A three-step action plan for encouraging companies to increase the number of women on their boards was agreed at the first seminar of campaign group the 30% Club this week.
The 30% Club’s inaugural seminar on Monday, entitled “Action beyond words”, ended with a commitment to get more chairmen of FTSE 100 and 250 companies to sign up to the 30% Club; to support the work executive search firms are doing to seek more female candidates for executive and non-executive positions; and to help investors see the business reasons for gender diversity.
Aimee Stebbing of Davenport Lyons law firm and a member of the 30% Club Steering Group said the seminar “left us all buoyant and encouraged by the momentum behind the 30% Club”.
The 30% Club aims to encourage UK companies to aim for at least 30% female representation on their boards by 2015.
The seminar was addressed by Sir Win Bischoff, chair of Lloyds Banking Group, and Sir Roger Carr, chair of Centrica, who spoke of the progress that has been made over the last three years or so on increasing gender diversity in Britain’s boardrooms.
They acknowledged, however, that there was much more work to be done, both on the part of FTSE company boards and executive search firms. Home Secretary Theresa May spoke of the strong business case for diversity and said the Government supported the aims of the 30% Club which, she stated, involved taking positive action rather than positive discrimination.
Sir Roger spoke of chairmen’s need to be ready to take risks on women who do not have previous board experience. Stebbings said the 30% Club wants “to support executive search firms who put women forward from ‘C’ level positions who do not yet have board experience as well as those women who already have been serving in boardrooms”.
The Club is drafting a response to the Financial Reporting Council consultation on the Stewardship Code for institutional investors to promote the business reasons for gender diversity.
It will set out good practice for institutional investors when engaging with the UK-listed companies in which they invest. Martin Gilbert, chief executive of Aberdeen Asset Management, told the seminar that once the fund managers and investors are on board, change will happen quickly.
The most recent published figures show that female representation on FTSE 100 company boards stands at only 12.5%, although this is thought to have risen significantly in the last year.