Message To The ‘Boys On The Board’ – Why We Need More Women In Top Positions.

According to a recent report from the Cranfield School of Management, drawing from the FTSE 100 and other high turnover UK businesses, women represent less than 7.6% of directorships in top companies. Not only that but the number of women in executive positions is falling. As a result of this and some other findings, which are equally as shocking, from their Female FTSE board report 2013 they have called for four actions to help address these issues. You can read the full report below but essentially the four actions seem to me to be basically this.

  • Target specifically to increase women in senior positions.
  • Smaller companies must also look to increase women in top positions.
  • Look further afield for the talent needed.
  • Increase the number of women on executive committees.

The last one hides a very important fact because the research also showed that far fewer women are promoted to executive roles than men.

Furthermore in a report for the Women’s Business Council (WBC) earlier this year it was stated that equalising participation rates of men and women in the labour market could increase economic growth to the tune of 10% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by 2030. If you want a monetary value on that, GDP for 2011 was around 1.14 trillion pounds.

So let’s look at this now in terms of the bottom line. We hire a woefully small number of female executives in top jobs, we promote a small number into executive positions and the labour market is suffering because there are not enough women in the workplace. In fact, the same report from the WBC identified that there were 2.4 million women who want to work and 1.3 million who want to increase their hours.

OK, now before you all start emailing me (and to prove that I am not just being pro-women here) yes I appreciate that there are a lot of other factors to be considered. However, when you are talking in terms of 10% of GDP and 3.7 million people, whatever you throw into the mix is not going to alter such high numbers significantly.

What is clear is that we need more women to go into the labour market, we need them to be looking to improve their career and then we need them to have access to the top jobs.

It seems to be fairly obvious that this is not an issue that can be answered in simple terms but one thing that surely we must recognise is that without a higher level of participation by women we are missing out on a huge talent reserve in Britain. Can you think of any other business practice where a manager would choose to ignore the potential development of an increase in 10% of the potential? Would you think it was sensible to only utilise 7.6% of a potential asset? It’s a little bit like looking at your wage every month and throwing some of it away because it’s in coins not notes.

As well as the clear gender issues here, we need to remember that a system that does not promote or attract women is not utilising 50% of the population effectively. And that simply makes no sense.

So, my message to the ‘boys on the board’ is maybe you need to start thinking about how to make sure the right ‘people’ for the board get the opportunity to succeed.

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