“Great heterogeneity leads to better decision making” Brenda Trenowden, Chair of the 30% Club, tells WeAreTheCity

“Great heterogeneity leads to better decision making,” said Brenda Trenowden, Chair of the 30% Club, who recently spoke to WeAreTheCity about her plans for the group.

Brenda TrenowdenAccording to Trenowden “there is a strong correlation between good company performance and diversity” and she plans to further the 30% Club’s efforts by “moving beyond diversity on boards and work on building up a good pipeline all the way up in companies – all the way up from recruitment through to the boardroom.”

Canadian born Trenowden is a senior executive at ANZ, the Australian bank, and has held senior positions at companies worldwide. She moved to the UK in the 1990s as an equity trader and joined the club soon after it was founded in 2010. She is a mother of two, aged 15 and 13, and has a one-year-old puppy called Bonzo. Trenowdon refers to her husband as “our chief household officer” who writes and invests in wine.

She explained: “We run into reverse discrimination as my husband is the one at the school gate. The mums ask him ‘When are you going back to work?’ and ‘What do you do all day?’ People don’t ask mothers that. Discrimination works both ways and we have to stop these assumptions in society.”

Trenowden took over as Chair of the 30% Club, from Founder Helena Morrissey, in February.

What is the 30% Club?

The 30% Club is a group of industry women, supporting Chairmen and organisations, which was launched in 2010 with the aim of achieving 30% female representation on FTSE boards.

In May 2010 Helena Morrissey, CEO of Newton Investment Management, and Labour peer Mary Goudie were chatting after a meeting about Cranfield School of Management’s Female FTSE Report, which revealed how few women were making it into top positions.

The 30% Club works to bring about transformation by encouraging and supporting chairmen to appoint more women to their boards and providing information and help for businesses trying to improve their diversity at all levels.

In 2011 Lord Davies released a report called Women on Boards, which set the target for a minimum of 25% female representation on FTSE 100 boards by 2015. This target was increased to 33% by 2020 in October 2015 for FTSE 350 companies.

In March 2013 the 30% Club launched in Hong Kong with 41 founding local Chairman and soon after it launched in Southern Africa with further Clubs in the US, Canada and Ireland.

She took on the role of Chair of the 30% Club after stepping down from her role as Chair of the City Women Network, which was launched in the 1970s when women’s networks were a rarity.

She said: “Back when I worked on the trading floor at Lloyds I hadn’t heard of women’s networks and it would have alienated people at the time. I joined the City Women Network just as I was moving to BYN Mellon and I became their Chair for three years.

“Around that time Helena was starting the 30% Club too, because women we not moving up. The only people with the power to be able to change things was the men who were at the top, so women thought ‘lets get the men to understand the business benefits of it.’

Trenowden said that if companies are only “fishing in a narrow pool” then they would only get the “male, pale and stale group of usual suspects. There’s a war on talent.”

The 30% Club hold events to change the perceptions of young people, which Trenowden said the group will be holding more of: “It is important to be talking to young girls but also to young boys to ensure their perception of women is broad enough, beyond the mother role or whatever they see on TV.”

Getting the balance right

She noted that companies would be more profitable if they had at least one woman on their design team and gave the example of the Volvo XC90 car.

She said: “Companies with better diversity have a better idea of their customer base. Those without diversity cannot relate to them well. The Volvo XC90 is designed predominantly by women, which means it appeals to women differently when looking for a family car as it take a different approach on design and on school runs. Even though my husband does our school runs, all teams need at least one female designer.

“The 30% recently added a woman in automotive group. There are lots of sectors that could benefit from a better balance – and we don’t need just all women running things either – it’s about balance. It’s about men and women working together to bring about change.”

What can companies do?

She mentioned several changes that companies can implement to support balance: “I’m for agile working not flexible and that should be for men too. We need to work on taking away the stigmatism that it is just for women with children.

“Metrics and measurements are important and instead of these being a ‘nice to have’ make sure you have them in your top 10 priorities. Unpick the workforce metrics and be open about where the problems are. Unless you admit you have a problem you cannot fix it. Set targets and put programmes in place and measure them regularly.”

She added: “There needs to be specific and concrete goals from the leadership and a gender equality lense on policies and recruitment. It also important not to rip people apart when they call things out. To change the landscape women need more sponsorship. This means people putting their neck on the line for you and good companies facilitate these relationships.”

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