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The Buzz Is On- How To Get More Women On Boards

Posted on September 2, 2013 at 10:45 AM

I mulled giving a more considered response here to the man who ‘engaged’ me on Twitter with his ‘evidence’ that having more women on plc boards demonstrably decreases financial performance….but NAH. I’m above that. Besides, he ruined my Sunday evening.

Also, I have never been called part of the ‘loony Left’ before. Chuffed. Do take a look at the exchange though, if you’re willing to quick scroll through the feed – also on this website.

He did us all a service. God forbid that, by surrounding ourselves by people who agree with our thinking we forget why change is so very difficult to bring about. This is a reminder that quite a lot is going on –often behind the scenes – on changing mind-sets about what we need in UK plc boardrooms and how to recruit for it. It’s also intended just as a round-up of some of the events in the next few weeks.

In case I needed a sense of purpose on my way back from ‘summer’, it came by way of a telephone call while waiting to board. Tomorrow I will be with the UK's Department for Business Innovation & Skills (BIS) at a roundtable on women on boards. It is one of a series Business Secretary Vince Cable has been holding to engage with key business leaders on this issue and financial sector businesses such as Lloyds, HSBC and the London Stock Exchange will be attending. I am delighted to be a fly on that wall.

And next week Amber Rudd MP is hosting a drinks reception to celebrate '100 Women to Watch' with Susan Vinnicombe of Cranfield University and Sir Philip Hampton as speakers - now that will certainly be delightful, particularly as it is arranged by Sapphire Partners, a headhunter of whom I approve. You don't get waffle from Kate Grussing. It will be another 'watching' exercise for me.

Next month – which will terrifyingly be October – there’s an event called NEDucation which usually draws in about 40 non executive-directors I am told, ranging from AIM up to the FTSE100.

In between I am sure there are many more events being held and the FT Non-Executive Directors Club (to whose website I contribute) has a workshop on the 10th for those who want to become NEDs. It’s the existing ones, though, who for me provide the gems of insight into ‘green shoots’ of innovative thinking on hiring for the boardroom.

Just one example – today I see that Old Mutual Wealth Management has been busy – it announced a NED hire on August 30th and today three more appointments came pinging into my inbox. They are all for ‘an initial period of three years’ – which is common. But maybe it’s time to rethink the duration of NED appointments depending on the nature of the company, what it needs, and to move towards greater diversity. More on this subject another time.

Also coming up in a few weeks in early October is the Women’s Business Forum, designed to share ideas on how to achieve better gender balance. Speakers include Senator George Mitchell, Sir Roger Carr, Sir Nigel Knowles (Global Co-CEO, DLA Piper), Chris Sullivan (Chief Executive, RBS Corporate Banking) and Bob Dudley (CEO, BP).

Also contributing: Steve Varley, UK Chairman & Managing Partner EY, Khanyisile Kweyama, Executive Director, Anglo-American and Rosemary Martin, Group General Counsel and Company Secretary, Vodafone.

But clearly it needs more women at the top contributing, as well as being guests. They say attendance will be 50/50 by gender – I hope they manage to ensure they have women ‘leading’ as well as ‘being led.’

And I have just been told that 9 out of 19 confirmed speakers are women - not bad.

But all these events are going to eat up a lot of time. I very much hope I come away with more than hot air in the end.

NOTE: My lovely blog sponsor has a new website for BoardPad - check it out - I approve of 'because innovation should go all the way to the boardroom'

Categories: Women, Appointments, Leadership