In 2011, former trade minister Lord Davies’ review into women on boards, coupled with the new paternity legislation, saw the issue of women in business escalate up the political agenda. However, while some companies are starting to make progress in promoting women onto their boards, there is clearly a great deal more work needed.
In his New Year’s message, the IoD director-general Simon Walker stressed there were “still too few women in the boardroom”, and as we move into 2012 this is set to become an even more hotly debated topic this year.
One area where women have traditionally been represented at more senior levels in significant numbers is in FMCG and luxury brands. Clearly some people may argue that more women have historically sought jobs in these areas, however if it can be done in these industries, then why not others?
While it is not clear whether FMCG and luxury brand companies work harder at the retention of senior women or a culture exists which allows women to reach the top, companies from all industries would do well to look at why and when women are leaving the workplace, as this is clearly key to solving the problem.
Furthermore, organizations should build support programs and provide access to role models, of which there are many in FMCG, while networks, mentors and training in leadership and negotiating skills can help to equip female workers for senior roles.
Despite some clear steps towards addressing the matter of a lack of women on boards, which companies could and indeed are taking, arguably the much harder issue is tackling a prevailing male- dominated culture in certain industries, and it is this which could prove crucial in solving the issue.
By Claire Burton
January 9th, 2012