Women in the City: 30% Club aims to end male domination of the boardroom

5th July 2011

The club was set up by Newton's CEO Helena Morrissey and its inaugural seminar was held at the Cass Business School in London this week.

It pledges to open the doors of the boardroom to women who have been overlooked due to their gender.

It’s not the first time this year that boardroom gender imbalance has been debated. In February a report from Sir Mervyn Davies, commissioned by the Government, called for at least a quarter of FTSE 100 boards to be made up of women by 2015.

In 2010 just 12.5% of FTSE 100 board members were women and 14 companies among the FTSE 100 currently have all-male boards.

The figures for the FTSE 250 show an even lower proportion of women directors. Just 9% of companies from this group have women as directors.

As the name “30% Club” suggests, the group’s idea is to go beyond Davies’ target of 25% and aim for 30% of UK boardrooms to be made up of women.

The club, whose pledge is "Growth Through Diversity", aims to draw up a series of proposals to be adopted by board chairmen for boosting female representation.

At the moment there is no legislation to impose either quota but the Government has made it clear that action could be taken unless progress is made. Other countries already do this; in Norway 40% of board members must be women.

Home secretary Theresa May will make the opening remarks when the 30% Club formally launches tonight (Monday 4 July). May will stress that the Government is monitoring corporate Britain's progress.

The project has already got some big names on board including Sir Philip Hampton of RBS, Roger Carr of Centrica, and Charlie Mayfield of John Lewis.

Jane Scott, UK director of the Professional Boards Forum, organises events to bring City chairmen together with professional women who may be potential boardroom candidates. At the events the candidates work through simulated boardroom decision-making scenarios including strategy, governance, finance, common sense.

Scott says this is a better way of judging women's abilities than how well they can smooth-talk executives. She says the 30% target in achievable and there is a “massive pool” of women.

The 30% Club’s formation met with a mixed response from Guardian readers. Replying to a Guardian story about the 30% Club, Andrewtc wrote: “Any pressure from social engineering which prevents the appointment of the candidate with the best skills and experience has to be a bad thing.”

But Simonhop says that any pressure from society which encourages the appointment of females to positions of influence must be a good thing. “The thing is that, because they are less driven by their own success, by the selfish gene, they are less likely, in a Darwinian environment, to accede to positions of power,” he wrote, “By encouraging more women into the boardrooms of our big companies we encourage more selflessness, consensus-based decision-making, care and thoughtfulness.”

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