Women in the boardroom: a target we need to meet

25 April 2014
Women in the boardroom: a target we need to meet

The hospitality industry still has a way to go before women make up 25% of its board members, says Brian Wisdom, chief executive, People 1st

The government recently launched its third annual report about women on boards in the UK and, despite significant steps forward in the numbers, it would appear that the target of 25% of women on boards by 2015 will not be met.

It was interesting to see the approach that this report takes: it focuses only on those businesses that have women currently occupying non-executive board positions.

While this is perhaps a somewhat facetious argument, it does highlight the difficulties of just counting heads. What would be more useful is to highlight the work companies are doing to help women progress and gain the skills that will allow them to move into non-executive directorships.

A number of companies listed in the report as having no female board members are actively helping to build women's skills so that they can reach this level - among them Merlin Entertainments - and they should be applauded. The skills required as a non-executive director are generally acquired through years of experience, so women (and men, for that matter) need to be given the time and opportunity to develop these skills.

Following research into why women were leaving the hospitality industry, we established Women 1st, which aims to transform the face of boards and support women who aspire to senior leadership roles. This campaign has been used to train more than 1,000 women and to promote women into executive and non-executive director roles.

This does not mean there is not more work to do. With 64% of businesses in hospitality and tourism offering flexible working, 19% providing women with leadership training, and 14% offering networking and mentoring programmes, our industry is clearly taking steps. It's this development of a talent pipeline that we need to focus on, and to recognise and celebrate those companies doing what they can to see more women take their place on boards.

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