The boys club is breaking down, but oh so very slowly

Yorkshire lags the rest of the UK when it comes to appointing women to top jobs and many firms in the region fail to see why it is important to employ more female executives.

BDO research shows that the proportion of women on the boards of Yorkshire’s top 250 companies ​has ​stagnated at 17 per cent, the same level as last year.

Yorkshire is behind the national trend, with female directors making up 19 per cent of FTSE 250 boardrooms and 26 per cent in the FTSE 100.

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However, the region has shown some signs of improvement in recent years. In 2014, BDO’s research found that only 12 per cent of directors at the region’s top 150 companies were female, which was an increase on the 10 per cent recorded in 2013.

Jason Whitworth, M&A partner at BDO Yorkshire, believes that Yorkshire may lag the rest of the UK because it has so many traditional businesses that have been operating in a particular way for decades.

“It’s the nature of traditional businesses. That’s the way they operate,” he said

“The challenge is to create enough flexibility in the workplace for senior women to succeed.”

Exclusive research conducted by BDO to find out exactly what difference women can make to a board shows that they certainly seem to improve the bottom line.

Yorkshire firms with female ​​executive​s​ on their boards are outperforming those with all-male boards.

The research showed that boards with executive female representation saw a 12 per cent increase in sales, compared with a 7 per cent increase for all-male boards.

Pre-tax profits rose 18 per cent for boards with female executives, but they fell 30 per cent for those without an executive female director.

So what exactly do women add to the mix?

According to Victoria Woodings, a board director at Huddersfield-based brand implementation specialist Principle Group, women bring determination, attention to detail and necessary caution.

She believes that a good mix of male and female executives is the best way forward as men can be more entrepreneurial and willing to take risks.

Beth Butterwick, former CEO of Wakefield-based clothing chain Bonmarche, says that women bring a healthy combination of IQ and EQ (emotional quotient) to boards.

Ms Butterwick sums it up well: “While the boys club’ remains a precedent in many UK blue chip companies, I do not believe that strict quotas is the way to achieve a greater balance.

“Senior appointments should be made on merit, and regardless of gender, this requires sheer hard work and in many instances making tough family decisions.”

This is a key point. With the introduction of more flexibility, many mothers are able to return to the workplace and fulfil their potential, something that was hard to do until the last decade or so.

“Things have definitely changed over the past 20 years,” said Ms Woodings.

“It’s a totally different mindset. It’s much easier for women to return after maternity leave. Women no longer have to apologise for other areas of their life.”

Certainly juggling children and work teaches some very useful life skills that can be invaluable in the workplace.

Ms Woodings believes that technology has played a huge role in facilitating the work/life balance for women.

“We’ve seen a massive benefit from technology. In years gone by, it was family or work.

“Now you can keep everything moving. Technology and women advancing their careers goes together.”

Mr Whitworth believes that women bring a rational, challenging approach.

“Now we have another lady Prime Minister, there is a lot of talk about how focused and object-driven she is,” he said.

“Women who make it to these positions may be a bit sharper at tight management and more forceful at getting what they want.”