FTSE 100 questioned over lack of talented women on boards

Labour Party

It was reported yesterday that the Business Secretary, Vince Cable, has written to the chairmen and chief executives of the seven FTSE 100 companies with all-male boards, urging them to appoint female directors.

His move follows the determination of EU Justice Commissioner, Viviane Reding, who warned last year, “I will win the war on quotas”. It’s thanks to her that we will see legislation which will better support talented and experienced women being promoted to company boards.

Commissioner Reding’s hard work last year, has served to make politicians consider their approach on this issue; if they support the idea of mandatory quotas or not this move by Cable shows that they are now, finally taking the issue more seriously.

Companies from the FTSE 100 which have no female representation were been named as: Antofagasta, Glencore, Xstrata, Kazakhmys, Vedanta, Croda, and Melrose. Cable has written letters to all of the above companies and asked them what they plan to do to increase female representation.

Cable says we have seen real progress in the last two-three years and his vision is that Britain will not have a single all male FTSE 100 board by 2015.

But in order to achieve this we must have robust legislation in place which supports the talented women he expects to be promoted, without this it will take time to change mind sets and introduce the concept of women on boards. This could take many years before we see any significant improvement.

As it stands women are still woefully underrepresented and to correct it there must be intervention, which is supported by the business secretary and his colleagues.

My article for the New Statesman on support for mandatory quotas for women on boards

Labour Party

 Last week I wrote a piece for the New Statesman explaining why planned legislation to introduce mandatory quotas for women on company boards is so importnat.  You can read the article and comments from their readers by clicking on this link, or I have pasted the text below.

 Why I support the 40 per cent quota for women on boards

Kickstarting gender equality.

By Mary Honeyball

The proposed introduction of mandatory European quotas for women on the boards of larger companies has sent a ripple of fear through the business world in the UK. Certain company bosses and politicians always fear change. Change involving women is even more scary.

Setting quotas has, however, worked in other parts of Europe. Norway introduced legislation in 2003 when women represented just 9 per cent of executives at board level. Since then female representation has increased to 40 per cent, a great achievement in under a decade. Rather than collapsing, as many reactionary Britons may have expected, businesses in Norway have thrived as more women have taken up senior positions.

The reality is nobody knows exactly what the European Commission’s legislative proposals stipulate because they have not yet been published. The plans are at present being scrutinised by the Commission’s lawyers. Only when they are happy can Viviane Reding, the Commissioner responsible, announce her plans.

Despite not knowing any of the detail of the draft legislation, the UK’s Business Secretary, Vince Cable, spearheaded opposition to what he assumed Mrs Reding would propose, sending a letter to the European Commission signed by eight other member states. The letter strongly criticised the plans and told Mrs Reding and her colleagues at the Commission that “the UK had no intention of supporting such legislation but thank you very much for the offer.”

I am a member of the European Parliament Women’s Rights and Gender Equality Committee where debates on mandatory quotas for women on company boards have been taking place for some time. During our committee meeting last month I expressed anger at the UK government’s publication of the letter to Commissioner Reding, saying it was shameful that the British Government was taking such a reactionary line and jumping the gun.

This is another embarrassing episode for the UK in Europe. A chaotic, ill thought through approach like this undermines Britain’s position in the EU. Far from looking powerful and impressive, taking a position which is both reactionary and rigid sends a very negative message to other member states, making the British look weak and foolish.

Mrs Reding’s response to the letter from the UK Business Secretary demonstrated her indignation in no uncertain terms: “European laws on important topics like this are not made by nine men in dark suits behind closed doors, but rather in a democratic process with a democratically elected European Parliament,” was her uncompromising message to Cable.

Away from the political fallout this has created, it is important to consider why female representation on boards is so low. Women perform as well as men at university and in their early careers, so they are no less capable of doing just as well in more senior positions. There are women qualified women to sit on company boards across Europe, many of whom have already been identified by Commissioner Reding.

This proposed European legislation is not intended to dictate to businesses how they structure companies or force them to appoint token women. Mandatory quotas for women on company boards are required to kick start gender equality at this level. While there has been a small improvement in the last year it is not a significant enough leap.

The Cranfield School of Management reported a slight increase in the percentage of women on the boards of the UK’s 100 largest listed companies. Their statistics revealed that 15.6 per cent, of women sit on company boards today compared with 12.5 per cent last March (2011).

We do not yet know the detail of the draft legislation, but we do know Mrs Reding wants the 40 per cent quota to be operative by 2020. If this is successful it will be a huge improvement and something I will be very proud to have supported.

Honeyball’s weekly round-up

Labour Party

Business Secretary, Vince Cable used the T word again today he was referring to a tax on bankers bonuses today when he was interviewed on Andrew Marr. The Coalition Government had promised it would be tough on banker’s bonuses, yet it looks as though this year we are going to see another round of very very hefty bonuses awarded to bankers. No doubt an icy chill will have fallen across the city, after the Business Secretary called for bankers to cool down the bonuses or else.

Or else what exactly? The Chancellor, George Osborne, doesn’t appear to have been anywhere near as vociferous in the banker’s bonus debate. If they don’t calm down they will be taxed, we’d rather they accepted that they must calm down their bonuses. The responsibility, he says, lies with the bosses of the banks, the coalition were clear that it would keep its eye on bank bonuses and they must not let this slip. You can watch his interview with Andrew Marr this morning here (approx 38:29 minutes into the programme.)

Cable will be appearing in an altogether scene than today’s when we see him appearing on the Christmas Special of Strictly Come Dancing, an accomplished ballroom dancer, this twinkle toes will undoubtedly impress us, but perhaps in a different way to Ms Widdecombe.

Vince Cable on Christmas Special of Strictly Come Dancing

What do Chairman Mao and David Cameron have in common? Rather a lot according to Andrew Rawnsley in today’s Observer. He says that one minister claims he will ‘unveil a cultural revolution in the public services.’ Rawnsley claims ‘I have actually heard more than one member of the cabinet explicitly refer to the government as ‘Maoist’. Needless to say Rawnsley’s conclusion is that we are governed by Maoists and his argument is set out here.

Women are to blam for the gender pay gap, says today’s Telegraph. A report ot be published by a leading accademic says it’s down to women’s life style choices. Oh and for good measure, and to stick the boot in,  Dr Hakim claims in a 12,000 word report described government policies to promote equality as ‘pointless’ and based on ‘feminist myths’. Dr Hakim the article said was the same person who claimed in a study called Erotic Capital earlier this year that the most successful people in modern society are those who are the most attractive in appearance and manner. It is incredibly disappointing, and that’s putting it mildly, that people still feel this way and that there is an attitude that ‘women want it all but must make sacrifices somewhere.’ 

Earlier in the year Equalities Minister, Lynne Featherstone, said she would tackle the view that women should appear a certain way, that image is everything and will get you on in life. Women have enough things to contend with – why do we also have to be worried about being the most attractive in appearance and manner? It’s absurd.