The 2012/05/02 at 05:30
Stéphanie Salti, in London
The headlines of British papers often highlight the success stories of Angela Ahrendts, CEO of the luxury brand Burberry, or Carolyn McCall, Chief Executive of the low-cost airline Easyjet. These working women at the summits of their respective companies are still in the minority in the landscape of major British companies. So much so that the country commissioned, one year ago, a report from the former Minister for Trade, Lord Davies, to draw up an assessment of the representation of women in boards of directors.
As their presence was no more than 12.5% in the 100 largest indexed British companies (FTSE 100), Lord Davies recommended that the proportion of women be brought up to a minimum of 25% by 2015. These weak figures were partially explained by recruitment methods in boards: 50% were recruited by common friends and only 4% by recruitment interviews. Ultimately, no more than 1% of these positions were filled via ads in the press!
One year after the publication of this report, improvements have already been recorded: a report published at the start of the year by the University of Cranfield points out that the proportion of women in boards of directors has progressed from 12.5% to 15.6% in the space of one year; out of the 180 recruitments onto boards of directors of FTSE 100 companies, 47 positions were obtained by women.
“The debate should also be broadened to SMEs, which make up 99% of the private sector. We do not know if diversity is an issue in SMEs, or what support they need,” puts forward Liz Field, CEO of the Financial Skills Partnerhsip, an organisation in charge of skills in the financial services. “There should be more investigation and research into what SMEs are doing in terms of diversity in order to develop a clearer picture.”
In the meantime, the British Prime Minister has decided to concentrate on the sector’s giants, introducing quotas to such companies. At a summit in Stockholm at the start of the year, aimed at examining Norwegian and Icelandic policies on quotas, David Cameron underlined Great Britain’s incapacity to exploit the potential of women as entrepreneurs, and warned about the consequences – an attitude that, in the long term, may damage the whole of the economy.
A whitepaper was also presented on this occasion, indicating that if the number of female entrepreneurs reached the same levels as in the United States, there would be 600,000 more companies headed by women, which would allow a further 42 billion pounds to be injected into the economy.