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COMMENTS ON WOMEN ON BOARDS REPORT

CBI COMMENTS ON WOMEN ON BOARDS REPORT

The CBI today welcomed Lord Daviess report, Women on Boards.

Helen Alexander, CBI President, said:

The lack of women at board level needs addressing urgently, and the best way of achieving this is through companies reporting on their progress.

We believe firms should report against internally-set targets that reflect different starting points, the nature of particular sectors, and the size and structure of the board.

Lord Daviess report rightly proposes that chairs of FTSE 350 companies should set the percentage of women they aspire to have on their boards, based on the characteristics of their business.

A Government-set target for FTSE 100 directors would not reflect the different circumstances of individual companies. It should be for companies, not the Government, to set an appropriate target.

The report contains good ideas to develop and sustain the talent pipeline to the boardroom, including harnessing the role of investors, executive search firms, and mentoring. The review has also been wise to avoid quotas, which would not have addressed the real issue of how we bring about a cultural change.

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UK companies lag behind multinationals in employer branding - with damaging commercial consequences
Too many of Britains leading businesses are failing to engage effectively with their staff leading to either reduced consumer confidence in their services, declining industrial relations, or both. According to employer branding specialists, Evviva Brands, organisations like British Airways, London Underground and Royal Mail have yet to learn from successful multinational businesses the importance of investing in their people brands in addition to their external marketing. By failing to first understand, then involve employees in the success of the business in a meaningful way, companies continue to impose a class system that is no longer tolerable in other markets says Evvivas CEO, Dr. David Kippen. The train driver who walks off because his seat is damp, leaving passengers stranded, is a symptom of a company that puts staff at the bottom of its business priorities. Similarly, why does British Airways think customers will book onto its flights when theres a fair chance of being served by disgruntled cabin crew, let alone the possibility of strike action? Kippen, an acknowledged authority and frequent lecturer on brand strategy, says that companies that put engagement of front line staff at the centre of their business strategy are generally more successful in the short and long term. Those that have adopted the staff first model are at the top of every sector. He references Ritz-Carlton whose employees are ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen - both a service promise to guests of the hotel but also underscoring the dignity in service of the hotels ladies and gentlemen. In a different vein, Googles employees observe the companys vaunted 20% rule where one day in every five can be devoted to pet projects that drive the companys business. The consequences include Gmail, Google News and a host of others as well as a number four ranking on Fortunes list of the best companies to work for. If more British companies started putting staff at the centre of their business strategy, by adopting a brand strategy that drives change from the inside out, the commercial consequences would be radical and permanent says Evviva Brands David Kippen. The benefits include improved staff retention, happiness and productivity closer management and employee integration enhanced recruitment and, most importantly, a growing customer reputation that boosts the bottom line. Absent this connection, only pay and the occasional personal sense of duty hold people to their seats. And when these proverbial seats become damp, the temptation to shove off too easily overwhelms.

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What gets measured gets done: setting targets for the number of women on boards

Helen Wells, Acting Director of Opportunity Now the gender campaign within Business in the Community welcomes the recommendations of Lord Davies:

The recommendations within the Lord Davies Review should be welcomed for their pragmaticism. Increasing the diversity of UK boardrooms is something which delivers business success and commercial advantage. I believe that better balanced boards are better boards, full stop. Study after study proves that having a diverse mix of experiences and perspectives leads to better strategic decision making, increased innovation and better corporate governance. Diversity helps avoids the pitfalls of group-think and the excessive risk associated with one dimensional thinking.

Evidence suggests that increasing the number of women on boards can contribute to higher return on equity and total return to shareholders. The business case is compelling, but there are still not enough women around UK board tables. Cranfield research highlighted that women make up only 12.5% of FTSE 100 boards, only 5.5% of executive directorships and that 21 of the top 100 companies have no women on their board at all.

The recommendations put emphasis on reporting the number of women on the board, women in the pipeline and women within the organisation as a whole. They also suggest that businesses should have measureable objectives and a plan of how to achieve their aspirational targets. Let's be clear about this - increasing the number of women on FTSE 100 boards to 25% by 2015 means that of 1080 board positions an extra 135 need to go to women or put another way we need to recruit an extra 27 women each year.This "target and plan" mechanism allows organisations to approach increasing the number of women on their boards in a way which is meaningful to their own business and provides a practical vehicle for change. These recommendations should not be confused with any type of quota, they are about companies setting their own targets and their own action plans to achieve them. We all know that what gets measured, gets done and setting a target and an action plan for increasing the number of women within UK boardrooms should be no different. Opportunity Now has championed the business case for increasing the number of women in leadership roles for the last 20 years and we are delighted that our tenacity has helped to ensure that this is becoming a mainstream business issue.
 
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LORD DAVIES REPORT: KORN/FERRY COMMENT
 
In response to Lord Davies review on gender diversity in the boardroom, Tony Vardy, Managing Director, Korn/Ferry Whitehead Mann comments:
We welcome Lord Davies recommendations, which address an important issue for UK businesses.  In order for voluntary targets to be effective, a wholesale culture shift is required involving companies, investors and executive search firms.   Lord Davies report this morning references a number of research studies demonstrating the commercial impact of diverse boards.  We believe that cultural change will be accelerated if consolidated evidence of increased value for shareholders is brought to the forefront of Chairmens minds.
 
We are fully supportive of the suggested Code of Conduct and believe it is an important first step in creating much needed change. We are well underway with the Korn/Ferry Whitehead Mann code of practice for creating world-class boards, which includes our approach to diversity, in all its forms.  In our view the issue is much deeper than board level appointments however the critical question is why women arent rising to the top of organisations. More needs to be done by companies to develop female employees and to build womens confidence and desire to reach the highest echelons of UK PLC.
 

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