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Sunday, September 9, 2012

Boardroom diversity is progressing too slowly

Just four of the 87 senior executives appointed by FTSE 100 companies in the last two years have been women, according to a new report from Boardwatch, an organisation that tracks appointments. The report revealed that there were no women amongst the 18 executives appointed to FTSE 100 Boards this year. Equally, there was not a single FTSE 250 company that has appointed a woman to its board in the past three months.

Just 6.5 per cent of FTSE 100 executives are women, a figure which has risen from 5.5 per cent in January 2011. In spite of Lord Davies' recent review into women on boards, it appears that very slow progress is being made in terms of improving gender diversity in UK companies. Over the next four years, Lord Davies wants to see FTSE 100 with at least 25 per cent of female directors. Yet at this current pace of change, his targets are looking increasingly unlikely.

Just last week, Ernst & Young published research that highlighted women face not one single glass ceiling but rather several barriers to their progression including age, lack of role models and maternity.  From our work with large corporates, we suggest there may also be further issues at play which add still greater depth to this complex issue.

To bring about changes, companies need to review how they are developing and supporting female workers, analysing the challenges and barriers that might be impeding their progression (at all stages in their careers) and what skills they believe they need to succeed.  Only then should they look to use a series of interventions to address these issues. 

Such interventions could include delivering mentoring and bespoke coaching programmes to support women through pre-identified 'crunch points', as well as ensuring strong female role models exist at a senior level who can provide guidance, practical career advice and inspiration. It's also very important that the Managers of an organisation are skilled and trained, so in the example of maternity they understand what this can mean for the employee, the manager and the business.

In an ideal world such interventions will occur in a women's career long before the challenges and barriers arise or dominate proceedings. Of course this isn't always possible but if female employees can develop the shape of their career path, be aware of the challenges they will face and progress equipped with methods and skills to overcome them, their chances of success can only grow. From that greater level of satisfaction and progress will come greater retention and loyalty and so the talent pipeline will become stronger. Only when that happens will we start to see genuine changes in the number of executive appointments in line with the requirements of Lord Davies and UK business.

Chris Parke - Talking Talent


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