The news that nearly half of all first-time directors appointed at Britain’s top companies last year were women is a step forward for gender equality in business, but that figure must be exceeded to reach a truly level playing field.
This is the view of Beatrice Bartlay, Founder and Managing Director of staffing agency 2B Interface, in response to new research by Korn/Ferry Whitehead Mann revealing that 47 percent of first-time board appointments to FTSE 350 companies in 2012 were female.
Beatrice believes that the increase of appointments in the last year is a promising hint towards gender-balanced boards becoming the norm: “It has never been more important to ensure that there is equality in Britain’s top companies, to demonstrate that women in business are being taken seriously. But there is still a long way to go before true equality is achieved, whereby female representation on boards reaches 50 percent.
“Women already face increased barriers to the top than men through childcare costs and responsibilities and a lack of female role models. FTSE organisations in particular need to make a conscious effort to dispel inherent inequality, and the only way of doing this is by pushing forward with the initiative to bring more women onto boards, be that via quotas or other means,” she says. “These figures are encouraging, but firms must not become complacent about this issue, and allow it to be neglected once discussion has died down.
“Businesses need to think more broadly about the value a female perspective can bring to a company’s performance and profit margins. They must be rid of the negative attitudes surrounding the idea that a woman’s ability to do the job suffers if they also have a family. FTSE 100 firms must cast a wider net to bring in talent, and promote from within. Just a small change in attitude can go a long way to improving the diversity of a company.”