Despite the progress for women in business that appears to have been made, the Hampton-Alexander Review has shone a light on a truly ugly side of company leadership says Jacqueline Gold
Commissioned by the government, the Hampton-Alexander Review aims to increase opportunities women have to secure senior posts at work. It said “there should be an expectation in business that the selection process is based entirely on merit”. I wholeheartedly agree – we should always employ the best person for the job.
FTSE 100 companies look set to achieve the review’s target of women accounting for 33% of boards by 2020 but FTSE 350 companies are off track. Besides that, the fact is, no woman wants to be there to make up the numbers. It’s really sad but some leaders just fail to see the genuine benefit and talent women can bring, and have awfully outdated views. This doesn’t make any business sense, when there is compelling evidence that shows mixed gender boards outperform male-only boards.
For more women to take up their rightful place on the board, we must remove the barriers around flexible working and childcare to enable women with families to balance work and home life. We also need women at the top to demonstrate it’s okay to have children alongside a career and we need more men to take up shared parental leave – currently only 2% do. But frankly it’s a catch 22 – there just aren’t enough female role models and that’s because women aren’t always receiving the support or progression they deserve.
I was flabbergasted when I read some of the research from the Review. It revealed a list of reasons FTSE 350 companies don’t have women on boards, one of which said: “I don’t think women fit comfortably into the board environment”. My reply would be: “I don’t think you fit comfortably in a boardroom with women.” That man’s insecurity is transparent for all to see – we need to eliminate this boys’ club culture.
It’s so frustrating that we’re still having the same conversation around gender equality, as when I started in business 37 years ago. However, if women continue to support each other in their progress and reviews like this continue to shine a light on unacceptable behaviour, then I am confident we will see more women take up their rightful seat at the table in the future.