Gender inequality highly prevelent in SET firms

Posted on 24 Feb 2011 by The Manufacturer

Science engineering and technology companies have been cited among the worst offenders for board level gender inequality in the wake of a new government report.

The release of a new report on gender equality in British boardrooms has shown that UK FTSE 100 listed companies are failing to be pro-active in gaining a better balance of man and women in their most senior positions. Lord Davies of Abersoch commented today, at the launch of the report that such organisations ought to be aiming for a minimum 25% increase the number of women on their boards by 2015.

Going on to address gender balance in the FTSE 350, Lord Davies said that these organisations also ought to be setting themselves challenging targets. Lord Davies stated that he was optimistic about the potential of British companies to show ingenuity and sensitivity in meeting these expectations and suggested that many might find they surpassed their goals once pro-active initiatives were put in place and given a high level of strategic support.

Today’s report includes evidence gathered over a review period dating back to August 2010 when Lord Davies was commissioned by the government to investigate what the barriers exist to increasing the number of women on the boards of UK. Outcomes from the report suggest that more needs to be in terms of setting formal targets for the promotion of more talented women into top jobs as informal statements in support of the idea have not reaped sufficient results.

Lord Davies of Abersoch, said: “Over the past 25 years the number of women in full-time employment has increased by more than a third and there have been many steps towards gender equality in the workplace, with flexible working and the Equal Pay Act, however, there is still a long way to go. Currently 18 FTSE 100 companies have no female directors at all and nearly half of all FTSE 250 companies do not have a woman in the boardroom. Radical change is needed in the mindset of the business community if we are to implement the scale of change that is needed.

“This is not about aiming for a specific figure and is not just about promoting equal opportunities but it is about improving business performance. There is growing evidence to show that diverse boards are better boards, delivering financial out-performance and stock market growth.

Responding to today’s report Annette Williams, Director of the UKRC, the leading national organisation for the provision of advice, and policy consultation regarding the under-representation of women in science, engineering, technology (SET) said: .The UKRC has just launched a Good Practice Guide on encouraging women into leadership which sets out the reasons why employers in SET will benefit from encouraging women into managerial and senior roles in their organisations. The new Guide outlines the obstacles that can prevent women from progressing, and illustrates effective ways to overcome them.

The publication of the Davies report reflects a growing consensus that the lack of women at the top of UK business is counter-productive and needs to be addressed. Lord Davies’ recommendations now present a clear challenge and call for action to Chairs and Chief Executives to improve the diversity of their boards. The UKRC believes that setting and monitoring voluntary targets should accelerate progress, but will require firm government commitment to drive and sustain momentum.

“The Davies report highlights the pace of change is too slow and the UKRC is keen to point out that this is particularly true of science, engineering and technology companies, sectors that the government believes will drive the UK’s future economic success.”

Statistics from UKRC reveal that women account for only 10.7% of the directorships in SET FTSE 100 companies compared to 14.7% for the non-SET companies. Furthermore almost 30% of the SET companies in the FTSE 100 have no female directors on their boards at all, compared to 9% of the non-SET companies.

Williams continues: “Our research and experience supports the view of the Davies report that the issue is partly one of supply, but also demand. Organisations must recognise that the lack of women at senior levels can only be addressed if they have suitable talent retention strategies, to enable them to retain potential leaders further down their hierarchies.

To read the Davies Report and see a summary of the recommendations to employers click here.