Frances Ball 8 Mar 2019 05:37pm

IoD chair slams companies’ excuses for no female directors

Charlotte Valeur has criticised large listed companies for not achieving diversity targets

There has been a slow increase in the percentage of women on FTSE 250 boards, rising from 22.8% to 23.7% in the year to June 2018. The percentage of female executive directors, however, fell during that time from 7.7% to 6.4%.

Valeur, who joined the Institute of Directors (IoD) in September, has restructured its board to have a 50/50 split of men and women, and 30% of the board are not white.

Some companies have claimed that finding women with the right experience to be directors is difficult. However, in some cases companies have also failed to promote women internally.

In an interview with The Guardian, Valeur criticised these claims, arguing that people don’t like change. “Talent of all kinds is out there, but you have to consciously look for it.

“I will be very unpopular with FTSE 100, but I don’t actually mind. It’s not true that it’s difficult.”

A new report from Grant Thornton International (GTI) , released this month, corroborates Valeur’s point. The report, Women in Business: Building a Blueprint for Action, shows that despite the strong business case for gender diversity, change at the top level has been too slow thus far.

Findings by McKinsey also highlight the clear strengths of gender-diverse businesses, notably in its 2017 report, Women Matter: Time to Accelerate, 10 Years of Insight into Gender Diversity.

The GTI research shows that the proportion of women in senior management levels globally is at a record high of 29%. However, although this shows that attempts to make improvements are being made, Grant Thornton predicts that they will still fall short of ensuring long-term gender parity.

Commenting in the report, Francesca Lagerberg, GTI’s global leader for network capabilities, highlights the importance of high-level commitment to diversity initiatives.

Lagerberg says, “Targeted initiatives kick-start activity, but where you see a difference is when they are rigorously followed through, and where there’s a real commitment from the senior leadership.”