Revealed: How women make up just 14pc of board positions at East Anglia’s top firms
09:10 10 February 2016
Our research shows that just 74 of the 526 board members at the EDP’s Top100 companies are women. Find out here how many women are on the board of each firm.
The issue of women on boards has exercised the minds of those in politics and business at the highest level in recent years.
High-profile national reviews have had an impact in increasing the percentage of women in top positions, but away from the spotlight of the FTSE, progress has been less clear cut.
While gender balance surveys - by firms such as PwC - have kept the issue high on the agenda, we decided to put the EDP Top100 firms under the microscope - and the results show how far there is to go before there is parity in the boardroom.
While we found notable examples of progress, fewer than one in seven boardroom seats at our region’s leading companies is occupied by a woman.
Just 74 of the 526 board members at Top100 businesses are female - with the proportion of 14pc leaving the region lagging behind the 25pc target set by the government.
And while there are no men-only boards in the FTSE 100, more than half of the EDP Top100 boards do not have any female representation at all.
The imbalance has today been labelled “depressing” by leading figures in business, who have called for employers to use the talent at their disposal.
East Anglian MP and member of the women and equalities select committee Jo Churchill welcomed the government target of 25pc and urged firms in the East to look wider to find the best people for the job.
“Most research shows if you have a mixture on the board it often gets better longterm results,” said the Bury St Edmunds MP.
The figures come just days after the government announced a new review to boost the number of women on boards in the FTSE 350 - appointing former RBS chairman Sir Philip Hampton to lead the review.
It follows a report by Lord Mervyn Davies, which saw the FTSE 100 boards increase from 12.5pc women in 2011 to just over 26pc today.
The next phase of the review will focus on getting women into senior managerial jobs below board level, building a pipeline of talent for executive roles.
Women and Equalities Minister Nicky Morgan said: “We have come a long way but we must do more to make sure women everywhere are able to fulfil their potential.”
But for business leaders in the East, a figure of 14pc locally presented a disappointing outlook.
Carole Slaughter, chairman of the Norwich Business Women’s Network, said: “That is a really depressing statistic.
“We know from our own membership that women are just as ambitious and confident in their abilities to lead as men - it’s up to employers to ensure they are making the best use of all the talent they have available.”
Emma Bishop, chairman of the Women’s Energy Network, said: “It is absolutely not good enough but it is not about men and women – it’s about competence. We need to understand what is behind that.
“If we are under-represented what are we doing about it?”
A more balanced board is better for business, according to law firm Mills & Reeve managing partner Claire Clarke.
“It provides good role models for people to aspire to stay in the business and feel they can and will be supported in their career however they want to take it,” she said.
Much of the progress nationally has been in non-executive roles. Privately-owned businesses – like many of those in the EDP Top100 – tend to have fewer non-executive directors.
Norway introduced a quota system to raise the number of women on boards to at least 40pc, but the idea has proved divisive.
Minnie Moll, one of five chief executives at the East of England Co-op – which has eight men and eight women on its board – said quotas were “sidestepping the issue”.
Andy Wood, chief executive of Adnams which has three women and five men on its board, called for a culture change.
He said: “It’s a real shame we’re still in 2016 talking about whether women should be on boards. I think that is still a discussion in some board rooms.
“All sorts of things get thrown up, such as child care or the number of hours a woman works might be one of them. Is that a consideration when a man is considered?”
Among the EDP Top100 firms with no female representation on the board is Anglia Maltings (Holdings), led by managing director Euan Macpherson.
Mr Macpherson said the board of eight men was made up of share holder representatives, and added: “There is no particular reason [for the absence of women on the board] but we have been looking at a non-executive director to see if we could bring in some others.”
Another is Stowmarket-based Muntons, which has nine men and no women on the board.
Andy Jones, corporate marketing specialist, said: “We are certainly trying to grow the number of women in the business. We have a lot of women coming through in our management programme.”
Karen Hester began her career at Adnams as a cleaner, but gradually worked her way through the ranks and is now executive director on the board and chief operating officer.
Ms Hester is one of three women on the eight-person board, which was also part of a bid for the brand to reach out to a wider, more diverse audience.
“Women think very differently to men and if you’re in a business that is trying to attract both sets of genders, how would men know how a woman thinks?” she said.
Succession planning is key for the business, according to Ms Hester, who oversees the Adnams “rising talent” pool, of which 50pc are women, and one works part time.
The figures for board members in the EDP Top100 are based on information publicly available on Companies House on February 6.
In some cases, where this information was not clear, companies were asked to supply the details of board members.
While 57 of the boards listed in the Top100 did not have any women, in the case of RG Carter Group, for example, which does not have any women on its board, former hospital chief executive Anna Dugdale was appointed to the group holdings board, and is chairman of RG Carter Construction.
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