Following a number of reviews into gender and diversity, recent years have seen an increased focus on, and in some organisations a progressive shift in, boardroom composition.
Leading on some of these progressive changes, one can be comfortable in crediting Dame Helen Alexender for exemplifying the role of women on boards and for her contributions to the Hampton / Alexander Review.
Dating back to 2011, The Lord Davies Review (Women on boards report) looked into ‘obstacles that prevent more women from reaching senior positions in business, using the number of women on FTSE 350 corporate boards as a starting point’ and considered ‘the business case for having gender-diverse boards’, setting out ‘recommendations for achieving urgent change’. Following this, a 5 year progress report in 2015 found that ‘there are more women on FTSE 350 boards than ever before, with representation of women more than doubling since 2011 – now at 26.1% on FTSE 100 boards and 19.6% on FTSE 250 boards. We have also seen a dramatic reduction in the number of all-male boards. There were 152 in 2011. Today there are no all-male boards in the FTSE 100 and only 15 in the FTSE 250.’
Picking up the gauntlet, as acknowledged previously on the NEDonBoard blog, the first Hampton-Alexander report was published in 2016, and ‘set out recommendations for FTSE 350 companies to improve the representation of women in leadership positions. The report increased the voluntary target from 25% to 33% women’s representation on FTSE 350 Boards by 2020. It also set a new target of 33% women’s representation for FTSE 100 companies across the combined Executive Committee and in the Direct Reports to the Executive Committee by 2020.’
With FTSE level companies in the spotlight, many other organisations have begun to consider and appreciate the value which diversity in the boardroom and at a senior leadership level (including improved gender diversity) can bring.
With this in mind, and whether related to gender, background experience and skillset, or diversity in its various forms, it is important to remember that the role of the non-executive director is to act as a critical friend. A different or independent perspective, when delivered in an effective manner, should be considered a positive contribution to the boardroom and organisation.