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12:50 on June 24 2014

Country Head de Aberdeen Asset Management y Head of Business Development Iberia

Artículo de Anne Richards: La diversidad no debe centrarse sólo en los puestos de Alta Dirección

La Directora de Inversiones a nivel global de aberdeen, y miembro del consejo de administración hace una acertada refelxión acerca de la importancia de que la diversidad esté presente en todos los ámbitos de la empresa. Espero que lo disfruteis!

Gender equality must not start and finish in the boardroom


You might be forgiven for thinking that the fight to make sure that women are better represented in business had been won. Women now represent 22 per cent of FTSE 100 directors. It is over ten years since Norway introduced an ambitious mandatory 40 per cent quota for women on the boards of its largest companies. The move attracted scorn at the time but it was a game changer: the move highlighted the need to attach numerical targets to the aspiration of better balanced boards if change was really to be effected, and it has since become a global phenomenon. A 40 per cent quota has now been proposed for the whole of the European Union. According to one law firm, by 2013 more than 50 cities in mainland China had adopted rules implementing legislation to increase representation of women on boards of public and private companies. Australia has brought in rules to create more equality between sexes in the workplace and New Zealand is taking steps to tackle the issue too.


Sadly the job is not done. A disproportionate amount of the debate has been lavished on the most senior level of businesses. The progress there is good, but it is not sufficient.  Better representation of women at every level of a business is vital for any company that values the quality of its staff. By focussing purely on the boardroom, there is a risk of creating a top heavy, inverted pyramid where women are represented at the top but no pipeline is being created to nurture the female board members of the future.

The reality is that women are in fact well represented at the entry level of many businesses. Many professional services companies, such as accountancy practices and legal firms, recruit as many or more female than male graduates for instance, reflecting the proportion and quality of graduates coming out of college and university.


Perhaps, then, the inverted pyramid actually looks more like an hour glass with women represented at the most senior and junior levels but not in the middle. There are multiple reasons for this. Some are obvious: too many companies still do not offer their people the kind of flexibility that would make having a family and a career feasible so many have to compromise either their career or family. Some are less obvious: unconscious bias can mean that people unintentionally favour other people who are like them. This can lead to situations where similarly skilled and qualified women take longer to get promoted than equivalent men. The financial crisis taught us many things, one of which was the danger of “groupthink”, where leadership teams made up of the same kinds of people fail to see the risks that are increasing around them. A board dominated by too many of the same type of people – whether that is in terms of sex, background or other factors – tend to think the same way. That meant that not enough was challenged or changed before the financial crisis came along and laid these faults bare.


The key for businesses is to realise that gender equality makes commercial sense. Mixed teams make better decisions and that should be reflected at every level in an organisation. Most businesses have a broad range of customers who are different from one another, so it makes commercial sense too. It is rational for a business to reflect that variety, with a diverse range of opinions that are more likely to represent customers’ interests. Businesses need to nurture their best people regardless of gender, ethnicity, religion or other measures and embrace differences. Change is happening. We just need more of it.


Anne Richards, Aberdeen Asset Management Chief Investment Officer

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