27 March 2015

I read an article recently about the increasing number of women in the boardrooms of British businesses. Apparently women now hold 23.5% of FTSE 100 directorships which, while still very low, is a step in the right direction and an improvement on previous years.

Getting a good mix of men and women into the boardroom is something I’ve always been supportive of. You could say that having been raised in a convent surrounded by women has given me some great insights into the nature and behaviour of women (or perhaps it comes from having three daughters and a wife – the girls definitely outnumber the boys in our household). I certainly don’t think it’s wise to have a table of just men making all the decisions. You need that balance and variety of experience and perspective.

The perfect business partner, wife, mother and director

At UKFast, I think this comes through in the number of senior positions with high levels of responsibility and autonomy that are held by women. However, it’s not all about recruiting more women, but retaining them too. What I am mindful of is the responsibility we have as businesses to make sure we don’t lose great talent.

At a certain age, many couples will want to start a family and, of course, that often means the woman has to step out of a high level role and feel completely out of that world for some time.

Our job, as businesses, is to make sure talented female employees aren’t left out. We want them to feel involved and engaged, even when they have had a child. If this means inviting them, with their baby, in for the odd meeting so they’re up to speed and still having an input, then I don’t see why this can’t happen – across all businesses, not just ours.

For us, this is why we’ve recently looked at our maternity package and realised it needs changing. So we will be increasing it to ensure it is fully paid for the first 16 weeks. In the same vein, we’re introducing fully paid paternity leave for the first 2 weeks. There is nothing more important in the world than family. Should a great family life come at the expense of a great career? Personally, I don’t think it should.

The girls enjoying our creche at UKFast

The girls enjoying the UKFast creche

It’s also worth mentioning that while new mums might have stepped off the corporate conveyor belt and may not necessarily be driving forwards in that particular area, they are still learning incredible management and life skills as a new parent. Things like multi-tasking, prioritising, planning and delegating are invaluable. So it’s important that we utilise women who have had that experience and give them opportunities where they can thrive.

Where do you stand on this? And why do you think that the percentage of female FTSE 100 board members (now 23.5%) is still so low?

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