How to Crack the Glass Ceiling?

women on boards pic via 2

As part of the European Women’s Lobby’s Beijing+20 focus month on ‘Women in Decision-Making’, February 2015 saw the launch of the EWL’s latest report entitled ‘Women on Boards in Europe: Second Progress Report. Cracks in the glass ceiling or just a trick of the light?’ Alys Mumford on the Engender site gave an excellent précis, which I have précised even more! The original post is here.

It seems that, however it might feel to women on the ground, there have been some really positive steps:

The 2011 The Davies Review has encouraged companies to voluntarily commit to raising the proportion of women on company boards.

Among FTSE 100 companies, women’s representation on boards is at 22.8% (October 2014), which is an increase from 12.5% in 2011 and every FTSE 100 company has at least one woman on their board. (My heart goes out to that one woman, not an easy role to take on.)

Reaching the target of 25% of women on boards by 2015 is seen as essential to ‘prove … that British business (can) fix this on their own’ and in order to avoid legislative quotas at the EU or national level. In other words, if companies don’t do this on their own initiative, they will be forced to by legislation. A circumstance that I feel incredibly comfortable with as you can see here Quotas for Women on Boards? Yes, yes and yes!

Challenges still remain, however.

While as a group, the FTSE 100 companies are on track to meet the 25% target in 2015, success is concentrated in a few companies and there are still 61 FTSE 100 companies who fall short of this target.

Progress is heavily weighted in non-executive directorships – 27.9% of non-executive directorships among FTSE 100 companies are held by women, in comparison to 8.4% of executive directorships.

In smaller companies, the situation is far worse. Among the FTSE 250 group, only 17.4% of board members are female and there are 29 companies with no female directors at all.

What to do next?

The report makes five evidence-based recommendations, which should be taken into account as the future policy landscape regarding women in decision-making at the EU level and the national level is determined:

  • Binding measures must apply to both executive and non-executive boards
  • Further action is needed to increase proportion of female CEOs
  • Effective measures require regular monitoring and intermediary targets
  • Measures must be enforced with firm sanctions
  • Quotas must be introduced as part of a comprehensive policy package that seeks to address the fundamental causes of women’s under-representation in economic decision-making. (Oh yes!)

“Gender parity in positions of economic power is of vital importance when it comes to justice, democracy and sustainable growth. Diverse decision-makers and leaders better represent, better understand, and better respond to the desires and needs of women and men in their diversity – and will be more open to cultivating a new style of leadership which will lead to much-needed transformative social change. As an important step forward towards a progressive, sustainable and inclusive Europe, the European Women’s Lobby demands the adoption and implementation of the current proposed EU Directive on women on boards without further delay. Moreover, we strongly encourage national governments to go above and beyond its requirements and to implement stronger measures to achieve gender parity at all levels of decision-making.”

It is not easy for companies which have not embraced gender diversity at the grass roots to suddenly find enough competent women for board membership. Forward thinking companies are already paying attention to its female workforce and starting at entry level. The RenewYou programme is specifically designed to address an oft cited factor ‘women lack confidence to progress’. It’s a debatable point about why women lack confidence and I’ve written on it often. Nonetheless it’s there and companies need to take measures which ensure their female staff can compete and advance on an equal basis as the men.

And those that do are the companies that will thrive.

RenewYou is my tried and tested one day course for women, delivered by a network of excellent trainers across the UK and beyond (USA, Australia, South Africa…). One day really can make a difference. Dates here.

Posted on March 10th, 2015 by

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