An article by Helen Pitcher
A stepping stone not a stopping point, is how I would describe the predicted appointment of a female to the last FTSE 100 all male Boardroom.
As highlighted in a recent article in the Evening Standard on 19th May by Jane Scott, UK Director of Professional Boards Forum, when Glencore/Xstrata appoints a female to its Board - which it is reported they are about to do - there will be a female in every FTSE 100 Boardroom. This is by no means a cause for complacency or indeed anywhere near the target of 25% females on FTSE 100 Board set by Lord Davies. There are 62 Companies in the FTSE 100 who still fall short of the 25% target, which indeed it could be argued is too low a target anyway, but is at least a step in the right direction.
Where this targeting has been effective in doing is to create a goal and momentum after years of inertia. It has also highlighted the deeper real issue of the executive pipeline for female talent in the organisation, which Lord Davies also articulated in his report.
We need the very best talent at the top and indeed throughout the organisation. The time has now come to focus the spotlight firmly on this area and take real and decisive action to shift the dial.
Consequently, the focus is now moving from the Non-Executive pipeline, although clearly there is more work to do, on to the Executive Pipeline. It is widely reported that only 7% of FTSE Executive roles are held by Women. There has been over the years a great deal of research into the issues which block women from reaching these upper echelons or indeed cause them to 'self-select and opt out'.
The rhetoric about the need to focus on and resolve this issue has been around since the 70's when legislation was brought in to combat Sex Discrimination and promote Equal Pay. Save for a few landmark cases this made little difference to the practice. Opportunity 2000 followed and failed to meet its targets so was renamed Opportunity Now! Indeed where I wrote my Master’s thesis in the early 80's on the Career Development of Women in Management these issues were clear yet little has changed since then.
The topic of women's progress and development has also swung in and out of vogue along with the economic cycle. One Senior Female recently bemoaned to me that in the latest round of redundancies a preponderance of those either selected or volunteering were women from within this talent pipeline.
So what needs to happen to break the chain of causation? How are Corporations going to populate this much needed Executive Pipeline? Various programmes and processes abound, as they have done for many years, but they appear to gain little traction.
We need the very best talent at the top and indeed throughout the organisation. The time has now come to focus the spotlight firmly on this area and take real and decisive action to shift the dial. The topic falls in the bailiwick of Executive responsibility but should be the focus of real scrutiny and oversight from the Board, as indeed should all Succession matters. The prosperity, creativity and innovation of Corporations depends on it.
And indeed we are seeing the Regulators taking a keener interest in the Board approach to Executive succession at a much deeper level, viewing the Board as the custodian of this key issue for the long term sustainability of the company.
It is only with a real focus from the Chairman and consequently the Board, similar to that given to the Non-Executive pipeline by such Captains of Industry as Franz Hummer, DIAGEO, Sir Philip Hampton RBS and Sir Roger Carr Centrica, to name but a few, that we will meet this real imperative and create a momentum for strategic sustainable change in the Executive pipeline.