Lack of female directors ‘is barrier to growth’

THE number of female directors on the boards of Yorkshire’s 150 largest companies has broken the 100 barrier for the first time, according to new research.

Liz Richards, group director at Callcredit
Liz Richards, group director at Callcredit

However, a senior figure at professional services firm BDO, which carried out the study, warned that Yorkshire is still suffering from a “disastrous” loss of talent due to the lack of women at the top table.

According to the BDO Yorkshire report 2014, 102 out of 845 directors at Yorkshire’s top 150 companies are women. Last year, there were 83 female directors out of a total of 827.

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However, some companies are still failing to find a place for women on the board. In the construction sector, for example, only four per cent of executive and non-executive directors are women.

Terry Jones, a Leeds-based partner and head of BDO in Yorkshire, said: “The region’s biggest companies are making progress in addressing the issue of gender imbalance, but females still only represent 12 per cent of directors at board level.

“It is not unusual for businesses to recruit about 50 per cent female graduates, so the small proportion of senior women professionals reveals a disastrous loss of talented people that could help propel the growth of Yorkshire plc.

“The lack of senior female role models continues to be cited as a key barrier to women’s career success, and that cannot be ignored.

“Research shows that companies with more diverse boards achieve higher sales and higher returns, bringing together different ways of thinking and new ways of working.

“Inclusion is everyone’s business. Businesses need to focus on encouraging the right culture where every single person feels empowered, and where policies and processes allow people to achieve their potential in a way that is unique to them.

“We all have a responsibility to create an inclusive working environment to help corporate Yorkshire flourish.”

Last year the firm launched the BDO Women’s Network and, in Leeds, the team is involved with The Pearls Programme, which encourages more women to take on senior roles.

Liz Richards, the group financial director at Leeds-based credit reference firm Call Credit said yesterday: “To take full advantage of the economic resurgence and opportunities in the Yorkshire region, we need to fully embrace the widely accepted view that better balanced boards lead to real business benefits.

“More talented and capable women working within the board environment will help achieve the right mix of skills needed to keep the region competitive.

“While good progress has been made in recent years, we have more work to do to encourage women to gain the confidence to step up.

“This applies at the non-executive level but also crucially on executive boards, where under representation is still high.

“In the UK as a whole, only seven per cent of executive directorships in FTSE 100 companies are fulfilled by women. The culture and mindset is changing towards more female board participation but this impetus needs to be maintained in Yorkshire, where there is currently so much great activity, to fully access the pool of business talent.”

Among the top 150 companies analysed in the Yorkshire Report, Kelda Eurobond, Arco and Asda have the most female directors, with four each.