Women are much less likely to be on the boards of technology companies or among their senior management than in other sectors, thanks to a ‘macho’ attitude in all-male senior teams, according to a new report.
Science, engineering and technology companies were among the worst publicly listed companies for ensuring women were represented at a senior level, according to the Female FTSE Report 2007, an annual survey of female executives conducted by Cranfield university management school.
The report found the number of women on FTSE 100 executive committees has soared by 40% over the last year. However technology companies were among the worst represented and still lag behind other industries, "even when compared to the extremely low representation of females on other sector boards".
Three technology companies were exceptions to the rule, with women on their boards. These were software supplier Sage, which ranked eighth with two women on a board of nine, BT, with two female directors on a board of 15, and business process outsourcer Capita, with one woman on a board of eight.
No other technology companies appeared on the list of top FTSE 100 and FTSE 250 companies.
A woman in one technology company interviewed for the survey said the reason for females not being on her board was because it was too remote and acted like “an old boy’s club”. Another said her board was “too macho”.
Several senior women in the organisation said they perceived the male-dominated board as "remote and elitist", where executives exercised their power. One said: “The biggest problem at the moment is that we have no idea about the executive board. They are very distant, they’re not communicating, you don’t know how decisions are made, who’s making what decisions, these kinds of things.”
Dr Val Singh, co-author of the report, said it was crucial for women in organisations to see other women in senior positions. "This will also provide role models and inspiration to women lower down, helping retention and attracting the best new talent," she added.
Harriet Harman, minister for women and equality, said: "British business at all levels must become more family friendly. ... This cultural change has to be led from the top and we will never see it while our businesses are led by men only boards."
Cranfield for the UK Resource Centre for Women in Science, Engineering and Technology, also launched a good practice guide to inclusive boardrooms, advising a change of culture from the top, and encouragement from executives for women to progress.
In other sectors, supermarket chain J Sainsbury topped the table with three female directors on a board of 10, and women accounted for 20% of the executive committee. Other strong performers included mining group Anglo-American, pharmaceutical company Astra-Zeneca and airline British Airways.
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