IWF UK Breakfast with Professor Susan Vinnicombe CBE

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An agenda for change to get more women into key positions on boards and executive committees was set out by Professor Susan Vinnicombe CBE at a lively breakfast meeting with members on Monday.

Susan set up the Women’s Leadership Centre at Cranfield University in 1999 when only 6.7% overall directorships were held by women. Since then this has grown to almost 28% this year, after a year of stagnation, which means that the target of 33% women on FTSE 100 Boards by 2020 is well within reach as long as the momentum is maintained. This year 6 women hold Chair positions and a further 14 hold senior independent directorships on the FTSE 100.

She focussed her talk around three key trends on women on FTSE 100 boards. Firstly whilst there has been a huge increase in the number of women on boards (now 33% of all NEDs of FTSE 100 boards are women) only a small number of women are promoted into the senior roles of Chairman and Senior Independent Director (only 8% women NEDs hold these roles compared to 34% men NEDs). Women need to push to have a career on a board not just a NED role.

This year Susan will look at which women chair the various committees on boards. Secondly, the major problem remains the lack of women executive directors. Only 9.6% executive directors across FTSE 100 boards are women. We also ought to see more women in functional head positions on executive committees. At present one third of such roles are filled by women, but since women often dominate these areas we should see at least parity there. This is a quicker win than women getting CEO roles!

Lastly, in terms of the nationality of directors of FTSE 100 boards, interestingly there are almost as many North American women as North American men. Men dominate in the other three nationality categories (British, EU but not British, Country other than Britain, EU and North America).

There was an interesting and lively discussion around all these issues and the group agreed that a 'nudge’ approach was probably needed in order to change systems and behaviour.

You can read the full Female FTSE Board Report 2017 and the Hampton Alexander Review which were launched in November here:

Hampton Alexander Review

Female FTSE Board Report 2017

Professor Vinnicombe was a member of the Lord Davies Steering Committee on the lack of women on FTSE boards, a member of the Sir John Parker Steering Committee on the lack of ethnicity on FTSE boards and is a member of the Hampton Alexander Review on the lack of women leaders in the FTSE pipeline. She is the lead author of the annual Cranfield Female FTSE Report on Women on Boards which has been published since 1999. She has been awarded an OBE and CBE for her services to gender diversity and is also an IWF UK Board Member.

She will be speaking again at the IWF UK event 'Life on Boards' on 5 March 2018.

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