It is only recently that I have heard of the 30% club. A group of chairs and CEOs of the top 100 FTSE companies who are taking positive action to create a better balance of men and women on the boards of their companies.
But what struck me most about the 30% club is that the reason they are doing this is not a gender issue but an economic imperative. Research from McKinsey Consultations has shown that companies that are committed to a more diverse leadership on their Board of Directors, were financially more successful. Women on the boards fostered innovation and creativity, the companies were more alert to changing needs and the diversity of views led to better quality decisions. More and more Chairs of companies are starting to recognise that a better balance of men and women leads to better problem solving, more collaborative working and improved connections with more diverse clients and markets.
Why 30%? This is the tipping point. Once you reach 30% of women on boards, in senior leadership positions, in positions of power, women stop being seen as a minority and valued in their own right. 30% is the critical mass for the transformation of the company’s fortunes, which is perhaps why there has been a recent rush to get women on the FTSE boards.
If a better gender balance drives a more successful company then why are so many companies, both in the UK and internationally, still below the minimum 30%? Perhaps it is still to do with unconscious gender bias. A recent experiment in Yale saw two CVs sent to over a 1000 employers. The CVs were identical in every way except the name. One was John, the other Jennifer. The CVs were rated out of 5. The Jennifer CVs rated 3.3 and the John CVs rated 4.4. More startling was the starting salary for Jennifer £26,008, John £30,038, with owners of the company more willing to mentor John than Jennifer.
It is perhaps not surprising that since blind auditions have been held for members of the top five global orchestras (with women being asked to remove their shoes as well), the number of female players in an orchestra has increased from less than 5% to nearly 30%.
A former pupil currently reading Mathematics at Imperial College was quizzical as to why the boys checked her results, the only girl on her particular course, and no one else. She soon put them right.
Times are changing. In an all girls’ school the girls have not had any gender bias. They fight gender stereotyping and see the difference they can make. They are excited by the future and with the work of the 30% club, I can see many of our girls on these boards, not because they are women but because they will lead that company to great success.