Women on Boards author calls for stronger diversity targets

Following FTSE 100 firms hitting the government's target for 25 per cent of company board members to be female, the author of the Women on Boards report has called for stronger targets to be rolled out for the entire FTSE 350.

Diversity in the workplace
The report's author, former trade minister Lord Davies, says that 33 per cent of FTSE 350 board members should be women by 2020.The government has said it wants to eliminate all-male boards in the FTSE 350, but has not committed to a minimum threshold for what percentage of boards should be female.The government's initial target was for FTSE 100 companies to have a minimum of 25 per cent of board members be women by 2015, a target that was hit earlier this year. In 2011, when the target was set, women made up 12.5 per cent of boards.While Lord Davies called for an expansion of the government's targets, however, he called legally enforced quotas "unwarranted".Lord Davies was asked on the BBC's Today Programme why 260 of the 286 women on boards of FTSE 100 companies are non-executives. "The focus of our work was on fixing the boardroom. We've done that and there's very few all-male boards left," he responded."We now need to see the same change, through a voluntary approach, in the executive committee structure of big companies and small companies."His response echoed his foreword to the Women on Boards report in March. "Boards are getting fixed, now we have to fix the low number of women Chairs and Executive Directors on boards and the loss of talented, senior women from the Executive pipeline," he wrote."I have never doubted that Britain has extraordinary talent. Nor, that there are plenty of credible, experienced women, willing and capable of serving on British boards. Business needs to unleash the full extent of this talent. It is good for business, good for the UK economy and ensures our future competitive position in the global arena."The report noted that, "organisations such as Cranfield have profiled over 400 capable women through their 100 Women to Watch publications, Women on Boards UK now count nearly 10,000 aspiring women in their network".Despite this Shainaz Firfiray, an assistant professor at Warwick Business School, told the Today Programme that setting quotas is not enough to truly fix under-representation."Prior research has shown that women who succeed in typically male tasks such as leadership positions are more disliked and derogated, implying that women confront obstacles in work settings that are not encountered by men to the same degree," she said. She added that diligent management is needed to make the appointments effective.Lord Davies' comments come alongside a government push to tackle workplace discrimination. Earlier in the week it announced the expansion of its plans to force organisations to disclose gender pay gaps, rolling them out to the public sector. The government also announced a scheme in which a number of private and public sector organisations will voluntarily introduce 'name-blind' applications for certain roles.For more news and stories like this, see Re:locate's HR section.

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