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Murray Edwards College
University of Cambridge

How do we get good women on boards?

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    06 June 2018

    New research from the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (published in The Guardian) last week revealed the excuses offered by FTSE companies to explain the lack of women on their boards. The excuses, which include "women aen’t a good fit in boardrooms", "most of them don’t want the hassle of a big job" and "they don’t understand the complex issues discussed in board meetings", were denounced by the Business Minister Andrew Griffiths as "pitiful and patronising".

    Dame Barbara Stocking responds in The Guardian today:

    If you are looking to have more women on boards, the key issue is whether you are looking for women whose backgrounds replicate those of the men. If that’s the case, then by definition you won’t find many: there are far fewer women in the c-suite and even fewer Chief Executives of major companies. The true value of bringing more women into the boardroom is to achieve greater diversity, so look to senior women in public services and the many walks of civil society. But first make sure your boardroom is an inclusive place; no woman wants to sit on a board if she is not going to be listened to. There is plenty of evidence that shows women are interrupted in meetings or, worse, have their contributions attributed to a man.

    To truly achieve gender equality in the workplace, from entry level all the way through to the board room, men and women need to work together. At Murray Edwards College, University of Cambridge, our Collaborating with Men research found that women feel that it is workplace culture issues that hold them back in their careers – but the barrier to change is that men are often unaware of these issues. Through working with a number of major companies across the UK, we have shown that making men more aware of the problems that women experience is essential for inspiring change.