Women and diversity

karenbirchbw-245x3001My first degree is in Zoology and as part of that degree course I studied Human Evolution, so please bear with me if my argument becomes overly complex and too scientific. The early record of human evolution threw up a number of incredible metrics, some of which are as true today as they were when early hominids first started to move from the East African Rift Valley. The most relevant statistic when considering diversity is the staggering revelation that 51% of the population are women. Yes, women are not a minority group …. BUT

  • women make up just 22.5% of women MP’s. The picture is slightly better in Scotland but the number of women MSP’s is the second lowest in four Holyrood elections at just 34%
  • women make up just 15% of High Court Judges – which may go some way to explaining why prisons are filling up with single mums whose main crime is a failure to cope.
  • according to the Davies Report women make up only 12.5% of the members of the corporate boards of FTSE 100 companies. Admittedly this does represent an improvement from 2004 when the figure was just 9.4%. At this rate of growth it will take 70 years to achieve gender-balanced boardrooms in the UK’s largest 100 companies. Under Lord Davies’ recommendations, FTSE-listed boards are required to have 25% of positions held by women by 2015.  While progress towards this figure was made early on, recent figures show that the percentage of female appointments to FTSE 100 boards in the last six months is 26%. This is a considerable slow down from the previous six month period measured by Cranfield, where female appointments to the FTSE 100 were 44% .
  • just 10% of bank CEO’s are women. In 2011 the EU issued draft proposals to force banks to take on more women directors. The proposal calls for women to make up one-third of bank directors. At the time the proposal was launched, Royal Bank of Scotland and Lloyds Banking Group had female representation on the boards lower than 10%, at HSBC it was 25%, at Barclays 15% and Standard Chartered 13%. Ana Patricia Botín of Santander is the only female chief executive of a major bank.
  • only 5% of national newspaper editors are women – and remember what the Icelandic experience tells us about the importance of a positive media profile.
  • 0% of the monetary committee are female. I’m not a fan of (the late) Margaret Thatcher, to put it mildly, as I was still in Liverpool when she was determined to destroy economic development in the city, but she did suggest that balancing the national budget was little different to what every woman did week in and week out in the home. I quote, “”Any woman who understands the problems of running a home will be nearer to understanding the problems of running a country.” I can’t help feeling that under the current economic circumstances having more women on the committee wouldn’t be a bad idea.
  • Women are only half as likely to be involved in entrepreneurial activity as men with only 5% of women involved in entrepreneurial activity.
  • only 14%of SME’s are majority female led
  • there are only 18 women in executive positions in the FTSE 100, compared to 292 men.


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