Look to the US for lessons on boardroom diversity

28 Oct

As the UK struggles to find enough women to fill boardroom roles, and with progress since the publication of Lord Davies’ report still slow, there are certainly lessons to be learned from the US, where more women than ever are leading Fortune 500 companies.

IT giant IBM has this week appointed its first ever female CEO, Virginia ‘Ginni’ Rometty; pharmaceutical firm Mylan named Heather Bresch as its CEO; and last month Hewlett-Packard announced Meg Whitman as its CEO.

There are now 18 women running Fortune 500 companies, which is still a tiny percentage (3%) but at least it’s moving in the right direction. The lessons the UK can learn are summed up in this excellent article in USA Today, which says that change has to come from companies and from women themselves.

In summary, progress for women doesn’t depend just on more female CEOs being appointed but for businesses to set diversity targets, measure them and report on them. Women have to seek out mentors and sponsors, and be stronger and more expectant at the salary negotiating table.

However, the quote that stands out for me comes from IBM’s new CEO Rometty, again in the USA Today article, where she says women have to change their mindset and stop hesitating when offered the chance of a big job. She said: “You have to be very confident, even though you are so self-critical inside.”

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