas when there are three or more they have a normalising effect, and are seen as individuals rather than through a gendered lens.’

A ‘woman’s perspective’

Interesting. This, it continues, helps avoid views being dismissed as solely ‘a woman’s perspective’…

‘Although quite what is wrong with a woman’s perspective when women account for around half of all people, and often a higher percentage of a company’s customer base, is never made clear’, it ends strongly.

Read the piece in full over in The Guardian here.

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