Today (2 Oct) for the first time FTSE 350 companies have reached 30% milestone for female representation. While the FTSE 100 companies had reached the 30 percent threshold a year ago, the next 250 companies had lagged behind. The news today follows recent criticism of such companies of making a token effort to appease critics after appointing only one woman to their board, raising concerns that they were taking a ‘one and done’ approach to gender diversity.
Female business owner Geeta Sidhu-Robb comments on the need for increased diversity in the boardroom and in senior business roles. Geeta, who was previously a Board Apprentice to Invesco Select Perpetual Trust which intended to aid businesses to diversify the boardroom and combat the ethnic and gender inequalities that persist across the country, is a frequent commentator on the gender divide in senior business roles. She founded her own company, Nosh Detox, in 2008 having quit her job as a corporate lawyer.
Geeta Sidhu-Robb, CEO and Founder of Nosh Detox, commented:
“The news that the boards of the UK’s most valuable 350 public companies has exceeded a 30% representation of women is synonymous with the evolving attitudes towards women in business, but it is by no means a sign that gender equality has been fully achieved. Gender parity in business has long been a talking point, with reporting regulations now in place to monitor gender pay gaps and increased scrutiny on the representation of women in senior positions at major corporations. As a result, we are certainly seeing a change in boardroom culture, particularly over the past decade as the share of women holding board roles at FTSE 350 companies is up from 9.5 per cent in 2010.
"Whilst this is a positive development, women are still under-represented in the most senior roles at companies, with only 25 groups in the FTSE 350 having a female chair, while just 13 have a woman chief executive, according to data from the 30% Club. We need to ensure that we are not mollified by misled by this rise in the number of women in the boardroom, good though it is.. We should be positive that the representation has succeeded 30% for the first time, but we mustn’t rest on our laurels and accept anything other than complete balance. Adding one woman to the board here or there to balance the books won’t solve the issue, nor will it mask the problem.
“Business leaders need to also heed the benefits of diversity at the boardroom level, with proven benefits for business culture in cultivating a broad range of attributes and perspective and proven financial gains. As evidence continues to mount that reaching the top quartile for diversity at board level results in higher dividends and better financial returns than competitors, It provides solid empirical reasons for more and more women to reach the top of companies. We need to systemise this change to ensure more women – and more women from diverse backgrounds - continue to have a seat at the boardroom table.”
The 30% Club launched as a campaign in the UK in 2010 and has since expanded to fourteen other countries/ regions.
Accelerated progress has been achieved through the leadership of our Chair and CEO members. In addition to the critical recognition that better gender balance leads to better results, five factors created a replicable formula for success:
- a measurable goal with a defined timetable
- supportive public policy that acknowledged that the status quo was unacceptable
- change driven by those in power
- openness to collaborate
- a concerted and consistent series of actions and programmes.
THE CASE FOR CHANGE
Women's economic participation and leadership in business is essential to drive business performance, as well as to advance corporate sustainability and increase global GDP:
Financial performance: Companies in the top quartile for gender diversity on their executive teams are 21% more likely to experience above-average profitability than companies in the fourth quartile (McKinsey, 2018)
Sustainability performance: Women’s leadership is linked to reduced greenhouse gas emissions, stronger worker relations and reduced incidence of fraud, insider trading, and other unethical practices (IFC, 2019)
Economic and social development: empowering women and girls could contribute up to US $28 trillion to global GDP by 2025 (McKinsey Global Institute, 2015)