Gender balance reporting for listed firms broadens diversity debate

Government plans to make all listed companies report the number of women and men within the organisation, both overall and in senior roles, are a positive step towards boardroom equality because looking at boards alone is “not an accurate representation of the whole picture”.
Fri, 19 Oct 2012

Government plans to make all listed companies report the number of women and men within the organisation, both overall and in senior roles, are a positive step towards boardroom equality because looking at boards alone is “not an accurate representation of the whole picture”.

This is according to Jane Scott, the UK director of Professional Boards Forum, which works to increase gender diversity on boards.

Yesterday [18 October], the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills reported that under draft regulations, from next October all publically quoted companies would need to provide gender balance information to “allow investors to identify gender imbalances and help companies address talent blockages”, the department says.

Other simplifications and changes are included draft legislation, which business minister Jo Swinson says “will encourage companies to produce innovative and engaging reports, in line with current business best practice”. 

Scott says she welcomes the move because “a lot of reporting and interest has focused on the FTSE 100… it’s been difficult in the past to get hold of this [wider] information”.

In addition to throwing light on gender representation in a wider range of companies, this broader focus is needed because “looking at boards is important, but it’s not necessarily an accurate representation of the whole picture”.

Helena Morrissey, founder of the 30% Club – a group of chairmen voluntarily committed to bringing more women onto UK corporate boards, also sees the announcement in a positive light.

Morrissey, also chief executive of Newton Investment, comments: “There's been an epiphany in British business over the past two years around the issue of better gender balance at all levels, with most companies recognising this as an important business issue rather than a 'women's issue'.

“We continue to encourage a voluntary approach to a sustained change in business culture in this country, which fits with the UK's strong 'comply or explain' corporate governance code.”

A spokesperson for rail operator Network Rail tells Recruiter: “We believe that greater transparency from companies about the diversity of their workforces is a positive thing.

“Like other companies which have traditionally been male dominated, we are working hard to showcase the railway as a modern, technically driven industry that has a wide range of opportunities for both men and women and we encourage more diversity in our workforce.”

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