Did you know that it wasn’t until the 20th century that women were allowed to join the workforce en masse?
And some of those that did work, were discouraged daily and treated unfairly in the poor working conditions of the time. Most were treated as a different social class altogether, as many companies exploited the need for cheap labour, but in time were recognised as a new force of workers.
Feminists have argued that whilst women have gained access to education and to the professional jobs markets in the 20th century, they have been disproportionately kept away from positions of power and have remained under-represented at the top – because of their lack of access to the higher education. Whilst this paradigm has been reversed (in the UK) with the level of participation now being higher for young women 56.6% than for young men 44.1%, this was not the case with older generations, which is reflected in the gender representation gap in executive board rooms. Even stronger arguments have been made in relation to BAME groups who were also socially and institutionally subjugated in our societies, and have not always enjoyed the same opportunities in terms of education and employment. In the UK, several ethnic minorities still remain disproportionately underrepresented, both at universities and across the professional job market.
Talks of introducing comprehensive policies to promote more equal opportunities for women and minorities have only recently started to gain some traction.
In 2016, the UK government ordered an independent consultation known as the Hampton-Alexander review to ensure that talented women in business are recognised, promoted and rewarded. Labelling gender inequality as “the greatest unmet challenge” our world has faced, the report argued that in addition to being an issue of social justice, gender diversity “benefits investors, the wider economy and society as a whole”.
The report had proposed that the FTSE 350 must have reached a 33% representation of women on the combined Executive Committee and Direct Reports to the Executive Committee by the end of 2020. As of 2021, 34.3% of board members in FTSE 350 are women.
In 2017 a similar report, the Parker Review, was commissioned. This review looked to address the misrepresentation of ethnic minorities in the boardroom. The report concluded that UK directors of ethnic background represented only 2% of directors in FTSE boardrooms. The Parker Review called upon all FTSE 100 companies to appoint at least one ethnic minority director to their board by 2021, but this target has not been achieved yet.
Boardroom equality and diversity is becoming a more prominent topic within board meetings, and Chairs are slowly coming round to changing the boards hiring and succession plans, as strong board-level corporate governance always starts at the recruiting stage.
In the business community, companies have to adapt to the changes within the environment, in order to achieve sustainable growth. And whilst they mention the importance of diversity, many fail to do anything about it. Those that do, complete diversity quotas with little care given for the actual benefits provided at board level.
College Green Group is happy to announce the launch of two new courses in the coming weeks. According to our earlier polls on LinkedIn, many see equal opportunities and merit as more important than equality, whilst companies are starting to favour under-represented minorities for their vacant board seats.
Let us know your thoughts and be part of the debate.