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Hot topic: women on the board

It has been six months since the publication of Lord Davies’ report on women’s representation on FTSE 100 Boards, and the progress report published by Cranfield School of Management reported slow but significant progress. Women now make up 14.2% of FTSE 100 boards, up from the 12.5% historical high, but some boards are still 100% male.

The prime minister responded by writing to the FTSE 350 to encourage employers to promote more women to their boards – but is this the right tactic?

Ines Wichert, senior psychologist, Kenexa High Performance Institute

With more gender diversity comes an increase in the range of opinions, along with better decision-making, a better reflection of customer demographics and better financial results.

Improving the number of board women requires effort and one-off initiatives seldom achieve the effect. Action is needed from: the individual woman; the immediate work environment; and the organisation where addressing of gender bias plays a role.

Quotas may be what employers need to ensure gender diversity remains a priority. After 30 years of legislation, the number of women in senior roles is low and I doubt discretionary efforts alone are enough. Quotas will only work if we build a pipeline of talented women at all levels.

My research highlights the importance of women having stretching job assignments. These are a way for women to develop personally and as leaders, improving their promotability by showing senior decision-makers they are up to the top job.

David Frost, group HR director, Produce World Group

Lord Davies’ Report on women’s representation on FTSE 100 boards points the right direction for board composition, but I don’t think, however, it would be appropriate for the Government to implement quotas.

It is right in setting a direction to improve governance and corporate culture, but employers need freedom to operate in a competitive and economically challenging environment.

HR is in the driving seat to improve boardroom gender diversity through executive talent programmes, which develop future board members.

Organisations need a commitment to developing women and leadership programmes should elevate the skills and awareness for leaders in relation to supporting women to progress.

Flexible working enables staff to reduce barriers to taking on additional responsibility at work. With Government direction and HR leadership, the issue of women’s representation on boards will be advanced.