Diversity = better boards

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Only when there are sufficient numbers of female executive decision-makers rising to the top of boardrooms can there be a long-lasting difference to the nature of British business.

Although there are no all-male boardrooms in the FTSE100, most of the positions for women on those boards are non-executive roles. The IoD believes strongly that greater diversity at the top of business leads to better decision-making. Smaller companies should not lose out on the best talent just because they fear that the costs may outweigh the benefits.

That is why we want to showcase what the ‘best of the best’ are doing to give other businesses the opportunity to cherry-pick parts of their successful programmes so they, too, can attract and retain women of the highest calibre. Let’s remember that female school and university leavers still tend to achieve the best results.

This month the IoD is setting out its stall in terms of supporting women entrepreneurs and building the pipeline of female executive talent across the whole of British business. The Women in Business conference at 116 Pall Mall on 7 November is one of our most well-supported events and features many top-flight executives, giving members something to take away to help them build their businesses and develop individual talents.

The IoD is also headline sponsor for the Breaking the Mould Awards, which have attracted entries from some of the UK’s most illustrious companies as well as professional services firms, the state sector, smaller businesses and not-for-profit ventures. These awards recognise those organisations that are doing the most to create and nurture a supply of female executive talent and, as we hoped, a large number of those which have entered have agreed that details of their successful programmes can be published online. This we hope to do in a special section of the iod.com website as well as on breakingthemouldawards.co.uk.

This could be a really important contribution by the IoD to the sustainability of women in the boardroom. Hopefully these submissions will not only help smaller organisations become more attractive to female talent but will also enable them to keep hold of those who have been expensively trained. If we take our eye off the ball or sit back and think that we have reached Lord Davies’s target of 25 per cent board female representation, it could all start to unravel again.

Business has much to learn from women-orientated programmes when it comes to promoting black and ethnic minority talent, and this is another area where the IoD is determined to take leadership. After all, greater diversity not only leads to better directors but better business too.

About author

Lisa Buckingham

Lisa Buckingham

Lisa Buckingham advises the IoD on policies and initiatives to promote greater diversity in business. She previously spent 30 years in financial journalism, including as City Editor of the Guardian and the Mail on Sunday. Lisa is a fellow of the Royal Society for Arts and was awarded an OBE for services to journalism and women's issues in 2010.

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