Female Leadership Forum with Denise Wilson, CEO of The Hampton-Alexander Review

  • Thought Leadership

On Monday 22nd June, Judy Wagner and Ailsa Sutherland hosted a virtual Female Leadership Forum with guest speaker Denise Wilson, CEO of The Hampton-Alexander Review.

The Hampton-Alexander Review (the review) is an independent review body which builds on the excellent work of the Davies Review to increase the number of women on FTSE 350 boards. The Review adopts a voluntary business-led approach, with a dual focus of improving women’s representation at board level and also in leadership roles two layers below the board and covers 23,000 leadership roles across all sectors of British business. The Review is chaired by Sir Philip Hampton and led by Denise, who spoke to us about the work of the organisation, the changes they are seeing, the potential impact of Coronavirus, both on women specifically and on businesses generally, and the challenges and opportunities they see over the next few years.

The Review has made great progress over the last 10 years and now includes the FTSE 350 companies at Board level, and 2 levels below that in terms of reporting on senior female leadership talent.  It is a voluntary regime but has had growing support from the FTSE 350 with Investors, CEOs and Chairs taking diversity on Boards more seriously and increasingly wanting to address gaps in their Boards. The UK has been ambitious in its targets compared to many other countries which have just focused on the top 40 companies.

It was noted that 1,000 women have been appointed to FTSE 350 Boards and it is felt that without the launch of the review and its progress that these women would still be waiting in the wings for their rightful places.  Female CEO, Finance Director and Chair appointments are increasing gradually. On the FTSE 350, there are currently 6 female CEOs, 35 Chairs and it was also noted that the numbers of female FDs are in particular are growing steadily.

Denise pointed out that there is still bias in the selection process and there is an education and training requirement within the Leadership population on the benefits of diversity and how to make selections without gender bias, using the right language and methods.

Significant progress has been made which has given deep insights into the complexities and issues.  Changing people’s expectations is essential and to this end targets have been really important and give leaders a guide as to what good looks like.

It was highlighted that there are actions on executive recruiters, and leaders across large and small public and private companies to ensure that change continues to be driven. Leaders/managers need to be educated about gender differences and have conversations which give them the tools to address these empathetically and practically.

Covid-19 Impact

The report is usually updated in June but there will be a pause until October 2020 to allow businesses to address the current crisis.  That said, there will be no change in the expectation for all FTSE 350 companies to meet their targets by the end of 2020.  The review has set clear expectations for any company with a public profile to meet the expectations.  There is some anecdotal information to suggest that women are more likely to be furloughed or made redundant when the support schemes in place from the government come to an end in August.  This could potentially drive a ‘lockdown gender gap’.

The enforced working from home situation that we all find ourselves in might be really helpful in breaking down some barriers for women and some long held perceptions about reduced productivity when working from home.  It will be interesting to see how the picture looks in a few months’ time.

It would appear that the appointments pipeline is slowing down at the moment with several Chairs and CEOs staying on for a further period.

The UK needs to build back better with new people, who will bring new energy and new ideas. On the positive side, the pandemic has highlighted strong female leadership in some areas e.g. New Zealand, Germany and some of the Nordic countries.

Black Lives Matter

We touched briefly on Black Lives Matter – it is very clear that while talent is everywhere, opportunity is not.  Too many people are uncomfortable talking about race and there must be a drive to convert bystanders to upstanders to support this incredibly important talent pool – silence is as complicit as negative action.

Denise concluded by saying that we must see far more women getting the top jobs. 50% of our lawyers and accountants are women, and continuing to raise women’s expectations and creating opportunities for them in the workforce is critical.  The talent pool is better, females must make their expectations and ambitions known and put themselves forward.

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FWB Park Brown
FWB Park Brown continues to deliver its full range of services which includes providing support and advice during the Covid- 19 Public Health and developing global economic crisis.
We have established a range of cross sector as well as sector focused discussion forums for Chairs, NEDs, CEOs and all the main business management disciplines.  We are also working closely with the Scottish HR Leadership Group to provide constructive support including discussion forums and Q & As.
Summaries of the discussions will be posted on our news section and also on LinkedIn.
For further information about any of these forums please contact us via enquiries@fwbparkbrown.com

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