Gender equality in the workplace

Three years on from the Lord Davies Review in the UK, by October 2014 women accounted for 22.8% of board directors of FTSE 100 and 17.4% of FTSE 250 companies (up from 12.5% and 7.8% respectively in February 2011) (BIS 2014). Progress has been made but much more is needed and the pace of change needs to accelerate. Some FTSE 100 companies will have to increase the pace of change to meet the initial 25% target set by Lord Davies for 2015 and this target still does not represent gender parity. We need to ensure that attention continues to focus on improving the level of female representation in the boardroom, or risk losing the momentum that the issue has started to generate.

Increasing the number of women at board level is starting to influence how companies view their talent pipeline and opening up new opportunities for women at work. However, our findings reveal that the proportion of female employees decreases with seniority in two-thirds (67%) of organisations and just three in ten (31%) have taken action to improve the gender diversity of their board. Improving the female balance of senior talent therefore remains a key challenge for organisations across the economy and not just for FTSE 350 companies.

Over half of respondents (56%) are aware of the Lord Davies review of women on boards; however, a sizeable 44% are not. Just 17% of our survey respondents are aware of the Think, Act, Report (TAR) initiative that provides a simple step-by-step framework to help companies consider gender equality in their workforce.

Equality and Diversity

The UK and EU initiatives to improve the gender diversity of boardrooms are understandably focused on a relatively small number of corporate companies but their underlying aim – to enhance senior female progression – is relevant to all organisations, big or small andregardless of sector. Awareness is the first step in the change process; therefore, wider promotion of the Women on Boards initiative and supporting guidance on how to build female talent pipelines could help to encourage a broader number of employers to foster a better gender balance in senior roles.

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