Why We Need More Women On Boards
Posted: Saturday April 1 2017
By: Abbie Coleman
Why we need more women on boards and how to get started. The low percentage of women in the senior ranks of business, government and politics is rooted in women’s historical place is society. Women make up half the population and, more recently, over 50 per cent of university graduates, but they continue to hold less than a quarter of the key decision making positions.
By Women on Boards UK
Why does this matter?
- Boards, or in the case of politics the Cabinet, are where the ultimate decisions are taken and capital is allocated. Did you know that female-only sports attract only 5% cent of sports funding in the UK, whilst male-only sports attract 40%, even though women are matching or outdoing men in the medal counts. Or that only 5 per cent of early-stage investment capital goes to female entrepreneurs, even though women start businesses at a similar rate to men?
- Boards also set the tone for organisational culture and ethics. Many of our current large organisations were designed by men for men, in the days when women were excluded from much of the workforce. With a wife at home, these organisational designers of the past had no need for flexible working or child-care facilities. In 2014, with so few women at the top challenging stereotypes and pointing out the things that don’t work well for them, organisations are lacking both the impetus to change and the insights needed to design a better culture and model, including meeting the needs of working mums.
There is considerable research that shows that organisations led by diverse boards including at least three women outperform their peer group. Diversity reduces the risk of boards succumbing to group-think, and the related pressure to “not rock the boat”. And the increased challenge that accompanies diverse ways of viewing the world is our best defence against some of the shocking lapses of ethics that have characterised recent scandals across various sectors of business and politics.
- Finally there is the need for female role models. Young people often decide what they want to do with their lives when they see someone or something that inspires them and captures their imagination. We need more women at the top of organisations and politics to inspire and excite girls and young women about what it means to be in a position of ultimate responsibility and play an active part in changing the world. When asked if she minds being a “token woman”, Shami Chakrabati, Director of Liberty, responded that she sees herself as a “beacon” not a “token”. We need a lot more beacons for ambitious young women to follow.