Governance Watch - Issue 47

by Dina Medland in London

Diversity:  Gender, BAME and Power

Men in Britain might be playing up achievements in appointing women to positions of power, responsibility and leadership in business boardrooms and beyond, but most women will tell you (at least privately), that they think very little has changed in terms of the barriers to gender diversity.

This week the UK-government backed Hampton-Alexander review published its latest statistics on FTSE Women Leaders . As Inga Beale put it: “it feels as though we took two steps forwards, and are now taking one back.”

We can call out the best and the worst, and we can talk about “everyday sexism” as well as the need for male sponsors, and role models, and women learning to ‘lean in’ and behave more like men in just asking for roles… and the list goes on. Especially when it comes to changing the women to fit in. But even that would not achieve diversity.

Perhaps change does not happen because it is about hanging on to entrenched male power.

There are appointments every now and again that we note, and there were two this week. At the Royal Bank of Scotland, Alison Rose was appointed deputy head of ring-fenced bank Natwest Holdings, “signalling her position as the leading internal candidate to succeed group chief executive Ross McEwan” according to the Financial Times. It also covered the appointment of Susanna Dinnage as the first female chief executive of the Premier League. But we notice the appointments because of their rarity – and the pipeline for women in leadership remains sparse.

Another report on diversity in British business out this week from Inclusive Boards is uncomfortable reading.

Its findings show a significant lack of senior women across the tech sector, the one that is expected to be instrumental in powering the UK into The Fourth Industrial Revolution.  Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) leaders are also underrepresented here, compared to the BAME wider population.

As coverage in The Guardian suggests, the lack of diversity makes no sense at all, as variety is key here at board level.

“Board members and senior executives in the top tech firms were much more likely than the wider population to have attended Oxford or Cambridge Universities. More than a third (35%) of board members and over a quarter (26%) of senior executives in the top tech firms attended Oxford or Cambridge (Oxbridge) universities compared to less than 1% of the population” according to the Inclusive Boards report.

The snapshot we are getting on diversity in all senses in Britain suggests systematic exclusion.

Executive Pay

Concerns about executive pay have risen on the corporate governance agenda all over Europe, according to the latest analysis of the 2018 AGM season from Georgeson, the shareholder engagement and governance consultancy.

It says that this year at least one in 10 shareholders opposed pay report resolutions at 53 % of annual meetings in Italy, up by 20% compared with 2017. In the FTSE 100 index of the UK’s biggest companies, challenges were up 39%.

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