“Today’s announcement that we’ve reached female board representation targets in the FTSE 100 is great news and a historical moment for the UK workforce. It’s important to keep the momentum going - a very small number of women make up these figures so companies could quickly lose gains. Lord Davies’ suggestion of increasing the voluntary target for women on boards to at least 33% by 2020 and expand to the FTSE 350, is therefore a welcome next step. The long term goal shouldn’t be anything but 50%, and we’ve seen plenty of support in the HR profession for this, but it’s about the steady, effective process in which it’s achieved.

“However, the bad news today is that the proportion of female executive directors remains below 10%, with just eight more women in those positions across FTSE 100 companies since 2011. Non-executive directors cannot change the culture of organisations on their own. All efforts so far towards achieving gender diversity will be for nothing if organisations don’t understand how crucial the visibility of female executive directors – those actively involved in the day-to-day decision-making and strategy creation – is to make a real, long-lasting difference. We’re pleased to see a focus on executive directors in Lord Davies’ long term aims, but what gets measured gets managed so we’re urging the Government to introduce a separate, voluntary target for female executive directors at FTSE 100 firms of at least 20% by 2020.

“For now, employers now need to take up the gauntlet and turbo charge their plans for sustainable, long term change in their organisations. This is particularly crucial for those yet to take part – they need to be in catch-up mode, learning from the experience of those who’ve been pioneers in the space, before they fall behind their competitors.”

3 key steps for encouraging gender diversity:

  1. Build a strong, internal talent pipeline. Women should be able to earn their way to the top in the same way as men, but employers need to remove the barriers that stop them from getting there. This involves monitoring the gender profile of the entire workforce and understanding what those obstacles are, in order to create clear channels which allow women to reach the top. 
  2. Invest in the development of the talent you already have. Gender diversity makes good business sense, as women bring different perspectives and experiences, and evidence shows that companies with balanced boards often outperform male-dominated competitors. Organisations therefore need to accept gender diversity as part of their long-term business strategy and implement initiatives such as ‘Think, Act, Report’ in order to encourage women already in the workforce to progress to these positions.
  3. Don’t fix women, fix the culture. Boardroom diversity is not a numbers game and leadership is wider than gender. Organisations need to have the long-term aim of fixing their culture to make it more open and inclusive, rather than expecting women to adapt and fit in. That way, you’re showing that everyone can be a leader, whatever level they’re at and whatever their personal identity. This supportive and inclusive culture will be crucial as diversity broadens out and we move further into the twenty-first century.

More information about the CIPD's research on Diversity & Inclusion


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