This week I interviewed Anne Lauvergeon, chief executive of Areva – the world’s largest builder of nuclear reactors and the number one miner of uranium.
Lauvergeon’s journey to the top of Areva is very French, graduating from her elite education at the École des Mines de Paris to the Elysée Palace and then the senior ranks of government-owned interests. As a physicist mineur she is one of an elite, predominantly male, tribe.
In a 2010 World Economic Forum report on corporate practices for gender diversity in 20 countries, 59 per cent of companies surveyed said they offer mentoring and networking programmes, and 28 per cent said they have women-specific programmes.
Last week, the FT reported on research by Spencer Stuart, an executive search company, into the diversity of S&P 500 company boards.
According to the research, over the last five years the top 500 US companies have not significantly increased the representation of women on their executive boards, with one in five companies continuing to be all-male bastions.
Today, Vince Cable, the business secretary, will address the annual conference of the CBI, the UK business lobby group. In a speech that has been widely leaked ahead of the time, he will talk about the dangers of “corporate short-termism”.
Mentoring has received a weighty stamp of approval from the Bank of England, which this week hosted a half-day colloquium about “widening the circle” of non-executive directors to include more women.
The Old Lady of Threadneedle Street – as the UK central bank is known – rarely lifts her skirts for private gatherings. When she does, however, she can certainly turn heads: 90 people attended, of whom 16 chair blue-chip FTSE 100 companies, and 10 head companies in the FTSE 250.
Kiran Mazumdar Shaw is one of India’s most inspiring entrepreneurs having built a global half billion-dollar biotech business – Biocon – that started life in a small garage. She had found an individual investor to help her bootstrap her business (with traveller cheques), but when it came to gaining funds to grow the company, no banker or fund would back her because she was a woman.
Last week I interviewed Indra Nooyi of PepsiCo – the most consistently highly ranked woman chief executive on the planet. We talked about the impact of her paternal grandfather: his expectation that his grandchildren would achieve exceptional results, and the imperative of working as hard as necessary to do an outstanding job.
Many will be familiar with the Harvard research that exposed the Pygmalion effect – when a teacher expects a student to do well, the student does well. Low expectations are also reliably self-fulfilling.
McKinsey, the consultancy, delivered its latest Women Matter study at the Women’s Forum for the Economy & Society in Deauville this week. Part of ongoing research conducted since 2007, this latest report is partly based on a survey of approximately 1,500 business leaders worldwide across all industries, from middle managers to chief executives.
Australia’s new initiative that requires listed companies to set targets to get more women at the top is already having an impact.
More than 20 per cent of director appointments to the top 200 companies listed this year on the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) were women, up from 5 per cent last year, according to Pansy Wong, New Zealand’s women’s affairs minister.