• Thu, Nov 10 2011

Financial Boards Would Benefit From Women With Diverse Resumes

According to new research, although the total number women on FTSE 100 company boards in the UK remains low, the number of new appointments has risen significantly, from 13% last year to 22.5%. This is encouraging as well as the fact that two thirds of the women appointed had no prior board experience.  Professor Susan Vinnicombe, director of the International Centre for Women Leaders, part of Cranfield School of Management, told the Financial Times that women with more diverse professional backgrounds are being considered for boards now. “It’s quite exciting,” she says. “Three of the women on FTSE 100 boards come from HR backgrounds and this has classically not been an area looked at for board positions. In order to get more women on boards we need to get out of the thinking that only those with a classic banking and finance background qualify.”

Most women haven’t run FTSE companies so if that is a requirement to join a board, it is going to be tough. “You don’t need five goalkeepers on a football team, you need a mixture of abilities and positions,” said Karina Robinson, who recently launched Robinson Hambro, a search firm specialising in board appointments. “There has been a tendency to appoint directors who have run divisions of FTSE companies when most women haven’t done this. Instead, the cleverest women I know, who would add value to boards, tend to have risen in professional services firms and asset management and media.”

More companies may want to consider this idea. As Sallie Krawcheck, the former  head of Bank of America Merrill Lynch global wealth, said earlier this week bringing in people with different backgrounds into the financial industry is key. “Putting in someone who’s diverse, has a diverse background,a different background, feels like always it’s a risk, so better go with people you’re comfortable with and know rather than take a chance,” she explained. “If we’re going to move forward in a very complex economy and industry you’re going to have to make sure you’re getting a broad range—not of gender, I’m not saying that—but a broad range of perspectives in order to navigate through.”

Photo: gemphotography/Shutterstock.com

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