The whole argument for diversity is that you have a wider spread of talent, experience and expertise. International evidence shows that diverse boards benefit from fresh perspectives, opinions and new ideas which ultimately serve the company’s long term interests.
The discussion about women on boards, seems to be dying away, as we reach the heady target of nearly 28% yet this country still has a desperate need of people, especially women in STEM subjects. Science, Technology , Engineering and Mathematics. Women bring a different perspective.
One of the most telling incidents comes from Fiona Mactaggart MP, who is the new Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Human Trafficking.
“I had always been a feminist because of my brother and sister. Being the daughter of a Baronet, I had an older sister, eldest child, but she couldn’t inherit – the Baronetcy goes to the boy.
Being pro-women doesn’t imply anti-men, women enjoy being with, and parenting with men. In 1997 there were 101 women Labour candidates. We made ourselves the story, fashion stuff whatever, and the press love that. They love the big rows, not the minor achievements. Men do the big shouty rebellious. Men stand on the doorstep bang, bang and shout at the door, while women sneak around the back and see a way in. So they are not seen to be effective.
For example, when we got women on the Defense Select Committee. When it was men only it was all about how big the weapons are, now we talk about women and the families of service personnel.
Again, prison leadership treated women prisoners as men without willies. She loses touch with her children. He does too, but he loses his job, after prison getting a job is what keeps him from crime. She needs a home for herself and her children to keep her off drugs and away from crime. (Interview with CityEye)
Research from the World Bank has shown how investments in women yields a double dividend: women are more likely to invest their incomes in families and communities, driving up GDP. In Germany, draft legislation is expected to be published imminently and to become law by January 2015, which means that Germany will join France, Italy and many Nordic countries in opting for mandatory targets for women on corporate boards. Norway now has the highest proportion of female board members after a change in the law in 2003, when the Oslo government demanded all boards should have a 40 per cent quota of women by 2008. Financial Times EU pushes 40% quota for women on boards – FT.com
“The last thing we want is tokenism, we want broader working practices, more flexible working. But the top women in the city still are few by comparison with the men.” To believe in not enough talented women for boards and in business, is both sexist and patronizing. There are hundreds of great women out there.
Many of these women are multi-talented, high achievers, last time we mentioned Rita Levi Montalbano, but our very own Steve Shirley, who used the masculine form of Stephanie, other wise know as Dame Stephanie Shirley, who started a tech company back in 1962 employing only women. When the equal pay act was passed to seek equality she had to have a more mixed team. You will find articles about her, just that they will be buried away under sub categories, such as life and style. Fancy! Being a woman is a life choice.
Her story is truly amazing and is only one, of powerful high achievers, another is the current Lord Mayor of the City Fiona Woolf has been “Driving Diversity” in her mayoral year.
But final word to Martha Lane Fox
It’s a fact that more diverse boards perform better. The data is now there, and endless research from Stamford, from Harvard, from other business schools, looking at boards and companies and comparing share prices, dividends, and all of the financial measurements that you’d expect, and we now know that more diverse boards perform better. And interestingly, it’s not even the most achieving groups, so you can take all-male groups, all-female groups, both very high achieving, and you can have a group that is mixed, less high-achieving, and that group will be the best performing group. So there’s something that happens when you just represent society and represent equality, that means there’s better decision making that flows through the whole of the organization.