The equality of UK boardrooms is coming under fire for being “blatantly male and white.”
According to an Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) report on Wednesday, executive boardrooms in the UK are still plagued by “Old Boys’ Networks” which stop women from getting their feet in the door.
“Nearly a third of companies (32%) reported largely relying on the personal networks of current and recent board members to identify new candidates,” it said.
To make matters worse, it added that “almost a third of companies using personal networks did not use any other means of advertising the post,” and that job descriptions that were advertised were woefully vague — relying on terms like “chemistry” and”fit” rather than clearly defined skills and experience.
The main problem, according to the report, is that a massive 60% of FTSE 350 companies still fail to meet the target of 25% female boardrooms set out by Lord Davies five years ago:
“Fewer than half (47%) of companies actually increased their female board representation over the period covered by the inquiry, while 46% of boards either remained the same or even decreased the proportion of women. Of the companies that increased the proportion of women on their boards, almost one third’s (31%) overall board size was reduced, rather than more women being appointed.”
All of this means that 90% of FTSE 250 companies “had no female executive directors at all on their boards during the period surveyed by the Commission.”
On the brighter side, the report did note that there were still more women in board positions in the UK than ever before.
Laura Carstensen, of the EHRC, said that despite some progress boardrooms
remained “blatantly male and white,” with inexcusable discrepancies between companies.
“Many top businesses are still only paying lip service to improving the representation of women on boards. Unfortunately the recruitment practices of too many businesses still remain trapped in permafrost and that’s holding back women and ultimately the companies themselves. The recruitment process to the boards of Britain’s top companies remains shadowy and opaque and is acting as a barrier to unleashing female talent.”
Other findings in the report included:
- 59% of companies undertake no specific activities to encourage applications from women for senior level or board appointments in the recruitment process.
- Some companies rely on personal recommendation without competition, or on informal interviewing unrelated to criteria in the role profile.
- 55% of companies reported did not advertise board appointments.
- Only 38% of those set concrete objectives or targets to increase the number of women on their board.