Boost for women in the boardroom

Nov 24 2004 by Brian Amble Print This Article

In the week that another study revealed the continuing grip of old boy network and the astoundingly low number of women appointed as executive and non executive directors (NEDs), a new organisation has been launched to promote the appointment of women to the top table.

RENEW, the Register of Executive and Non Executive Women, has been established by Hilarie Owen, founder of the Institute of Leadership, to support the development and appointment of female non executive and executive directors.

The initiative comes as research by and Ernst & Young found that almost two-thirds (64 per cent) of non-execs found their most recent position through 'traditional' channels.

It has also been launched only weeks after the debut of a separate mentoring scheme also designed to increase the number of women in the boardroom.

The programme, Women Directors on Boards, was established by consultancy The Change Partnership along with Cranfield University, PriceWaterhouseCoopers and a number of senior women in Government.

It will see the chairmen and chief executives of 20 of the UK’s largest businesses mentoring senior women executives from other companies.

RENEW, meanwhile, aims to encourage women to put themselves forward and also to encourage companies to actively consider and appoint women to these key roles.

Women currently account for just around nine per cent of FTSE 100 directors in total.

RENEW argues that in the current business climate, boards need a new perspective, transformational leadership and superb talent that today’s leading female executives offer.

Moreover, as Hilarie Owen points out, the recent Higgs Report on corporate governance actively encourages companies to look beyond traditional sources for NEDs to add a fresh perspective to their business.

"Report after report highlights the low number of women on UK boards," she said. "We’re keen to make companies realise that the right NED or executive director can bring competence, skills and experience to a board thereby adding balance to the existing team and strengthening overall company performance."

RENEW will also provide a network of ’like-minded’ professionals who share a common goal of developing their careers in the executive arena.

Members will receive support from the very first point of contact through to professional development including mentoring, board experience and specific director development.

Hilarie Owen added: "RENEW will select and develop individuals to ensure that they can fulfil their role as leaders and make a positive contribution to the achievements of organisations."

"It will provide unrivalled access to a pool of premier quality, professional women. And, by doing this, we’re going to negate the excuse that companies would, of course, appoint women – if only they could find them."