When the Lord Davies review was launched in 2011 with a target of achieving a 25% representation of women on FTSE 100 boards, many were sceptical about its chances of success. Some of them argued that voluntary action, the premise of the Davies review, simply wasn’t enough. Only mandated quotas would bring about the change that was required. But Davies and his colleagues succeeded. 26.1% of directors of FTSE 100 companies are now female, up from 12.5% when the review began.
Of course, as Davies himself would be the first to acknowledge, his target was never intended to be an end goal so much as a symbolic, if highly significant, stepping stone. If the will was there, progress could be made. And made it was.
But now we’re moving on. The Hampton-Alexander review, building on the excellent work of Lord Davies and his team, has a broadened scope and a broadened ambition – 33% of women on the boards of the FTSE 350 by the year 2020.
This is obviously good news. But what is particularly encouraging is the fact that Josh Hardie, Deputy-Director General of the CBI, clearly accepts one of the key principles underlying the approach of the Davies review – that the underrepresentation of women is not just an equality issue, it’s a business issue. As he says: “Having a greater number of women in leadership roles is making a real difference to the success of the UK economy, our productivity and our future place in the world.”
Women aren’t asking for favours. They’re asking for their potential contribution to be recognised.