Ninety per cent of senior corporate directors believe that UK corporates are failing to do enough to promote women onto boards, yet 95% are opposed to the imposition of female quotas, according to a recent survey conducted by Heartwood, the wealth and investment manager.
The survey, which took place at a panel event hosted by Lord Mervyn Davies that discussed UK board representation and the role of non executive directors, shows there is unanimous agreement that women are currently under-represented in UK boardrooms. The biggest obstacles to improvement are felt to be management perceptions of gender roles, cited by 43% of respondents, and family commitments (cited by 32%).
When asked about the single most helpful measure that would increase the representation of women on boards, the top three elements that senior directors pointed to were a more diverse pool of candidates, a focus on flexible working conditions and more female role models.
Lord Mervyn Davies CBE said: “The absence of female representation on UK boards has been a huge lost opportunity and it’s vital that companies redress the gender imbalance. However, we have seen major signs of progress in the last 18 months: 45% of those joining UK boards have been women, and in 50% of cases this is their first appointment. But more needs to be done in order for women to feel confident that they can earn a place on a board. I believe the introduction of quotas would be a big mistake, but we have to maintain the drive for change as there are still far too many companies with very few or no women at the top table.”
Simon Lough, Chief Executive Officer of Heartwood, added: “It’s encouraging to see that attitudes towards female board representation are changing, and exchanging ideas on how the current obstacles can be overcome plays a key role in expediting this process. UK boardrooms need to change with the times – a more diverse boardroom creates a more rounded and innovative management process.”