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The 'Women at the Top' blog is part of a series of online and print publications that focuses on women's achievements in business. With up-to-date news and incisive analysis, the blog will provoke discussion on the role of the world's most prominent businesswomen. www.ft.com/womenblog

For more Women at the Top news, video interviews and other features, visit www.ft.com/womenatthetop


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About our bloggers

Liz Bolshaw

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.

Rebecca Knight

Rebecca Knight is a freelance journalist based in Boston. She writes regularly for the FT on business education, entrepreneurship, and management.

Andrew Hill

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.

Pino Bethencourt

Pino Bethencourt is a professor and leadership expert at IE Business School in Madrid. She is also an author and executive coach.

Lynda Gratton

Lynda Gratton is professor of management practice at London Business School.

Linda Tarr-Whelan

Linda Tarr-Whelan, former ambassador to the UN commission on the status of women, is a Demos distinguished senior fellow.

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Blog

Rebecca Knight

Alyse Nelson is the president and chief executive of Vital Voices, a Washington, DC-based group that trains female civic and business leaders in emerging economies. (more…)

Liz Bolshaw

US-based membership organisation Women Corporate Directors (WCD) yesterday announced the winners of its 2012 WCD Awards. (more…)

Liz Bolshaw

It is not the first time that the diversity debate has moved from the executive to the owners of the UK’s largest companies, but this week’s launch of an investor action group adds muscle to that discussion. (more…)

Who is the world’s most high-profile Muslim businesswoman?

When asking the question, no obvious name springs to mind.

So are the elite levels of the business and corporate world falling behind when it comes to representing the diversity of women?
(more…)

Liz Bolshaw

Weili Dai is the co-founder of Marvell Technologies, a semi-conductor company that has grown from a three-person start-up in 1995 into one of the world’s largest chipmakers, with 6,000 employees internationally. As the vice-president of a company with a market capitalisation of $9bn, Weili is often cited as the only female entrepreneur to have created a multibillion-dollar technology company from scratch.

Born in Shanghai, Weili Dai moved with her family to San Francisco in 1978, completing high school there before studying computer science at the University of California, Berkeley. Between the ages of 9 and 14 she played semi-professional basketball in China, and the sport remains her passion. She spoke to Women at the Top:

(more…)

On July 6, the Financial Times publishes the next Women at the Top page as part of its flagship project on female business leadership. (more…)

Liz Bolshaw

The Professional Boards Forum has launched “BoardWatch” to track progress against the targets set down in Lord Davies’ report into the number of women on FTSE 100 boards. Drawing on data provided by BoardEx, a business networking service, BoardWatch will report monthly figures.

In the first of these reports, 31 per cent of new directors appointed to the boards of the UK’s largest 100 listed companies since March 1 are women. This has inched up the total percentage of women directors to 13.4 per cent (from 12.5 per cent at end-2010) and reduced the number of “stag” or all-male boards to 14 from 21. (more…)

Merryn Somerset Webb

I am speaking at my school’s old girls’ day this week. I am flattered, but I also wonder why, given that I was lucky enough to go to one of the best girls’ schools in the country, that it was me they asked. (more…)

Liz Bolshaw

March 8 is International Women’s Day, whose purpose is to celebrate women’s achievements and contributions to society, while reminding us – as reported by the United Nations – that no country in the world has so far achieved full gender parity.

IWD has its origins in Germany, when in 1910 Clara Zetkin, leader of the ‘women’s office’ for the country’s Social Democratic Party, proposed an annual women’s day to raise awareness of equality issues. The idea was adopted, and the first IWD was held the following year.

(more…)

Liz Bolshaw

In Monday’s FT, Lucy Kellaway writes about the impact that she, specifically as a female non-executive director (of Admiral, the FTSE 100 car insurance group), has on her board.

How much does gender deliver diversity? Will a woman inevitably bring a different perspective to the board table than a man, or do we exaggerate the importance of gender in our drive for more heterogeneous management teams? Kellaway goes on to take a tilt at another mantra for increasing female participation at board level: positive role modelling. She writes:

“I don’t kid myself that my own inanely grinning face in the annual report is a good example to bright, ambitious women working in the company on whose board I serve.”

In an article published last year in European Management Review, an international journal, Sabina Nielsen and Morten Huse discussed their research into the contributions made by women directors to board decision-making and strategic involvement at 120 Norwegian companies.

Because Norway has the highest level of participation of women in the boardroom globally, having introduced a 40 per cent quota in 2008, it makes for a useful gender lab.

Broadly, the researchers found it was not gender as such that underpinned women’s different perspectives, but rather the varied professional experience and value systems they tended to bring to the boardroom. More women than men in the research sample had higher degrees and non-business backgrounds. They were less likely than men to tolerate ethical lapses such as insider trading.

Most of them held, like Kellaway, non-executive roles, and those who were executive directors tended to be in “soft” areas such as human resources, marketing and corporate and social responsibility. This difference led to a commonly held notion, among both male and female directors, that female board members were less central to driving their boards’ decisions than their male counterparts. There was a difference in those cases where the chief executive was a woman: then all the women in the boardroom were deeply engaged in both setting strategy and contributing to board decisions.

One of the difficulties in research into gender difference in leadership is simply that it is hard to quantify. Also, it often corresponds to perceptions of gender stereotypes. We need more examples of gender-balanced boards – and especially of boards with three or more women executive directors – to be able to analyse how much gender itself makes a difference.

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