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Blog : BOARD TALK

And Then There Were Ten......But There Is More

Posted on March 29, 2012 at 2:30 PM

On May 1st 2012 Diana Layfield - CEO of Standard Chartered Bank's Africa region - becomes a non-executive director on the board of Aggreko plc. This will mean there will then be only 10 companies in the FTSE-100 with all-male boards. Definitely a moment for a W00t!


Ms Layfield is an alumna of the FTSE 100 Cross-Company Mentoring Programme run by the enterprising Peninah Thomson, who has been instrumental in 16 women mentees getting board appointments so far. 


Ms Thomson says : "Clearly there's still much to do to meet Lord Davies' recommendations for boosting female representation on boards, but it appears that the UK's major businesses are now largely 'on side'. So, while I'm not about to break out the champagne, I am allowing myself a small sherry!."  


Chairmen and senior management at plcs should also take note of the achievements of women in the UK on the technology front. The Cisco everywoman in technology awards (in association with Women In Technology) were a pleasure to attend today at the Savoy in London, as they brought together women of all ages celebrating considerable success. There was a sense of real celebration, with the men attending as a very supportive minority, spanning organisations from Cisco to Orga Systems to Alexander Mann Solutions.


I heard the same things in the room that are true in the conversations around women on boards: that there is no shortage of clever individuals, but a combination of the fact that women sometimes(often) hesitate, and there is still a great deal of blind prejudice around, which questions female ability to become an engineer, or an IT whiz. 


There was also a real 'buzz.' And it was good, if unsurprising, to see Vince Cable, the UK  Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, at the forefront of support. As he said - "what we need are role models." Keep going, ladies, especially  Maxine Benson and Karen Gill, who founded Everywoman Ltd. Check it out for its (free) 'Navigator' to your future career.


As Tim Skinner, Director UK Enterprise Cisco pointed out, he now knows what it feels like to be in a minority. Cisco's sponsorship follows on from two female employees picking up awards in 2011 for their role in championing the progress and development of women working in technology.


This was an event which made me catch my breath. Why ? (Apart from the fact that it was beautifully executed and the Savoy did them proud) Because it was about women celebrating women's achievements in a very relaxed and genuine way -but still made it clear that we need the men to support and sponsor as well. More than one or two women thanked either their 'house husbands' or their male mentors for helping them get there.


It's important to note that we are all in it together, and the workplace will not be better - for women, but also for men, until we start listening to each other and appreciating our strengths and what we want from work/life. I also could not help noticing how different these women sounded from many whom I have interviewed who are very senior at plc level.


Where they have confided to being lucky enough to have 'house husbands' and that level of male support, not one has been willing to say that in print. It's a shame - but it says a lot about the business world as it is now.







Categories: Corporate, Scrutiny, Chairmen