Greg Wright: Why hiring a female CEO makes good business sense

If you want to lead the field in the world of private equity, you really ought to hire a female chief executive.

You don’t have to take my word for it. Just ask Garry Wilson, the managing partner at Leeds-based Endless, who has invested in more than 50 companies over the last nine years.

Speaking at the inaugural Barclays Women in Business Awards, Mr Wilson provided evidence that businesses with a female CEO can outperform firms led by men.

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According to Mr Wilson, female-led businesses in the firm’s portfolio have produced annual returns that are eight per cent above those with men at the helm.

“So we know female chief executives make sense, and so do our investors,’’ Mr Wilson added.

But this truism is not widely acknowledged. In Yorkshire, around 88 per cent of the directors at the region’s largest companies are men. Voices that could improve a company’s performance are never heard.

Just days after Mr Wilson delivered his speech, the TUC published a report which shows how an inflexible approach to the working day is stopping large numbers of women from reaching decision-making roles.

Around half of the net growth in female employment in 2014 came from women moving to lower-paid part-time jobs, according to the TUC.

The analysis echoes the findings of a PwC report, which revealed that the UK has the third lowest proportion of women in full-time employment out of the 27 OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) countries.

The TUC said that new jobs for women are still heavily concentrated in low-paid sectors.

The TUC report found that, while many women choose to work part-time, there has been a marked increase in the number of women moving into part-time jobs since the recession, because they couldn’t find full-time employment.

Frances O’Grady, the TUC general secretary said: “There is a big divide between women working full-time and those working part-time, and far too many new jobs are in low-paid sectors. Unless we create better-paid part-time and flexible work opportunities, far too few women will see any real benefit from the recovery.”

Large numbers of people may welcome the growth in part-time roles, because it suits their lifestyles.

Andrew Hunter, the co-founder of the jobs website Adzuna, believes that many working mothers are looking for flexible, part-time positions.

He added: “Allowing a balance between motherhood and having a career increases many women’s happiness, and that is healthy for society. In some countries, the Netherlands for one, part-time work is now the dominant type of labour for women.

“However, the move to lower-paid positions suggests that there aren’t enough flexible positions going at the top end of the career ladder.

“Many women are paying for flexibility with a large wage cut, and the increase in women’s self-employment shows an undimmed desire to work at a decision-making level.

“The key to encouraging flexible working lies in the provision of childcare – which must be affordable, in the right place, and available at the right times – and the provision of flexible contracts.”

What is really needed is a revolutionary re-assessment of our working lives. A decision to move to part-time working shouldn’t be regarded as a sign that somebody lacks ambition.

Nobody should be forced to take lower-skilled jobs because rigid work patterns don’t suit their lifestyle.

We should adopt a more flexible approach to senior roles. The top jobs could - and should - be shared among several people.

This would lead to a more collaborative management style, and, in all probability, the boardroom gender gap would narrow. Failure to act will lead to a terrible waste of human potential.