November 24, 2008 / 3:27 PM / 10 years ago

Bailed-out UK banks told: Consider women directors

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - Women should be considered for new board positions in banks bailed out by the British government to counter the male dominance of senior directorships in the nation’s biggest companies, a report said on Thursday.

Commuters walk in to London's financial district during the morning rush hour October 7, 2008. REUTERS/Stephen Hird

Cranfield School of Management said the number of female directors in top firms listed on the London Stock Exchange’s FTSE 100 index had barely risen over the past 10 years, with more than a fifth still run by all-male boards.

It said only 131 directors of FTSE 100 companies were women — around one in eight — compared to 79 a decade ago.

“We might not be in quite such a dire situation if there had been more females on the boards of banks,” report co-author Ruth Sealy told the Financial Times.

“The evidence is that women are not more risk-averse, but they are more risk-aware.”

Cranfield’s latest Female FTSE report said there were some encouraging signs that the gender gap at the top was narrowing despite an “alarmingly small” increase in women.

It said the most promising rise was in the number of companies with more than one woman on its board.

There were 39 such firms in the FTSE 100, compared to just 13 when Cranfield conducted its first survey of female boardroom representation 10 years ago.

The report said companies needed to make greater effort to improve the gender mix on senior corporate boards.

“Consideration should be given to female candidates for new board positions in recapitalized banks,” it recommended.

It also said firms should advertise all directorships and should aspire to having women make up 30 percent of candidate lists.

“Britain needs more women in the boardroom,” said Britain’s Minister for Women and Equality Harriet Harman.

“What does it say to women in a company if all the key decisions in the boardroom are taken by men?”

The government announced a 37 billion pound ($54.89 billion) plan last month to bail out Royal Bank of Scotland and the merger of HBOS and Lloyds TSB after they were hit by the global credit crunch.

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