Since 2010, when the Lord Davis report said that the lack of female faces on boards was simply not good enough, we have since seen FTSE companies scrambling to find top female talent to make up their numbers.
The Davies report was a great starting point, don’t get me wrong, it said we need to achieve 25% women at board level for our FTSE 100 companies within five years, and it achieved that.
Since then we have seen aspirational targets introduced for senior-level representation across all the top employers, but more importantly, the Government have stepped in on equal pay.
April 2018 sees the first year that organisations will have to disclose their pay gap, both on their own and government websites. This is a welcome addition to gender equality at work as the gender pay gap currently stands at almost 19%, and the disparities are found throughout all occupations. Speaking to a few employers, to say they are nervous right now is a complete understatement.
All this is great news and we are certainly moving in a positive direction. I hear the voices chirping on about the measures exhibiting unnecessary positive discrimination to women, but they aren’t, it’s simply balancing out an uneven playing field, one that women have had to overcome for years. I believe this is a welcome kick-start to finding a tipping point of diversity at board level. However, I do feel we have some way to go.
McKinsey regularly reports that time and time again, diversity on boards helps organisations become better performers, it helps the bottom line and builds better profit.
However, I’ve spoken to many women who have been headhunted or fast-tracked to board level, and sadly, within these women I don’t see diversity in their perspectives, just the same women being promoted – same backgrounds, same experiences and same educations – who are essentially female versions of the men who have made it to board level, and are the ones that have promoted them. This doesn’t make me feel we are achieving what we are setting out to.
Whilst promotions are only being given at the top to the people, male or female, who fit into the same mould, are we really achieving what we set out to – to build diverse teams with diverse perspectives?
We need to all help our organisations widen their talent pools and better celebrate difference. Some organisations are doing this well and measures such as the Davies report are helpful but at the same time just solving the gender balance story and not actually helping achieve true diversity at the top. We need to look at people’s perspectives, experiences and how they contribute to the business, not just what gender, race or sexuality they are from.
We know from Stonewall that people perform better at work if they can be themselves, our LBWomen Work survey in 2016 found that the biggest barrier to women coming out at work was that they didn’t see enough role models. Whilst we are seeing more women reach the top, we are still not seeing enough out lesbian and gay women. Employers still have a long way to go in both recognising the need to help career progression of truly diverse teams and to build an inclusive culture where this can truly happen and people can truly thrive for being individual.