Greg Wright: No excuse for lack of women directors

WHEN economic historians look back on the early years of the 21st century, a number of things will puzzle them.They will be baffled by our failure to create a sustainable, long term energy policy.They will be appalled by our failure to invest in training for our young people. They will be amazed by our collective capacity for acts of stupidity when it was far too easy to gain credit.But, perhaps above all else, they will be flabbergasted by the fact that so few women occupied corporate leadership positions.There are simply no excuses. The “gender gap” at executive level is colossal and shameful.Every year, women make up about half the graduate intake at many firms, but a pitifully small number of them go on to make it to the top table.We might, perhaps, take some comfort from the latest report from BDO which shows that the number of female directors on the boards of Yorkshire’s largest 150 companies has broken the 100 mark for the first time.But the fact remains that around 88 per cent of company directors are men.I agree with Terry Jones, who heads up BDO’s operation in Yorkshire. He says that we’re suffering a disastrous loss of talented people because so few women become directors. Although the gender gap is narrowing, it is moving at snail’s pace. PwC’s Women in Work Index, for example, shows that the UK ranks 18th out of 27 OECD countries based on a measure that combines indicators of female economic empowerment.The Nordic countries continue to lead the index, with Norway still taking pole position, followed by Denmark and Sweden. These three countries have consistently occupied the top three positions since the index was launched in 2000.So what can we learn from countries like Norway?Well, according to PwC, one of the reasons the Nordic countries top the index is because they recognise that men and women should be able to balance their career and family life. PwC’s research suggests that childcare and household tasks are shared more evenly between parents in these countries, which

Sign up to our daily newsletter