For some reason I get called a sexist beast by some folks. And it is not just the odd bird who seems to think this. As such I am delighted to republish as a guest post an article by a woman. This is not affirmative action. But I publish because the post makes a good point or two although I am not sure why the author hails the vile Clinton woman as a role model – try Ann Coulter instead.
The poster is Charlotte Argyle who is from City Future an organisation for young professional Conservatives in the City. For some reason Charlotte thinks that I am not too old to attend an event or two…flattery will get you everywhere but I am not too sure that my views on Call Me Dave would go down that well. Charlotte writes:
100 years ago, Emily Davison threw herself in front of the King’s horse during the Epsom Derby as a suffragette protest. In 1918 the wheels of female equality turned, but the Representation of the People Act was just the beginning of the story. Over the last 100 yrs there have been numerous figures that women could covet when looking for a role model. Some of my personal favourites include Aung San Suu Kyi, Margaret Thatcher, Hillary Clinton and Alek Wek. However the most obvious error in the above statement is the omission of the male of the species: somehow in the quest for female equality the see-saw of opinion has tilted, and now, it is almost an insult to the cause for females to seek afflatus from our XY friends. My full list actually includes Branson, Ali, Churchill and Hawking.
Moving away from semantics, the point remains, in today’s world the barriers to entry for females looking to enter the lion’s den of the boardroom have long since disappeared, right after the door was kicked wide open by a pair of size 5 Jimmy Choos. Since the recent departure of Cynthia Carroll from Anglo American, we should conversely ask why is it that across the FTSE 100 there are only two female CEOs left steering at the helm: Alison Cooper of Imperial Tobacco and Angela Ahrendts of Burberry. Moving away from the immediate inner hub of the C-Suite Club shows tell a similar story; BoardWatch, reporting for The Times claims only 4 out of 87 executives appointed by the boards of FTSE 100 companies were women. This equates to less than 5% over the course of 24 months. Last year alone produced a barren harvest of improvement with 0 executive female placements, stalling women’s representation at board level to 16.7%.
The government recommends its own special blend of ingredients to remedy this imbalance namely that of the September 2011 Lord Davies report, calling for 25% of all FTSE100 boards to contain at least 25 per cent female representation by 2015. The FTSE350 has a less formalised polite request to follow suit. Countries such as Switzerland are already implementing measures and the European hand that rocks the business cradle is ensuring that Britain is not far behind. If Viviane Reding (Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights & Citizenship at the European Commission) gets her proposal through the European Parliament will seek to approve rules for a 40 percent quota to favour women over men for supervisory NED board seats. The writing on the wall suggests this will eventually encompass the full C-Suite spectrum.
Well firstly let’s get our house in order. The numbers (and many women) speak for themselves. Yes the there are more men in the Executive suite of the FTSE 100 than females but I believe that on this matter we should not get correlation confused with causation – there is a clear set of traits which both men and women need to have in business and especially in the upper echelons of the FTSE100. For most of these qualities, socialisation has conditioned us to associate these traits as male. Maybe we should teach our little girls you can still look like a Princess and rule like a King. Perhaps the problem is not barriers to entry such as old boys’ networks but rather the restrictive chattels of self-expectation set by women for women?
Since when did all little girls dream of chairing the board? Similarly not all men not want to pursue a typically “alpha male” career. You can lead a horse to water but you cannot make it drink and it is time that we recognise that for some women being forced into the boardroom is just as bad as chaining them to the kitchen sink. We talk of meritocracy and it is time we started to practise what we preach. As a women I can tell you chaps (and fellow women) that we don’t all want quotas. We gritty girls believe we can do it on our own. This positive discrimination is patronising and unnecessary. The most successful women have climbed the greasy pole simply because they never really felt its existence and were not dragged down in the hyperbole of this subject. Rather than carrying the weight of imaginary discrimination, I choose just to carry my briefcase.
I believe that if we really want to make things easier for women we should look at practical measures to ensure that better parental care is put in place for those who choose to start a family. We should work at making sure that within the education system a supportive mechanism is in place to stretch the ambitions of young women. This issue is focusing on the non-core. To get the economy moving we need the best person for the job to aid growth creation, not further bureaucratic tosh.
In summary I believe in reputation above regulation; we want our women to say ‘Let our success not be remembered because I am a woman but because of the women we are.’
KEY FIGURES: FTSE 100 companies
• 17.3% women directors (up from 12.5%*)
• 21.5% women Non-Executive Directors (up from 15.6%*)
• 6.7% women Executive Directors (up from 5.5%*)
• 7 all-male boards (down from 21*)
• 38% of board appointments since 1 March 2012 have been women
• 49% of new Non-Executive Directors are women
• 9% of new Executive Directors are women
• 84 more board seats held by women needed to reach Lord Davies 25% target
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