In February 2011, Lord Davies’ Women on Boards report set a deadline of 24 August for organisations to clarify the steps they will take to increase female presence in the boardroom. As that deadline looms, Peta Latimer – head of diversity and inclusion in EMEA at Kenexa, the global HR services company – comments on the changes she has seen:
The Lord Davies Report was an incredibly positive initiative because it shifted the issue of female representation on boards further up the radar. Since then, many discussions and initiatives have been adopted by some dynamic CEOs and business leaders including re-focused recruitment and flexible work strategies as well as training and mentoring to help women develop the skills and confidence they need to climb the career ladder. Kenexa is working with leading companies to implement initiatives along these lines. However, long-term cultural change is still needed if organisations are to effectively attract, promote and retain women and therefore achieve the ambitious target of boosting the number of women in the boardroom by 25 percent by 2015.
To move forward, the concept of work-life balance needs to become one of work-life integration. This demands a review of work arrangements. It has to become acceptable for both women and men to work from home and to be more flexible in how they work. We’re no longer talking about part time versus full time. It’s about working in a way that suits the individual and the organisation. To bring about this change, organisations will need to learn to trust individuals and to provide development in areas such as flexible thinking and team interaction.
Women shouldn’t have to choose between having a career and having a family. With the extended retirement age, a working mum can return to work and still have another 20 years of career progression ahead of her. A quick win could be simply addressing the level of support offered to women on maternity leave, both to encourage them to come back and to enable them to return with a good level of knowledge.
With Generation Y workers beginning to populate management positions, it is likely that attitudinal change will occur in the coming years. This generation has grown up with the concept of work-life integration and has been raised in a much more egalitarian society, so differences relating to gender are less important to them than to previous generations. But why wait? Women amount to approximately 40% of the UK workforce and account for almost 60% of all UK graduates, so it’s time to look forward and embrace cultural change to truly benefit from new talent pools, diversity of thought and innovation.