In the last three months, there has been a 92% increase in the number of women appointed to non-executive director (NED) roles in the U.K. Of these, 38% have been first-time NED appointments at publicly listed companies, showing that new talent is coming through the pipeline.
Executive search firm Sapphire Partners, founded by Kate Grussing, has been tracking moves by senior women for a decade. Ms Grussing has also been refreshingly outspoken from the very start of the U.K initiative to raise the number of women on the boards of its PLCs on the hidden reasons for the lack of visible talent. Her firm’s latest findings in its 13th quarterly edition of Movers and Shakers finds that there is a large and growing number of highly experienced and qualified women increasingly moving into top management roles.
The publicity around the review conducted in 2011 by Lord Davies of Abersoch on the under-representation of women kept the focus initially on highly visible NED appointments. But Sapphire Partners today says: ” The 71 female executive appointments we have tracked are even more noteworthy as they exemplify the pipeline of future female CEOs and board members – 23 in financial services, 24 in companies, 16 in professional services and eight in the not-for-profit and charity sector.”
Examples of interesting appointments within its report include: Dame Colette Bowe, who has been appointed Chairman of the Banking Standards Board, set up with the hugely important task of restoring trust in the country’s scandal-ridden banking sector.
In a keynote speech to the London IOSCO conference a few days ago she laid out the next steps going forward, saying: “Trust in banking cannot be restored one segment at a time. The whole industry has got to raise its game.” Women feature at the top in many regulatory and advisory roles involving better corporate governance and ethics in business – not only in the U.K, but all over the world.
Also in financial services, Sasha Wiggins has been appointed CEO, Barclays Bank Ireland plc.
Other female appointments include Anita Frew – who will be Chairman of Croda International plc, Baroness Margaret Ford of Cunninghame who has been appointed Chairman, Grainger plc and Jill McDonald, CEO Halfords plc.
Sapphire’s research – which it admits is not exhaustive – places a spotlight on 222 female board and executive moves over the last three months within the FTSE 100 and FTSE 250 companies, but also selected roles outside the U.K. It also includes 36 women who have stepped down from roles – four Chairs, five CEOs, 12 NEDs and 15 executives.
There is no room for complacency – depending on which way you look at the numbers, there is both good and bad news for those who value gender diversity in business.
Female executive appointments were down 36% in the last six months (71 vs 111 in the previous three months), says Sapphire. But – putting the quarter into context – over the last 12 months 640 women were appointed to NED and executive positions, vs 591 in the previous 12 months.
As the debate continues on how companies can bring about change, one thing is clear. The rise in female appointments over just a few years in the U.K shows there is no shortage of talented women.
By Dina Medland