The government has appointed Sir Philip Hampton, one of Britain’s most highly regarded bosses, to push for more women in top management jobs at large companies.
Hampton, the chairman of GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), will chair an independent review on increasing the number of female executives at Britain’s 350 biggest public companies. Dame Helen Alexander, who chairs the media company UBM, will be Hampton’s deputy.
The review will build on the work by Mervyn Davies to get more women on to company boards. Lord Davies’s recommendations in 2011 spurred FTSE 100 companies to increase female board representation from 12.5% to 26%, beating his target of 25%. The figure for mid-size companies in the FTSE 250 was lower at almost 20%.
Davies called in October for women to make up at least a third of board directors by 2020 and widened the scope of his target to all FTSE 350 companies. He recommended a steering committee with a new chairman to achieve the target, starting with getting women into senior managerial jobs below board level.
Most of the women appointed to boards since 2011 have been non-executive directors, whose job is to oversee the decisions of chief executives and other top managers. The number of FTSE 100 female executive directors almost doubled from 2011-15 but was still fewer than one in 10.
Davies said more work was needed to get women into top executive jobs and in line to become senior independent directors. As with his earlier target, he rejected compulsory quotas in favour of encouraging companies to take part.
Hampton said: “I will focus on improving representation in the executive layer of companies, as well as maintaining the momentum on boards. This means looking at the talent pipeline for female executives and emerging non-executive directors to ensure we create opportunities and the right conditions for women to succeed.”
Hampton has led some of Britain’s biggest companies. Before joining GSK last year he was chairman of Royal Bank of Scotland and, before that, chair of Sainsbury’s. His other jobs include finance director at British Gas, BT and Lloyds TSB. Alexander is a non-executive director at Rolls-Royce and Huawei UK.
Carolyn Fairbairn, director general of the CBI employers’ lobby, said Hampton’s review should aim for a quarter of senior executive jobs occupied by women.
She said: “Diverse voices make for better business decisions – that’s why it’s right to focus on getting more women in executive roles, because they take daily decisions, shape and define strategy, and influence culture through the everyday examples that they set.”
Concern about the makeup of boards was heightened by the financial crisis, which exposed a lack of scrutiny by overwhelmingly male non-executives from similar backgrounds to the managers they were meant to oversee.
Research suggests women in business are not only more wary of risk than men but that companies with women at the top are more successful and in tune with their customers because their boards have a wider range of views.
Sajid Javid, the business secretary, said the push for more female executives was not about diversity for its own sake but would instead improve performance at Britain’s top companies.
“There are now more women on FTSE boards than ever before but we need to go further, particularly when it comes to paving the way to the executive level. Companies cannot afford to miss out on the skills and talent of the whole population if the UK is going to compete in a fast-moving global economy.”
This article was written by Sean Farrell, for theguardian.com on Sunday 7th February 2016 11.52 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010