VINCE CABLE has said that voluntary targets are the way to remedy the problem of gender inequality on boards. I am afraid that the business secretary is wrong.
The answer is equal pay and progression prospects earlier down the chain, which would halt women feeling disenfranchised and therefore make them more likely to go for the very top roles.
The Department for Business found that just 16.7% of board posts in the FTSE 100 are taken up by women, which – while an increase – is still far too low. A voluntary target of 25% is a laudable step in the right direction but even the mention of targets leads to suggestions of positive discrimination.
Having waited for so long for a seat at the top table, the last thing professional women need is the insinuation that their progress is anything less than fully deserved.
So equal pay and prospects must come at an earlier career stage. Our research among accountants found that half of women feel their gender is a barrier to success, compared to only one in 10 men.
At the same time, female accountants are paid a fifth less than men on average. The two are interlinked as women feel less valued and rewarded for their work and, as a result, are less likely to push themselves towards the top roles. Once pay inequality is tackled and it is made clear that women are as valued to firms as men, parity on the board will come over time.
Laura Wilson is a director at Marks Sattin
Image credit: Shutterstock
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