Proposals announced on increasing number of board level women

Companies may be required to report on their progress to get more women into the boardroom, under proposals announced by the Government today.

Companies may be required to report on their progress to get more women into the boardroom, under proposals announced by the Government today.
It comes as new research shows that sixty per cent of people think there are not enough women directors in big businesses. The survey, commissioned by the Government Equalities Office for International Women’s Day,  shows that half believe there will be equal numbers of men and women directors within the next 20 years. However, the Government believes the reality is that it will take 60 years for women to gain equal representation on the boards of top 100 companies at the current rate of progress.
The Government has asked the Financial Reporting Council to consider including a new principle in its code of conduct to require firms to report on what they’re doing to increase the number of women in senior management positions. This builds on the Equality Bill which will allow companies to choose to use positive action to appoint more women to senior roles.
Other findings from the survey include:
– A clear majority (80%) think a balanced senior management team will be better at understanding their customers.
– Nearly two thirds (61%) believe businesses are losing out on talent by having fewer women in senior roles.
– More than three quarters (78%) disagree that, because men have more experience in senior management than women, men are better at running companies.
– Nearly three quarters (72%) think it is important that women and men should have an equal say in the business decisions over how the British economy is run.
– More than half (55%) think both men and women should share decisions in the finance sector which affect the economy. Only 7% think decisions should be left just to men.
– 71% believe having more women on senior management teams will lead to more family friendly working practices.
– More than half (59%) think that having senior management teams of all one sex will be more likely to think in the same way (‘groupthink’).
– Just under half (43%) think there should be an equal balance of both men and women in investment banking.
The Prime Minister Gordon Brown hosted a business breakfast at Downing Street with leading women in business, to mark International Women’s Day and to  discuss the opportunities and challenges facing women’s leadership in business and enterprise.
Brown said:"We all recognise the value of strong role models for women in all walks of life – and there are many in politics, the arts, public services, sport and the third sector.
But there are too few in Britain’s boardrooms. When more than half of graduates are women, it is completely unacceptable that some of our top 100 companies have not a single woman on their boards – and that none at all have a majority of women on their boards.”
He warned: “If we do not see a dramatic change in the composition of company boards in the future, we will need to consider taking more serious action to ensure that companies recruit from the diverse pool of exceptional talent we have in the UK.”
Harriet Harman, Minister Women and Equalities, said:"Britain needs more women in the boardroom. This survey shows that the public want a quicker pace of change. Government is playing its part, but firms need to play their part to.
"Too many British boardrooms are still no-go areas for women. Women are important consumers and employees. We’ll never get a proper meritocracy or truly family-friendly workplaces from male dominated boards.
"Businesses that run on the basis of an old boy network and do not draw on the talents of all the population will not be the ones that flourish and prosper in the 21st century."
Currently, only one in ten FTSE board directors are women, and 25 firms have no women on them at all. Women continue to be under-represented at board level despite having the right education and experience they need to succeed, and are deterred from applying due to corporate boards being dominated by “old boys’ networks”.
Steps the Government is taking to support women in business include:
The Equality and Human Rights Commission is producing recommendations shortly on how to further tackle sex discrimination in the finance sector, following an inquiry last year that found only one tenth (11%) of senior managers were women.

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