Women being held back from Boardroom

Published on 29th May 2012 by Grace McGillick

Women being held back from Boardroom by ‘male focused’ recruitment, reports Personnel Today.

Recruitment process favouring candidates who fit in with masculine boardroom cultures are holding back any efforts to bring more women in to FTSE 350 companies, Personnel Today reports.

A report by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), found despite positive steps to get more women in to executive jobs, the final stages of the recruitment process still poses barriers.


The voluntary code of conduct for executive search firm, brought in by recommendation of the Davies review last year, has had some success in getting women on to the long list of board-level jobs.


However when drawing up short list, ‘culture fit’ with the current board members who were majority men, put women at a disadvantage.


Baroness Prosser, deputy chair of EHRC stated: "Research shows that diverse boards produce better performance. Many companies recognise this. We commissioned this report to support the efforts to improve the representation of women at board level.

"However, the often subjective way of making appointments ends up replicating existing boards rather than bringing in talented women who could bring real benefits to individual company performance and ultimately help Britain's economic recovery."


Karen Gill, co-founder of Everwoman, a network providing advice for women trying to advance their careers, states that although no longer selecting candidates based on culture fit will be uncomfortable for some, it is something that has to be done.


"Executive search firms have made progress thanks to the voluntary code, but the push needs to continue and headhunters must drive the focus on competencies rather than this indefinable and dangerous notion of 'fit'," Gill commented.

"It's easy to hire the image of what you know, so chairmen must make a conscious decision to take the blinkers off and consider applicants on a proven track record. This will be a leap of faith for many but British boards don't need more of the same; they need women with the right competencies and a different perspective to bring to the table."

In response to these findings, EHRC recommends that the selection process for executive boards should be made more ‘transparent, professional and rigorous’ to allow chairmen and search agencies to appoint even more women to boardroom roles.

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