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Management

Women in Leadership What countries perform well when it comes to women in leadership positions?

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he recent resignation of two of Britain’s leading female chief executives, Dame Marjorie Scardino at Pearson, owner of Penguin Books and the Financial Times and Cynthia Carroll at the global mining giant Anglo American leaves only three women in charge of FTSE 100 companies. However, according to Fortune Magazine Britain is the best place to be a female boss aside from the US which has long been to the forefront in appointing women to leadership roles. The American business bible points out that seven of the most powerful women in global business work in Britain which is more than in the larger economies of Germany, China or France. They include Ornella Barra, Chief executive of pharmaceuticals and wholesale at Alliance Boots, Alison Cooper, chief executive of Imperial Tobacco, Angela Ahrendts of Burbery, Isabelle Ealet, c-head of the securities division at Goldman Sachs, Ana Botin who runs Santander bank in the UK, Carolyn McCall, boss of Easyjet and Michelle Gas who runs Starbuck in Europe and the Middle East from her office on London. Further evidence that women are breaking through the glass ceiling in the UK 118 | Silicon Valley Global

comes from research from the Professional Board forum which reveals that for the first time women are almost as likely as men to be appointed non-executive director of a large UK company. In the last year, 48% of nonexecutive appointments to FTSE 100 boards have been women, the highest proportion since figures were first recorded in 1999. However, while there may an increase in female non-executive directors, progress has been notably slower in relation to executive directorships and only around 7% of executive directors at FTSE companies are women. This compares poorly with the US where the number of female corporate officers at Fortune 500 companies is around 15% or more than twice the number in the UK. The poor representation of women in senior management has lead to calls from some European politicians to introduce quotas for female executives on boards. EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding has presented proposals aimed at requiring that European companies hire a female candidate over an equally qualified male candidate or face penalties - unless women already fill at least 40% of seats on the board.

EU figures show that women currently only occupy around 15% of positions on the board of large companies throughout Europe. Rules which are due to be put in place in Britain this year will require companies quoted on the London stock exchange to carry out gender audits and make public information on the representation of men and women in the company. Quotas have been introduced in countries such as Norway and while it has brought the number of non-executive directors up to 40%, it has not achieved the breakthrough expected in relation to representation at the top level. Ireland has fared poorly in terms of its track record of hiring women to senior management positions. The proportion of women on boards in Ireland has increased only marginally from just under 7% in 2003 to about 9% last year. This amounts to an average annual increase of just 0.12% per year – a rate of progress which would require well over a century to achieve 40% representation of women on non-executive boards. Ireland also lags well behind the rest when it comes to the number of women in senior positions, according to research from Grant Thornton’s international Business Report. Twenty four per cent of management positions are held by women around the world but in Ireland the figure is 21%. Representation by women on boardrooms globally stands at around 19% but again in Ireland the figure falls to 17%. Gender equality on the boards of Irelands state owned companies is better with 35% of the boards made up of women. The National Women’s Council of Ireland has called for quotas to be introduced arguing that change won’t happen naturally. A high percentage of women in Ireland leave the workforce and don’t remain beyond middle management and executive level which points to an environment which is not conducive to working mothers. Research shows that a gender pay gap and issues over childcare are factors in women leaving the workplace. In Ireland the pay gap is at 4% for the lowest 10% of earners but it rises to 24.6% when it comes to the top 10% of earners. Figures from the Organization for Cooperation and Development show that employment rates for women with three children are as low as 45.2%. All in all a pretty dismal picture in relation to Ireland’s progress in advancing gender equality in the workplace.

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