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Monday, April 15, 2013

Address gender imbalance to ensure top performance, executive says

Performance within companies may be affected if firms do not address the gender imbalance at the top level.

That's according to a leading female executive who has warned that businesses need to act quickly if they are to meet the target of 25 per cent of women on boards by 2015.

After a short period of growth, complacency may again be setting in when it comes to improving the number of women on the boards of the UK's top companies.

The latest report from the Cranfield International Centre for Women Leaders shows that in the first six months since the last report (March 2012), the pace of change was extremely encouraging with 44 per cent of new FTSE 100 board appointments going to women and 36 per cent on FTSE 250 companies.  However, those high levels were short-lived and over the past six months they have dropped to 26 per cent and 29 per cent respectively, showing a considerable gap from the 33 per cent required to reach Lord Davies' recommendation of 25 per cent women on boards by 2015.

There are now 194 female-held directorships in 93 of the FTSE 100 boardrooms (held by 169 women) which equates to 17.3 per cent, a slight increase on last year's figure of 15 per cent. The number of FTSE 100 companies with all-male boards has now dropped to seven and two thirds (67per cent) of the FTSE 100 have more than one woman on their board.

Ann Francke, chief executive of the Chartered Management Institute, believes that employers must do more to ensure that the best female talent reaches the top. 

"Our leading companies are making a big mistake if they allow progress to slow, because the evidence shows that a better gender balance in the boardroom leads to better performance.  We know that women are now outstripping men in their early management careers, but employers must do more to ensure that the best reach the top," she said.

"Providing sponsors, mentoring opportunities and targeted leadership development can make a real difference. Business must act quickly to meet the 2015 deadline or pressure for quotas will become irresistible."


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