Despite the ‘compelling” business case for having more women on company boards the move towards gender equality in the boardroom has stalled.
Our Vital Topics panel debate on ‘Diversity at the top’ heard that there remained a complex and often contradictory array of reasons as to why more women did not hold senior management positions. For instance there are still only seven female CEOs in the FTSE 100 today.
Ann Francke, CEO of the Chartered Management Institute, said more diverse management teams achieved a number of things. “They produce better business results, give a significant boost to productivity, and outperform competitors. They also lead to better cultures within business and superior employee engagement, while de-risking decision-making.”
Yes despite these compelling reasons she said the drive to get more women in the boardroom was stuck. “We have a glass pyramid where women simply drop off.”
She said often there were cultural reasons. “Women get to a certain point within a business, look up and do not like what they see. They think to themselves ‘this does not fit with my life’ and they opt out. Their ambition also decreases as they gradually feel less supported by the business.”
Jill Rubery, Professor of Comparative Employment Systems at Alliance MBS, echoed the point, saying that the “horrendous issue” of working hours put many women off more senior management positions. “What does part-time even mean when full-time hours are so long? There is also the issue of lack of second chances. It can be very difficult for women to get back into full-time working and there is a huge amount of age discrimination. If a woman back pedals for a while or has not ‘made it’ by 40 she can be written off. This is a big issue.”
Prof Rubery said introducing quotas of women on boards may be necessary in the short-term to help change cultures. But Sally Penni, a barrister at Kenworthy’s Chambers in Manchester, was against quotas in the private sector. “I do not want to sit in a boardroom on a token basis as a black woman. If you had a 50% quota nothing will change. It is the culture that matters. Do all women want to get to the top of business? Well, they would at least like the option of getting there.”
Francke said recently introduced gender pay reporting legislation, whereby employers with 250 or more staff now have to publish statutory calculations every year showing the pay gap between their male and female employees, was a step in the right direction. “I actually have a lot of time for this as a macro level policy. At the micro level, companies that do not do anything about gender diversity will suffer reputational damage. The way forward to address these wider issues is transparency and targets, using the power of public opinion.”
She added that engaging middle-tier male managers to change their behaviours was another key element. “It is about teaching people how to inspire trust. One of the issues we have today is of the ‘accidental’ male manager. We need to train these managers to be transparent, admit mistakes, share thinking, be visible, and have conversations with the people they manage. It is about improving these softer skills.”
Andrew Saunders, Deputy Editor of Management Today, agreed. “There can be an unconscious bias at the top of business. When it comes to the crunch business leaders will use their instincts to build teams that simply look like successful teams. The system can be perpetuated.”
The debate was chaired by best-selling author and journalist Rachel Bridge.
Friday, May 26, 2017
Did you know starting a business is one of the main reasons for studying an MBA? Our Full-time MBA candidates have lots of opportunities to develop their entrepreneurship skills.
Friday, May 19, 2017
Although awareness of mental health issues has greatly increased in recent years, far more still needs to be done to tackle it in the workplace.
Thursday, May 11, 2017
Low-cost oil producers will start to question why there are rationing supplies and this will have “huge implications” for the oil market, said Spencer Dale, Group Chief Economist at BP. Addressing the annual BP lecture at Alliance MBS, Dale – a former chief economist at the Bank of England – said in no other industry could you have a country such as Saudi Arabia, where it costs just $10 to produce a barrel of oil, operating in the same market as a country like Canada where it costs $30 to $40.
Monday, May 1, 2017
The Financial Times’ new ranking of Top MBAs for Finance sees Alliance Manchester Business School ranked 29th in the world and positioned as 5th in the UK and 10th in Europe.
Wednesday, April 26, 2017
One of the world’s leading university ranking groups, QS (Quacquarelli Symonds), has today ranked Alliance Manchester Business School’s Global MBA as 5th in the world.
Tuesday, April 11, 2017
Charities, businesses and community groups across the world will be able to streamline and improve their response to emergencies and disasters, thanks to a new International Standard initiated at Alliance Manchester Business School.
Monday, April 10, 2017
The opportunities and threats posed by machine learning were debated during a lecture by serial entrepreneur Hermann Hauser at Alliance MBS.
She’s got the power – ethical energy boss scoops outstanding entrepreneur award this International Women’s Day
Thursday, March 9, 2017
Innovative energy boss and MBA Class of 2016 Class President Cheryl Latham has scooped the ‘Outstanding Entrepreneur’ gong at this year’s Northern Power Women awards.