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Stop talking about gender diverse boards (and start doing)

Yet another piece of research, this time by Glasgow Caledonian University and De Montfort University, has been released recently about the business benefits of having more women on the board. Whilst these articles are very interesting to read, and indeed do much to reinforce our belief in gender diversity, I cannot understand why it is so difficult to achieve, when over half the population (assuming that all women and many, if not most, men) would agree.

For any major societal change to occur, there is a time for debate and a time for action. We are getting somewhere on equal pay, but it is slow and even slower when it comes to female representation on boards. But as the report suggests, it is moving in the right direction. If gender equality or even representation on your board does not exist yet, what is your plan and how do you intend to implement it?

The government’s 2017 Hampton Alexander report recommended that the leadership teams of FTSE 100 companies should be a third female by the end of 2020. That target has been achieved and there are no longer any male-only boards in the FTSE 100. However, only five per cent of FTSE 100 CEOs are women.

Taking a step back for a moment, the research mentioned at the start of this article revealed that companies with more women on their boards are more financially successful. Indeed, the report suggests that companies with three or more female directors “significantly outperformed” those with less diverse boards.

If nothing else, this study into 12 years of data gives us another reason to take action. We already know that gender diversity in the boardroom increases opportunities for women and introduces different perspectives. Now we know that it is also good for business performance.

Targets are useful because they inspire action. If your organisation is lacking in gender diversity (or diversity in general) in senior executive and boardroom roles, setting a target can be a useful catalyst for change.

Nobody can argue that there is a lack of evidence to support diversity and it is therefore time to stop looking for proof. Create opportunities for female leaders (as well as men) in your organisations and begin noticing their achievements, too. By all means, keep a note of your gender percentages but only as a measure towards targets and a backdrop to change.