Tag Archives: Women on Boards

The gender pay gap in 2015

career_ladderPaying people unequally for equal or similar work has been illegal for over 40 years yet we still hear excuses for gender pay gaps.

We’re told this represents the difference between men and women’s average salaries, reflecting the types of jobs women ‘tend’ to enter & the levels of seniority they reach.

But I wonder if women would ‘tend’ to enter these types of jobs as much if they were given a better choice, or if more men took on more family responsibilities?

Where we’re at in 2015

Minister for Women and Equalities Nicky Morgan reminds us that…

“100 years on from the Suffragette movement, we still don’t have gender equality in every aspect of our society.”

And Chief Executive Officer of the Chartered Management Institute Ann Francke said:

“One of the biggest drivers of gender pay discrepancy, especially at senior levels, is the bonus gap. Bonuses are also where gender bias can creep in easily as they are amongst the least transparent forms of pay.

There’s a tendency to reward those in our own image or to think that because men may be the ‘main breadwinners’ they deserve higher bonuses. And men often negotiate harder or trumpet their achievements more readily.”

Let’s look at this Government’s record…

The government can legitimately claim credit for
+ hitting the female Director target of 25 per cent (FTSE 100 companies)
+ more women-led businesses than ever before
+ increasing the number of majority women-led SMEs to around 1 million (20%) in 2014, by some 170,000 from 2010
+ virtually eliminating the gender pay gap among full-time workers under 40
+ some 233,000 women starting an apprenticeship
+ giving 285,000 couples per year access to shared parental leave
+ introducing 30 hours of free childcare
+ giving 20.6 million employees the ability to benefit from flexible working
+ rolling out a new careers service showing schoolgirls that no profession is off limits

New Measures to eliminate the Gender Pay Gap

In July, the Prime Minister announced plans to end the gender pay gap in a generation and the government is now pledging to:
+ force larger employers to publish information about any bonuses as part of their gender pay gap reporting
+ extend gender pay gap reporting beyond private and voluntary sector employers to include the public sector
+ eliminate all single gender Boards in the FTSE 350

We await new regulations addressing these areas following a recent consultation asking employers and employees to say how, when and where this data should be published.

Women On Boards progress

Earlier this year, the UK hit the 25% target for Women on Boards set by Lord Davies and supported by the government back in 2011.

Lord Davies is now preparing to release his final report on women on boards, which will outline his recommendations.

We’d like this to recommend fifty:fifty for our gender ambition, recognising that Female Executive Directors are the preferred way forward as they are more likely to be full time employees, informed by, and therefore able to influence internal business culture, whereas NEDs are usually temporary and part time appointments without that inside knowledge or experience.

Yes we’re clearly on the right track now but we’ve still got a long way to go before women can feel fairly represented in all areas. Including politics of course.

NB: The new Women’s Equality Party is taking on BIG issues with women’s best interests at heart. You can find out more here and if you feel strongly, as I do, that women need their own representation please join #WE to nudge female progress along in all areas.


The female Executive versus Non Executive Director choice

NEDS-TABLE-Short_580Given a choice of methods to meet gender targets which tactic would be quicker/easier for existing mainly male Boards to recruit more women to the Boardroom would you think?

You could EITHER invest in skilled, qualified and previously groomed senior females from within the organisation with a view to their long term future as a Director, making a genuine commitment to gender diversity…

OR you could talk to a recruitment specialist to find/appoint a Non Executive female Director with the specific functional skills you need.

Given that choice I’d plump for the first scenario as this will create female role models and represent career progression for ambitious women in future, making the business stand out as a female employer of choice.

But if an employer hasn’t looked at or wanted to create a female talent pipeline in-house, how likely are they to have suitable females ready and waiting here? Whereas it’ll be easier to go to the right executive agency, give them a recruitment brief and await an often serial NED to tick the gender target box with the right experience to boot.

For a contracted period of c3 years which mightn’t be too disastrous if it doesn’t work out and someone who doesn’t get ‘too’ involved in day to day business affairs?

Are NEDs the easy Board choice?

Call me cynical but isn’t it easier to meet mandatory gender targets by recruiting female NEDs rather than having to completely change an internal culture, especially if there hasn’t been any effort to court females to the highest echelons previously?

I am reminded of a recent occasion when I was in touch with a CEO of a top dealership group in the motor industry, discussing how to promote his group to women customers in future. ‘Of course we are female friendly’ he explained ‘we have several women in senior management roles.’ He then rescheduled my meeting with him, because he was too busy, so I met the senior and impressive females in question. After a good deal of polite but time wasting banter for us all one of them finally told me the truth – that neither of them could recommend the business as female friendly. And who better to know, but clearly the Board and the CEO were oblivious to the perceived reality of their internal culture.

Today’s Cranfield report

exec roles_nov13

A new report from Cranfield today confirms that the  UK’S biggest FTSE-listed firms are making ‘steady progress’ towards hitting 2015 targets to increase the number of women in their boardrooms. But, surprise, surprise, few are hiring women for executive roles, according to new figures released this morning.

Women now make up 19 per cent of FTSE 100 and 15 per cent of FTSE 250 board positions – the highest proportion since the survey began in 1999. And during the last six months since the statistics were last updated, 27 per cent of new appointments to FTSE 100 boards and 30 per cent to FTSE 250 boards went to women.

But though 33 new executives joined the ranks of the top 100 firm’s boards in the year to 1 October, just four of those appointments were female, with women still more likely to land non-executive (NED) roles.

The way forward for non-FTSE businesses?

I find it hard to believe that a genuinely enlightened CEO/MD/Chair wouldn’t appreciate that an all male Board has been selected from just 50% of the talent out there. Or fewer if you take into account the growing number of women graduates. Wouldn’t he want his business to be run by the very best candidates including those that can act as role models in future?

So, bearing in mind the reality in so many all male yet caring Boardrooms (but who don’t know how best to make the right gender decisions here) perhaps the short term and more feasible Board strategy could be to bring in female NEDs as a short term fix, with the specific mandate to identify and nurture future female Executive Director talent from within the organisation.

The Board could then have this as their stated medium term strategy and publish this in their annual report. An open, transparent, honourable, realistic, scheduled and truly measurable strategy that many women would recognise and appreciate as a reasonable way forward…

Before the EU might make them do this in 2020 anyway.

Steph Savill


Should women leaders be more like men?

Women-as-LeadersThe Telegraph published a thought provoking article about women as business leaders yesterday.

On the one side we’re described as humourless, some of us are more aggressive than the most ambitious men, we’re too emotional and so on.

But don’t put us all into the same camp says BBC Apprentice’s Katie Hopkins who admits to hating other women’s successes, preferring to work for a rational male and not caring a jot for people’s feelings, simply shareholder returns.

With both these viewpoints on the table, it’s clear to me that too many women haven’t been prepared for leadership roles and that ambitious wannabe Queen Bees think the only way up is by outbloking the men in their sights…

A waste of business time

I know how this feels because I’ve been there myself. In my 30s I was a Board Director for travel divisions of Granada, Mecca and Rank organisations and whilst travel was never the male dominated bastion the motor industry is today I still fought my way up. With the benefit of hindsight I definitely subscribed to the Katie Hopkins school of business thinking, more than than the Karren Brady one I now much prefer.

My eyes were finally opened when a fellow Director complimented me on a job well done by saying ‘You can consider yourself an honorary bloke Steph’ expecting me to be pleased by that.

That’s when the penny dropped that you can’t odds gender. Try as hard as you like, a man can’t be a woman and vice versa. So why was I bothering to be like a man and why are men trying to be like women when it comes to unleashing their sentimental sides…

I don’t know the answer to that other than to say we’re all flogging a dead horse if we can imagine we can be something we aren’t. So why not spend time understanding ourselves, letting the real ‘me’ rise to the surface, and let’s learn to live with it warts and all…

Gender roles in business

Observe a healthy business team working well together. Men bring logic and women bring emotional intelligence, encouraging team participation. It’s a bit like a strong marriage, assuming you pick the right men and women. It should be a partnership that complements each other’s talents hence the need for men and women to work together in healthy Boardrooms exerting that influence throughout their business. And there is evidence that this approach produces greater profits and shareholder value.

But sadly women don’t always fit in to the man’s world at the top and I can understand why those who are willing to fight their way to the top may feel the need to fend off female competition in that struggle… Having reached their goal, many women find themselves out of their depth because they don’t understand the male rules and chances are they don’t talk corporate male speak either.

NB: This is rarely a problem where a male CEO is enlightened, determined to listen, understand, appreciate and advance the female business cause.

Again, I have been a Non Executive Director too and despite my previous Executive Board experience I didn’t find this a rewarding role at the time. Was this my fault? I don’t think so although I’m not blaming anyone else. The reality is, as always, where an all male Board is a happy ship why would they feel the need to question that status quo especially if this meant learning female speak in the process? They simply didn’t see or feel the need to adapt in any way and I couldn’t speak their language to make my case heard.

So whose fault is it?

If some women leaders aren’t popular, don’t have a sense of humour, are scaring their female and male business peers as well as letting down their female successors they can expect to be shot down in flames… but it just mightn’t be their fault.

As always, the health of a business is best read at the very top. No really good CEO will want to ignore 50% of the best talent that might come their Board’s way in future. If female quotas become obligatory, I would be very surprised if a good male CEO wasn’t ahead of the pack having previously selected the best females for his team.

But there are other sorts of CEOs who mightn’t be at all willing or able to make a smooth transition from an all male Board to a gender balanced Board. And, sure as eggs are eggs, even the most talented and hard-working women will struggle to demonstrate their contribution in this situation.

The missing link

And the missing link in all this is surely the lack of training about gender issues in our business world.

1 Male CEOs need to be helped to understand what the best women can bring to the Board, how to maximise female talent when women reach Board level and why a healthy female pipeline is a source of considerable envy and competitive advantage with a view to the future.

2 Male and female Directors need training about the best ways to work together…

3 Male and female Managers need training to understand that what the business needs is their cooperation, natural talents and personalities – not them trying to be people they aren’t and unpleasant ones at that.

And herein lies the rub. If employers can’t make nice employees out of unpleasant ones, no matter how talented and profitable they might promise to be, I for one would have no place for them in any business I run.

But worst of all are those women who can’t support other women for they have no heart and therefore no place in mine. Thank goodness I learned this lesson before it was too late to make a difference for others…


“There is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women”
Madeleine Albright, Former US Secretary of State

Finally this is the article that triggered this blog…http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/womens-business/10237722/Are-women-really-such-awful-bosses.html

Dragons Den Devey and Diversity

Last night Dragons Den’s Hilary Devey aired some fascinating gender issues in a BBC programme called ‘Women At The Top’

What impressed me most was that she started out thinking that the status quo was a female choice but she soon changed her mind faced with clear evidence that a 50:50 gender balance (in her own company) was more profitable for the employer and probably a happier place to work. All this and to be told by gender consultant Avivah Wittenberg-Cox that she’d used her female strengths to benefit her business running her ship her way or else!

Of course real life isn’t an ideal world in any male dominated industry like Hilary’s logistics one and we’re much the same in the motor industry. A few feisty females in top Board positions but we’d probably struggle to make 5% let alone 50% as an industry average for Female Board Directors overall. Having said that I do think things are getting better in a few female friendly working environments, especially at middle management and in customer service roles.

Queen Bee by nature or nurture?

Undoubtedly Hilary is a Queen Bee in her business and industry. She knows she has brought fame and fortune to her business by virtue of her gender and talents but she doesn’t promote that when advertising for staff. I think she’ll change this now because if she would like to recruit the best person for the job, this means including females, and women like to see ‘women like them’ (or women to aspire to be) in their employer of choice. This is a lesson other male dominated businesses should address where they can, as well as promoting other female friendly credentials to potential recruits.

It isn’t good enough in my book for high flying females in male dominated industries to say ‘I haven’t found any discrimination in my career’ when it’s obvious that it exists all around them when they look. What they should be asking themselves is ‘what have I done to make this business a more female friendly place for others to follow in my wake?’

The way I see it, female Board members, no matter the industry they work in, need to represent the best interests of their customers (a likely 50:50 male:female split) and to get customer services right they must address their needs and expectations. This often means influencing the culture of a business from within especially if it is such a male dominated one as in the motor industry. Clearly the business case suggests that diversity needs to be a top level strategic objective for Boards; I have yet to find it to be so in the motor industry.

Is it worth the journey to the top?

Women who read this and who work in a naturally female friendly industry like fashion, health and beauty, won’t get this or appreciate the different business culture in a male dominated industry. This is where women have to fight to get to the top, often by being more blokey than the men they are competing with. But they shouldn’t have to do either; their talents should be nurtured, recognised and appreciated. But nurturing, recognition and appreciation aren’t natural male jargon whereas ‘demanding’, ‘relentless’ and ‘gravitas’ are the more likely terminology, as the financial recruitment adverts discussed in the programme illustrated. The ideal recruit clearly was a man!

But when she finally gets to her Board Nirvana, that’s when the fun and games can start, especially if she is the first female there. She doesn’t think like a man and if she’s there to be make up the numbers she won’t be listened to when she has a different point of view. In such instances she won’t last the course and she’ll consider herself a failure whereas it probably isn’t her fault. And the male status quo merchants will nod wisely because they always knew a man would have done a better job!

The female choice

It’s not a one sided game of course. Women can have babies and they can have a career. Yes they can have both and it can be done. But it shouldn’t be at the expense of the employer.

Hilary returned to work soon after having her son and I did too after 6 weeks. Needs dictated we both did. Neither son has suffered I’m sure but we both probably wish we could have spent longer in that unusual and special state of motherly euphoria.

But we’re talking about real life and I believe that some women can be more honest with their employers after the birth of their child, knowing how generous maternity and paternity leave is today. I’d like to see those that plan to return to work for a SME appreciate the sacrifice that employers make to keep their job open for them. This is a costly exercise but worth it in the end for them both of course. Those that can resume some sort of work at an earlier stage, using technology as I did, should start to do so if only to show an employer that she is doing her best to say thank you – and for having chosen a family AND a career. Those that have no intention of returning to work after the child’s birth do their gender a disservice by waiting until the last moment to let their employer down.

That’s when childcaring Mums (or Dads but there are fewer of them) have to settle for a job not a career; like the 4 out of 10 Mums with degrees who accept lower jobs than they are capable of.

For me the star of the show was Proctor & Gamble who showed that a huge organisation could turn its culture around in ten years, making it the female friendly employer it undoubtedly is today. Easier for big companies than small said Sir Stuart Rose (ex of M&S) but I can’t help thinking that having a committed female at Board level, with a mandate to achieve this in the UK, was a key factor in leading this change.

What next?

I hope leading luminaries in the motor industry were watching this programme and took it seriously.

Next week Hilary looks at ways to make businesses, including her own, more female friendly including the matter of whether to impose quotas to get to the magic 50:50 formula.

Happily the business case is clear but when the Mum at Ford spoke about feeling guilty when she left work at 5pm for family reasons (and then worked c3 hours that evening after her children went to bed) I can’t help thinking that the way to retain the best staff has to do with a more flexible outlook towards technology.

But either way, let’s embrace diversity everywhere in British business, making a start at Board level in the many male dominated industries that remain, including the UK’s motor industry. We need the improved ROI that women can bring.


Why more women make business sense

Why aren’t there more female board members in the UK motor industry? Because if there were, businesses would be more profitable.

Starting with an example of best practice, let’s pay a tribute to Rolls Royce and the bailed-out Lloyds Banking Group who are aiming to increase female board membership to 23%.

Compared to many of the Top 10 dealership groups and other car manufacturers, for example, where there are very few female board members if any.

Clearly those with a traditional male culture don’t realise that women on boards can have a positive impact on their bottom line? Such is the evidence in Lord Davies ‘Women on Boards’ report (2011) which states that “Companies with more women on their boards tended to outperform their rivals with a 42% higher return in sales, 66% higher return on invested capital and 53% higher return on equity.”

Of course it isn’t just the motor industry that is slow to realise this; just 12.5% of FTSE 100 Board members are women, one in five have no women in their boardrooms and this drops to an average of 7.8% for all FTSE 250 companies.

Nonetheless Lord Davies is calling for UK companies to commit to an ambitious target of 25% female board membership by 2015. I’d love to think the UK motor industry would commit to this, knowing the problems it has recruiting young women into automotive careers as well as the poor image it has in so many female customer minds.

A couple of clues were identified during research carried out by Cranfield University. They found that there is a lack of flexibility around work/life balance (to do with families in particular) and that traditional male cultural environments, the old boys network and a lack of networking opportunities for women are major deterrents for qualified females who might otherwise make good board members.

I identify with these issues in the motor industry. But I do not agree with one of the suggested solutions, which is to provide more training opportunities for women. May I suggest that it is the men that are more in need of training about women if women are to be helped to contribute their talents and to flourish in this industry.

I can understand why female board members are good for the bottom line and, with the right female board members empowered to encourage others in their wake, I think it is possible to move quite quickly from a male cultural environment towards a healthier gender diverse workplace. Providing the business wants to adopt a more female friendly agenda in future that is.

Automotive Careers Champion

Find out more about Steph Savill @ LinkedIn