It has been 100 years since some women won the right to vote, but the battle for equality wages on! Although awareness of the issues has increased, inequality in business still persists in a number of areas, including board representation.
The Government recognises underrepresentation of women in boardrooms is an issue but rather than enforcing legislative changes, it is instead seeking voluntary cooperation and change from businesses.
In 2010 it invited Lord Davies, then Minister of State for Trade, Investment and Small Business, to carry out an independent review into the matter with the aim of pushing the issue of gender equality forward and promoting the cause amongst UK companies.
Following his review, Lord Davies recommended voluntary targets for female representation on corporate boards in the FTSE 350 and this has had a positive impact.
In 2010 women only made up 12.5% of the members of corporate boards of the FTSE 100. Now women represent around a quarter of members on boards in the FTSE 350.
The aim going forward is for at least 33% of FTSE 350 board members to be female by 2020. 82 companies have already achieved that goal.
How does this impact your business?
Although the reports focus on the UK’s largest companies, the concepts are applicable to companies of all sizes and in all industries.
Businesses often express concerns that adopting quotas, even voluntary ones, may lead to tokenism and equality for the sake of equality; however, the abovementioned report has also shown that companies with women on the board perform better. Whilst appointments should be based on merit, businesses should appreciate the great advantages in having people with different skills, experiences and outlooks contributing towards decision-making.
Companies can begin by identifying where their own strengths and weaknesses lie in terms of workplace diversity and take steps towards improving their make-up by looking at training and development programmes, management training and considering the breadth of the talent pool from which they are recruiting.
It is important to highlight that these principles extend beyond gender equality. In a new independent Government report, the Parker Review Committee has recently recommended that each FTSE 100 board should have at least one BME director by 2021, with FTSE 250 companies meeting this requirement by 2024.
Remember, variety is the spice of life!
If you have any employment law queries in relation to the issues mentioned in this blog please contact Emma McLoughlin or your usual Morrisons’ adviser.