Brenda Trenowden CBE
Global Co-Chair, 30% Club, Partner PwC
We’ve come a long way in our campaign for greater gender diversity on Boards – from the low level of 9.5% in 2010, 30% of the 3017 FTSE350 directorships are now held by women.
However, while we pause to congratulate ourselves on hitting that milestone ahead our 2020 target date, we have to admit that there is still much work to be done in terms of better gender balance in executive roles. We are also engaging with peer organisations around improving senior level representation for women and men from other backgrounds e.g. ethnic minorities, LGBT+ and those with disabilities to ensure we have truly representative decision-making bodies.
Gender diversity is a huge, untapped opportunity
However, companies that are only thinking about gender and other forms of diversity from an internal perspective – like leaving it to HR to count female Board members and women at each level of the organisation – are missing commercial opportunities. The more enlightened CEO realises that gender diversity isn’t an HR problem; it’s a huge, but largely untapped opportunity to differentiate their business, boost brand loyalty and reinforce their social license to operate. Companies should have an enterprise-wide gender lens, and gender diversity should be woven into corporate strategy running through all aspects of the organisation. It should be incorporated into product and service design, marketing and communications, risk, supply-chain, and all aspects of underlying strategic planning.
On the 8th November, the 30% Club launched a new campaign ‘Are You Missing Millions?’ to showcase examples where leading companies have done this and have had positive commercial and social outcomes. Our report (which is available for download from our website) draws on the experiences of 30% Club members Diageo, GSK, HSBC, Mastercard, PwC, Unilever and Vodafone. Our objective is to use these examples to provoke thought and encourage others to share their stories and best practices in doing this so that this becomes business as usual.
Developing solutions to improve female representation
Interestingly, while the majority of large businesses understand the case for greater gender diversity in their organisations, it’s not been easy to get them to understand the difference in approaching gender diversity from the outside in. There has been some challenge around whether an enterprise-wide approach means we are suggesting “moving on” from addressing the representation issues when we are still only hitting 30% and not true gender balance yet – to be clear, we are not abandoning our original aims. But we do believe that the wealth of best practices that now exist to help improve female representation means we can continue to get on with that while we expand our view across the rest of our organisations where to date there has been less knowledge and insight.
We believe we must start to develop solutions to many of the types of problems that Caroline Criado-Perez raised in her book Invisible Women : Exposing Data Bias in a World Designed for Men. In the book, Ms. Criado-Perez points out many examples where businesses or governments have not taken women into account, with significant consequences of exclusion in areas as broad as medicine, consumer products, town planning, office and factory design, agriculture, the collection of data and design of algorithms. Particularly with the ever-growing number of women in senior leadership roles, companies should proactively deploy their diversity of thought to reduce the organisational gender insights gap and address external opportunities to drive better outcomes for both women and men.
Can you afford to miss out on millions?
The bottom line is that this is not just a social issue and it’s not a problem that requires a quick tactical solution. This is a major commercial opportunity that for some businesses will result in millions of new revenues, millions of new customers and potentially millions of unexpected benefits. Can you really afford not to do think about it?