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After The Rallying Cries

Posted on February 22, 2011 at 12:30 PM

Forty-eight hours to go before the launch of the Davies Review and the debate is finally taking off. Elly Woolston writes to the editor of the FT today and urges women : "It's time to increase the stats on our own and aim for more management roles. If your boat doesn't come in then damn well swim out to it."

She forgot to mention to make sure you have arm-bands on as it could take awhile.

Debating is always fun. But the trouble is that it tends to be the two extreme ends of the spectrum which create the most noise. As someone who has heard a lot of noise around plc boards but also seen a lot of progress said to me, the real work will begin after the review.

"There is a great deal of enlightenment, especially among Chairs of larger companies but there is still blind prejudice - and we must deal with it" he said.

The threat of EU quotas is a very real one. This government is losing battles on a fair few fronts and needs to get this one right. And be seen to do it independently, without pressure.

'Common sense' is often cited by what I would call the 'frustrated enlightened' - those who 'get it' about the need for more diverse, representative boards. But the trouble is that it may be "sense" but it isn't "common" enough - yet. For that to happen we need to set standards, and watch closely to see that they are adhered to. And where there is 'groupthink' we need to plant  a few small explosive devices.

After Davos this year, Gillian Tett  wrote about one of the "great embarassments that hangs over Davos" - the fact that in recent years the proportion of female delegates - excluding wives - has hovered around 8-15%.

"So much so, in fact, that Davos is one of the few places where the queues for the women's restrooms can actually be shorter than those for the men's" she said.

Noting the queue to the restroom to gauge the numbers of men or women attending is 'common sense.' We need more practical observations - and suggestions to follow on from them to change the status quo - and fewer rallying cries once the Davies Review is out.

Of course women are also responsible for themselves - as far as I know gender diversity doesn't distinguish between consenting adults. That means that women - and men - need to know what the rules of the plc boardroom game are to be from now on and then - if they want to be part of it, they need to do what they have to do.It shouldn't really involve the need for jumping into any deep water.

On an everyday note, Ian Smith, former CEO at Reed Elsevier plc, has joined Governance For Owners, the independent partnership which combines governance advice and fund management, as a part-time executive.

And thank you to all those who have started to get enthusiastic about this blog and are getting in touch with news, opinions and general input...keep it up. It will be even more important after the Review.

Categories: Women, Chairmen, Quotas