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Calling It Like It Is On 'All Male' Boards

Posted on September 21, 2015 at 2:30 PM

I am a little surprised at the sentiments expressed by Lord Davies of Abersoch.

The Guardian recorded his 'disappointment' yesterday at the all-male boards of Hastings, the insurance company and Worldpay, the payment processing firm- both heading towards flotations in London worth billions.

He apparently said investors should “take into account” the all-male nature of these company boards before deciding whether to back the floats. He also "said he was sure investors would take it into account when thinking of whether to invest or not."

Really ? I would suggest we are still a very long way from that scenario. Although institutional investors waved a large flag for gender diversity - along with everyone else - in the first three years after Lord Davies launched his review in 2011 on the under-representation of women on UK boards, their arms got a bit tired after awhile.

They moved on to things like succession planning, boardroom evaluation, and the need for better engagement.

Gender diversity at the top of business has of course commanded a focus not only in this country, but globally as a wider debate about gender equality - and it still does.

But Vince Cable is no longer issuing heated public statements every fortnight on behalf of the UK Government, and 'naming and shaming' boardrooms for non-compliance. The Government said it had reached its targets - and proved that it was right about a successful voluntary approach, and the EU was wrong about the need for quotas.

There is another perspective on that. But the 'roadshow' clearly came to an end.

In the midst of all the hype around the Davies Review, it took two years from its launch for a FTSE 250 media company - (a MEDIA company, not one in the mining sector for goodness sake) Chime Communications plc - to put even one woman on its board. It did make up for lost time and appoint two - but not until the summer of 2013.

And its Chairman ? Ahem.

I have noted this before, as Lord D knows. I hope he is right about investors retaining their focus on the need for real diversity in boardrooms - including gender - but it feels as if everyone knows the hype is over, and the urgency is gone.

On the other hand, we can hope it's 'just' insurance and tech - industry sectors with a bad record when it comes to women. You decide.



Categories: Women, Appointments, Diversity