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.
Alliance Manchester Business School and Bruntwood celebrate significant step in campus redevelopment
Wednesday, July 19, 2017
MANCHESTER, 19 JULY, 2017 – Luminaries and leadership figures from Alliance Manchester Business School, Bruntwood and partners gathered on site at the hugely improved campus last night to celebrate a significant step forward in its redevelopment.
Alliance Manchester Business School and The University of Birmingham award 1000th MSc in Healthcare Leadership on behalf of NHS Leadership Academy
Friday, July 14, 2017
1,000th Masters in Healthcare Leadership is awarded on its flagship Elizabeth Garrett Anderson (EGA) programme.
Monday, July 10, 2017
Alliance Manchester Business School has been awarded £9.7 million by HEFCE
Monday, July 3, 2017
Calls for private arbitration to avoid delays to transport projects
Monday, July 3, 2017
Alliance Manchester Business School has today been placed 30th in the world in the Financial Times’ Top MBAs for Entrepreneurship ranking.
Tuesday, June 27, 2017
Developing robust accounting metrics and management accounting systems will be crucial as companies adapt to today’s huge environmental and technological challenges.
Thursday, June 22, 2017
The challenges of running a business today were laid bare during our Vital Topics series this year as we touched on a number of key boardroom issues, Alliance MBS also hosted a number of other lectures through the year on subjects ranging from machine learning to inter-generational tensions.
Wednesday, June 14, 2017
By Jonatan Pinkse, Professor of Strategy, Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Alliance Manchester Business School
Wednesday, June 14, 2017
The full extent of social and economic inequalities across Greater Manchester – and between the city and the rest of the UK - have been laid bare in a major study.