UK-based women are noticeably absent from the top ranks of a new Women in Global Business ranking compiled by the FT. Although five British women made it into the top 50, the highest placing achieved by a female UK-born CEO was Kate Swann, boss of high street retail chain WH Smith, at number 26. Since studies suggest that UK businesswomen continue to lag behind their male peers in terms of both pay and promotion, it seems fair to conclude that UK plc could be doing more to encourage diversity in the boardroom...
Businesswomen at US organisations fared the best in the international rankings, with Indra Nooyi at Pepsico taking top spot and three of the top four women working at American companies. What’s more, two Americans who lead UK organisations made it into the top 50: Angela Ahrendts of Burberry and Cynthia Carroll of Anglo American. The survey’s authors point out, quite rightly, that the impressive representation of the US in the rankings does suggest that State-side efforts to encourage diversity in corporations are bearing fruit.
It wasn’t all bad news for the UK. Compared with some of our European neighbours, we didn’t do too badly at all – only two women represented Italy in the list, while Germany, France and Switzerland all had just one representative in the top 50. In fact, the only other European country to do well was Sweden, with three women on the list, including one (Annika Falkengren, chief exec of private bank SEB) in the top 10. Given Sweden’s relatively small population – 9m people live there, compared with more than 60m in the UK – that’s pretty good going.
This is just one ranking – and as the likes of Swann (and Game Group’s Lisa Morgan) demonstrate, there are clearly a lot of talented women in senior positions within UK plc. But the success of places like Sweden and the US serves as a reminder that there’s more work still to do if we want to see more women in positions of power. And since various studies have suggested that this could be good for your bottom line, our biggest companies have a big incentive not to let them slip through the net.
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