The title Busy Going Nowhere with the Female Executive Pipeline says it all. The Female FTSE Board Report for 2018 has just been published.

Here are my headlines:

Go-go-go: we need to speed up gender diversity

Sir Adrian Montague CBE, Chairman of Aviva, sponsors of this year’s Report, is right on the button in pointing out that gender diversity is not only important to individual businesses, but also for society. Brexit or not, the economy needs to benefit from the contributions of highly qualified and capable women as well as men. He points out that whilst the FTSE 100  are moving forward, the FTSE 250 are lagging behind and exhorts companies to ‘do more, and do it faster’. Director-General of the CBI, Carolyn Fairbairn, concurs ‘it’s not happening fast enough … the evidence is crystal clear – diverse and inclusive boards are more effective and make better decisions’.

Women leaders at all levels will get women to the top

Roger Whiteside, CEO of Greggs and Member of the Women’s Business Council, goes on to acknowledge the financial benefits and adds the ‘clear social and ethical imperative’ of equal representation of women and men at senior levels. He draws attention to healthcare giant, GlaxoSmithKline, where almost half of all management positions are filled by women so that an effective pipeline exists and is already delivering: The Board is 45% female and the gender pay gap only 2.8%.

I’ll drink to that – now let’s get real about executive power

Top of the tree is Diageo, the alcohol beverage company, with 55% women on the Board. A full one-third of the FTSE 100 have already hit the 2020 target of 33% – so it is possible!  My personal beef has always been that companies make their numbers by appointing women to Non Executive Directorships (NEDs) rather than executive roles and this is still a problem, with only 9.7% female executive directorships in the FTSE 100 and in the FTSE 250 they are even more sparse at 6.4%!

Quietly taking charge

For the first time, the board report identifies the number of Senior Independent Directors (SIDs) and Chairs of Committees. Women are making their mark in both of these categories with almost a quarter of committees now being chaired by women.

Time for the FTSE 250 to wake up!

In the FTSE 250, the situation is ‘woeful’ with a 0.9% rise in the last year to 23.7% of total directorships held by women and those holding executive directorships fell to 6.4% this year! If the 250 is a pipeline for the 100, then don’t hold your breath!

The way we do things round here’ is outdated and no longer fit for purpose

So far 2018 has been a good year for women being heard and being valued in society as a whole. What’s going wrong in the workplace? The report digs deeper into the possible explanations and the different mind-sets that are held by men and women about the reasons for it. Here are a few:

  • Gender diversity is not a high priority.
  •  Women’s careers are not supported with genuine development opportunities.
  • Bosses, mentors, sponsors and coaches are not nurturing women as aspiring leaders nor validating them in leadership roles in the same way that they do men.
  •  There is an insufficiently collaborative culture in many organisations to create a supportive environment for diversity of any sort to flourish.
  •  Women tend only to feel confident if they’re competent – not easy when faced with a broader role for which they have no direct experience or support.

What’s your view?


Follow this link for the full story

Download the Report, The 100 Women to Watch, and video clip of lead author, Professor Sue Vinnicombe CBE.


Dr Jacquie Drake is Founder of and Editor of the cool-leadership newsletter.

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