Where are all the female bosses?

Is it me or has there been a flurry of females being appointed in top roles recently?

Lately, every time I look at LinkedIn or the business press I seem to see an article about the appointment of a female in a prominent role. Alison Rose as the new CEO of RBS is perhaps the most notable example from the past few months.

On the face of it, you could see the news of women taking top roles as a step in the right direction – and about time too.

The more cynical amongst us might question why a women being appointed in a senior role is newsworthy at all – shouldn’t it be par for the course?

We’re all for women being appointed in senior roles – in fact it’s something we’ve long championed and been keen to support, act and speak out on.

But it’s important that women are being promoted for the right reasons – not just for PR purposes or to fulfil quotas.

Questions have been raised as to how genuine the wave of recent senior female appointments actually are, with some businesses being accused of using one or two high profile senior hires as a smokescreen for what’s really going on behind the scenes in terms of both equality of pay and the proportioning of senior roles.

A report by Cranfield University found that female directors keep their jobs for a shorter time and are less likely to be promoted than men. The average tenure for female executive directors on FTSE 100 boards is 3.3 years, compared to 6.6 years for male directors. The study suggested that some companies have been making senior female appointments for symbolic value; as a means of ticking a box rather than wanting to make genuine change.

Just because there have been a flurry of high profile senior female appointments, it doesn’t mean things have changed. Although women now make up 32% of FTSE 100 directors – up from 29% a year ago and therefore on tract to meet the government’s target of 33%, looking beyond the published headline figures is revealing…

Currently, only 6% of FTSE 100 companies have women CEOs, and female bosses are on average paid £300,000 less than their male counterparts.

Women can and do bring many qualities to a board. This is something we’ve seen first-hand with our Addidi Angels programme – which was the first all-female investment club in the UK. There is also a wealth of research and evidence out there that makes the case for females on boards. Just this month, new research found that executive committees with over 25% of females on them yielded profit margins almost three times higher than firms with all-male executives.

One of my hopes when I see news of a female senior appointment is that a step-change will be signalled in that organisation – perhaps even that industry. By being in positions where they can truly have a say on what goes on in an organisation will hopefully pave the way for other women to rise through the ranks.