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Meg Munn MP - Sheffield Heeley's voice in Parliament | Welcome
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Identifying the new generation of Women Directors

Tuesday, November 7, 2006

Meg helped launched the ‘Female FTSE100 report 2006’ at an event held in London recently, and gave the following speech.


I welcome the publication of this years ‘Female FTSE 100 Report’, Identifying the New Generation of Women Directors. I also want to thank Professor Susan Vinnicombe and Dr Val Singh of Cranfield International Centre for Women Business Leaders who compiled it. These yearly reports play a crucial role in shining a spotlight on the extent of women’s advancement in the FTSE 100 companies, providing the evidence about the extent of board diversity amongst our leading companies.


Unfortunately the report shows that last years positive advances have been reversed.

Last year 78 companies had appointed women directors, up by 13% on the previous year. In addition six companies had appointed their first ever female director. This years report shows that only 77 FTSE 100 companies now have women directors. Yes, it is only a loss of 1, but the message that is communicated is not a positive one.


Furthermore, women comprise only 12.5% of the 181 new board appointments over the last year. This is a reduction by nearly 17% in the last two years. Now some companies did appoint their first ever women directors, but some companies reverted to an all-male status on their Boards.


These results are very disappointing, especially in the light of the progress we had been making in seeing women achieve in the corporate environment.


Today’s report shows that that there is a great deal of female talent in roles just below Board level. What is stopping companies recognising this talent, bringing on the people from within their own organisation?


Diversity in the Boardroom

Some may ask, I suspect they’re not in this room, ‘just why diversity in the boardroom should be an issue, as long as the job is getting done?’   Well, I think we have tell them, the answer lies in your customers; it lies in your workforce, in a society that is changing fast.


Whatever your product or service, the customer base is increasingly becoming more diverse. In understanding and meeting their needs diversity must be reflected in your decision-making structures. A company not aware of the changing aspirations of women, black people and people with disabilities, will surely not prosper in the long term.


Sometimes people use the excuse that there is no talent to promote. Well if a company cannot find the talent from within for its own Board, that’s surely an indictment of the existing Board. Of course, decisions must be based on talent and merit, but I find it impossible to believe that men have a monopoly of these attributes.


Women can bring a strong set of business skills to the table, as black people and people with disabilities can. We need a greater commitment to hiring people on the basis of their talent, and not because they look and act like the existing leadership. We need greater innovation and creativity, to involve more women and more people from the ethnic minorities to expand the company’s vision.


It’s not just the individual organisation which benefits by increasing the diversity of the Board, and maximising the use of women’s skills at every level.  The Women and Work Commission recently estimated that increasing women’s participation in the labour market, and in higher paid occupations and roles, could be worth between £15bn and £23bn a year to the UK economy. There is a lot of profit to be made from an extra £23bn a year!   


Good Corporate Governance

Government continues to support good corporate Governance, and also works to reduce the gender pay gap.  We also work with Opportunity Now to identify exemplar employer initiatives and spread best practice. I’m extremely pleased to see that representatives of some of our exemplar companies have attended this launch today. I’d be delighted if any of you here wanted your companies to join up.


My Department recently announced a package of measures to improve the prospects and career options of women in the labour market.  To encourage employers to make quality part time work available, we have introduced the Quality, Part-time Work Change Initiative with a fund of £500,000. It will support projects designed to increase the number of senior roles available on a part-time basis.


In the same vein the Cabinet Office has committed that all Senior Civil Service and “stepping stone” grades will be available on a flexible work pattern basis, wherever possible.  Senior and quality roles in my own Department, the DCLG, will now be available and advertised on a part-time basis, where practicable.


In the private sector what can companies do to identify and encourage more female talent?  How about advertising positions in the FT and Marie Claire?  Use magazines that are aimed at women. I understand that Shell specifically targeted women graduates with university roadshows, and that National Grid and Centrica went further. Both these companies worked with school-age girls to persuade them that women can read metres and drive blue vans too.  Companies like Reuters have introduced successful mentoring programmes, while others undertake diversity awareness training, challenging assumptions about what women can, and want, to do.


I want to close by re-iterating that the successful companies of tomorrow will reflect the society in which they work  - a society that will be much more diverse than today’s. A society less forgiving of companies that remain citadels of old white males. We have to continue to persuade business leaders that using the talents of all our people, including welcoming women into the boardroom, is not a risk - it’s an opportunity.


A slogan from my youth - ‘the future is female’. Well by working together maybe we can all share in the possibilities of that future world.


Thank you.


For further news and to view a copy of the Report visit: http://www.som.cranfield.ac.uk/som/research/centres/cdwbl/news.asp


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