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More to be done to get women into executive positions on boards, say recruiters

Thu, 27 Mar 2014 | By Sam Sachdeva
Good – but not good enough. That’s the message from recruiters and company directors speaking to Recruiter about the latest figures for female representation on company boards.

The third annual Women on Boards report, released yesterday [26 March], shows that women now account for 20.7% of board positions in the FTSE100 – up from 17.3% in 2013 and 12.5% in 2011.
However, the report also shows a large gap in the type of board positions going to women, with female directors accounting for 25.5% of non-executive directorships and only 6.9% of executive directorships.
Raj Tulsiani, chief executive at Green Park Interim and Executive Search, tells Recruiter the real battle is to improve female representation in executive positions, rather than on boards as a whole.
“I think a lot of this is old ground. If you look at the representation levels for non-executive directors on boards it is an improvement, but the question is, what business difference does it make? I think the debate has moved on.”
Tulsiani says companies should be focusing on nurturing and supporting strong female candidates for executive positions, rather than making outside appointments for non-executive directorships.

“Recycling women from one FTSE board to another does not create any advantage for businesses – what companies need to do is be creating a succession plan for full-time executives where numbers have dwindled.
“The real value that diversity brings to an organisation … can only be realised by looking at a consistent ‘build and buy’ strategy for talent based on business value. You can’t just buy expensive roof tiles at the top and expect the whole house to be happy.”

Tulsiani is sure the FTSE100 will meet the target of 25% representation by 2015, set by Lord Davies in his original review of the matter in 2011, but says there is much more left to do.

Karen Mattison MBE, co-founder of recruitment agency Timewise, says companies need “more women in the pipeline to senior executive roles” if they are to truly improve female representation at board level.

Karen Mattison: time for flexibility
Mattison, who founded the Women Like Us agency offering career support for women with children, says workplace flexibility for senior roles is a key part of attracting and retaining women and an issue that needs to be better communicated by recruiters.

“It is this flexibility that those senior women want, and it is having it that will keep them in the pipeline to the top.

“Many businesses are open to flexibility in senior roles for the best talent, they just don’t always state this at the point of recruitment.”

Professional Boards Forum UK director Jane Scott tells Recruiter she is confident that the 25% target will be met next year.

“I think the majority of new appointments will still be non-executives, so it shouldn’t be too hard to hit. I think it is good news, and we’ve got almost two years to get there.”
Scott says the growing gap between women in non-executive and executive positions is a “very complex” issue that will take time to resolve, but she believes companies are rising to meet the challenge.
“It’s not all to do with child-bearing and women leaving the workforce, it’s more complex than that and it will take some time to sort out.

“But what is heartening is how many companies are on the case and trying to create a great atmosphere in which women can thrive.”
Scott says the biggest challenge for those fighting for greater female representation is to ensure that complacency does not set in among companies and the public once the 25% target is met.
“Twenty-five per cent isn’t enough, and there’s no reason to stay there, but there is a danger next year that once we do hit that target, it just slips out of people’s minds.”
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50% of our Board are women – not by design, just the best talent rising to the top. However, it is extremely helpful to have a balance on the Board as it makes for better decision making. I am normally against targets for this type of thing but in this case I think it will benefit the wider economy through better decisions made at the top level.

Paul Farrer (27/03/2014 15:57:01)