Post from Deauville: still no boardroom equality

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.

The survey reveals that C-suite-level directors were mostly convinced about the argument that more women on leadership teams led to higher financial returns. Sixty-two per cent of male respondents in this category said they were convinced this was true and 90 per cent of female C-suite-level directors agreed. However, only 28 per cent of respondents identified gender diversity as a top-10 priority in their company.

The reality is that little change has happened since 2007 in terms of the proportion of women in leadership positions. The highest representation of women on corporate boards in 2010 is in Norway and Sweden where it is 32 per cent and 27 per cent respectively. This drops significantly to 15 per cent for the US and France and 13 per cent and 12 per cent for the UK. In the case of the Brics it is even worse: Brazil – 7 per cent, Russia – 8 per cent, India – 5 per cent and China – 6 per cent. Gender diversity on executive committees, an important measure of women’s progress to the leadership ranks, is only 17 per cent at its highest in Sweden. In Norway, where legislation has pushed greater gender diversity on boards, only 12 per cent of women are represented on the executive committee.

The report identified two main barriers to change: the double-burden of work and domestic responsibilities and the “anytime, anywhere” performance model. Fifty-seven per cent of women respondents cited the “double-burden” as the biggest barrier to increasing gender diversity within the top management of corporations compared with 47 per cent of male respondents. The report added that women had identified a third barrier: “The reticence of many women to advocate for themselves.”

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Liz Bolshaw is a business journalist and editor. She has been a successful book publisher, online editor, magazine editor and publisher.

She was launch editor of the Europe-wide online community Entrepreneur Country, has published magazines for PwC, 3i, dunhill and Bafta, and launched The Sharp Edge, a magazine for and about entrepreneurs, with Duncan Bannatyne. She is a regular contributor to Thomson Reuters’ Venture Capital Journal.

Her last project for the Financial Times was as editor of the paper’s Business Education magazine.

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Andrew Hill is an associate editor and the management editor of the FT. He was City editor of the FT and editor of the daily Lombard column on British business and finance from September 2006 to December 2010.

He was the FT’s financial editor from June 2005 to September 2006, with overall responsibility for coverage of companies and markets. Before becoming financial editor, he was the FT’s comment & analysis editor, in charge of the paper’s opinion and features pages.

From 1999 to 2003, he was the FT’s New York bureau chief. He joined the FT in 1988 and has also worked as foreign news editor, UK companies reporter and correspondent in Brussels and Milan.

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