One year on from the launch of Lord Davies’ report on diversity in the UK’s top boardrooms, the report’s author himself records “amazing” progress towards the goals he set top companies last year.
However, in a recent interview he gave to the Sunday Telegraph, he also commented: “There’s a minority who just don’t get it. Long-term owners of companies should be obsessed with the talent of their companies. If we don’t have equality in business between men and women, we’re just not going to be competitive internationally.”
The head of the Financial Skills Partnership has also seen progress taking place in the industry to bring about a more diverse workplace, but she calls on companies to focus further on boosting the pipeline of talent for the future.
A year ago, Lord Davies published his report that called on FTSE 100 companies to aim to have a minimum of 25% women board members by 2015. Board Watch recently reported that the percentage of female board directors of FTSE 100 companies has risen from 12.5% in 2010 to currently 15%. 26% of new board appointments to FTSE 100 companies made since last March were women.
Liz Field, CEO of the Financial Skills Partnership, comments: “There are clear signs that the industry is beginning to tackle boardroom diversity issues”, she said. “There are, however, major concerns around sustaining the momentum. We would like to see more strategic moves to create pipelines of talent as the current generation enters retirement. We should be creating a positive cultural environment to allow more female talent to come through.
“The debate should also be broadened to SMEs, which make up 99% of the private sector. We do not know if diversity is an issue in SMEs, or what support they need. There should be more investigation and research into what SMEs are doing in terms of diversity in order to develop a clearer picture.”
The Financial Skills Partnership has been speaking with a number of employers in the sector to gauge their perception of diversity issues and hear their plans for the future. Strategies range from appointing very senior executives as diversity champions through long-term initiatives to nurture a female talent pipeline using tailored development programmes, mentoring schemes and female business networks.
To implement enterprise-wide change, companies are also finding flexible working practices, communications and e-learning campaigns, better diversity monitoring and initiatives to remove unconscious bias helpful.
Liz Field comments: “There are encouraging examples from a large number of companies within the financial services sector. The key change in many companies is that they now realise their task is to bring about transformative change, not just an incremental increase in numbers.”