What do women bring to boards?

Fresh thinking, collaboration rather than competition, a shift towards focus on the good of the company, rather than executive pay. The ability to  consider change, all of which have an effect on male members of the board. Male board members are less likely to swear and use aggressive language. Leadership, integrity and transparency have been found to be improved. These are the findings of a  study by Insync Surveys and Board Benchmarking, who looked at 105 boards  and 849 directors.

England lags behind other developed countries in the number of women in positions of power and authority, let alone in the business world.

American business guru Tom Peters has pointed out the importance of women consumers, not just more of the population, but that they make the majority of household decisions. Boards are likely to be more targeted towards their market , especially if women are the main consumers.

It’s not just at the board level or NED where we need more women. The FTSE 100 boasts only 3 women CEOs, and those recently leaving, Kate Swann departing WH Smiths, Peason’s Marjorie Scardino  and Cynthia Caroll of Anglo-American Mining,  have either turned around or restructured their companies.

How will women aim for high positions if they don’t have the role models? We need more women at all levels of Society and the Establishment.  The power brokers of our society, Judiciary, Executive and Legislature: One woman High Court judge out of 13, minimal numbers in Parliament and as to Cabinet, mainly the Home Secretary, who, is said to be not “clubby’ enough to make it to PM.

Surely its not difficult to change the all dominant male culture?  If the Queen was able to engage all the Commonwealth Heads of Government to back an Equalities Charter in which a female could inherit the throne, it is more about changing an out dated culture.

Helen Morrissey, of Newton Investment, sees the problem not just at the top, but how women rise through the ranks, which now seems to be going backwards, just as women appointments to boards is slowing down.  http://opportunitynow.bitc.org.uk/. Founder of the 30% club she makes a really interesting comment in the Guardian article:

“the message ……can’t come from a woman,” she explains. “It has to come from male peers telling them it’s important, not because of political correctness, but because they’ll lose out commercially if they don’t.”


Glass ceiling or casting couch? It has recently become clear, though media has short memories, that women in politics are frequently subjected to predatory sexist behaviour, which is ignored by party leaders. How ironic that it is Vince Cable and Ming Cambell encouraging firms to hire more women, when their own party, Lib Dems, has the least number of  women MPs. Recently, when a complaint was raised against a senior politician,  the woman was interviewed on TV, to explain, as a gesture of solidarity, to name and shame, just how acceptable in politics this behaviour is.  Most tellingly, she spoke of female talent going elsewhere if the casting couch is the price to pay, for a political career, or even for a role in the city.

Ming Campbell was reported recently, saying that he’d met competent, highly successful women in other roles, who could have been a great asset to firms. The ball is in his court. Something needs to change. Both he and Cable are suggesting quotas, but the change needs to come from within the macho cultures, since women don’t want to play this game. History shows that until the establishment and the business world see how vital and enriching women can be, we will continue to fall behind, not just in the economy.

Martha Lane Fox  asserts that to suggest there aren’t enough competent women as both patronising and sexist.  Final word from David Cameron: he was speaking of sub Saharan Africa, quoted by Justine Greening, how ironic.

“As the Prime Minister has said, “where the potential and perspective of women are locked out of the decisions that shape a society, that society remains stunted and underachieving”.

(City AM) 19th Dec 2012.


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