So should we take positive action to get women on boards?

Yes. Let me justify this with my argument.

If you look around in any country, the senior roles in large companies are held  by a small clique of mostly men. Not just this, but men who went to the same schools. It reminded me of the last time I went to a conference in the UK and watched the endless lines of grey suited, grey haired men trooping into the room. Occasionally there were women as well, however on the conference platform again mostly men.

A recent EU paper stated that ‘Although today 60% of new university graduates are female, women are outnumbered by men in leadership positions in the corporate sector in the EU. On average, a mere 17.8% of board members of the largest publicly listed companies in the EU are women’

So its a kind of closed shop which women find it very hard to break into.

It is natural to recruit in ones own image. This is commonly referred to as the halo effect in psychology. Seeing traits of others that are in common with our own and valuing these more.

However the world consists of a wonderful variety of diverse people including different age, ethnic background, ability and gender. Each has there own perspective and diversity enables organisations to think and be different. Creativity and therefore innovation require diversity. So lets encourage women who do make up 50% of the worlds population to be supported into making it into the roles that have traditionally been informally reserved for men. In addition and maybe more importantly, there is evidence to suggest that women on boards has resulted in better governance and financial integrity.

In 2011 the French government took the decision to encourage women onto boards through legislation. Today France is leading the non Scandinavian European countries with its progress.

‘In the three years from October 2010 to October 2013 the share of women on boards increased in 22 of the 28 Member States. The largest percentage point increases were recorded in France (+17.4 pp), Slovenia (+11.8 pp), Italy (+10.4 pp), the Netherlands (+10.2 pp) and Germany (+8.8 pp). Most of the significant improvements took place in countries that have taken or considered legislative action or had an intensive public debate on the issue.’

In a later blog post I will argue that equality and gender issues for women need to be addressed from an early age and not left until women reach the stage of being available for board positions.

Barbara is an executive coach, change and creativity facilitator and is launching RenewYou Personal Development workshops for women in France. The first one will be held on 29 May in Paris.