Since Cynthia Carroll’s recent decision to step down as chief executive of Anglo American, which left just two women running FTSE100 companies, the number of women in business has become a national hot topic.
Author Chrystia Freeland recently released her new book on the global super-rich. To her surprise, when she started research for the book, she discovered there were almost no female plutocrats. “At the real summit of money, there are almost no women apart from wives and daughters of plutocrats.” Of the 1,226 billionaires on the Forbes billionaire list this year, just 104 were women. Once the wives, daughters and widows are taken away from this, you are left with just a small fraction of that number. In today’s society, where it is a lot more common for women to have children at an older age, and with a more general acceptance of women putting their career first, it’s perhaps surprising that so few women are included in such lists.
One episode of a recent BBC TV series on the topic, called ‘Women at the Top’, featured a group of people split into teams: men, women and mixed genders. The task was to work together and build a tower; the mixed group nailed it and had the most fun doing it. It goes without saying that this task is somewhat different to a crucial business meeting in a multinational company; however, this illustrates that men and women have very different leadership and communication techniques, both of which are equally important, and that combining these approaches can lead to a better outcome.
So where are all the successful, career-driven women of the world? Are companies that have few or even no women in management positions getting it wrong? Should it be a legal obligation to have a mixed gender board of directors in FTSE100 companies? Should there be a quota that companies have to meet?
These questions are difficult for anyone to answer. Marcus Angell, Managing Director of SilverDoor, says: “There’s a fundamental reason why men tend to be higher up the career ladder than women and that’s because of children. Whether it’s right or wrong, having a baby takes you out of work for a certain amount of time where your career has to be put on hold and a lot of women find it difficult to get back into work after that.”
However, at SilverDoor our experience has taught us the benefits of having a gender-balanced workforce. Over half of our employees are female and our Financial Controller and Head of Online Media, Data and Marketing are both career-driven, successful women who have been with the company for over three years. The two most senior members of the Account Management Team, both of whom report directly to Chris Gee, Executive Commercial Director, are also women.
Marcus says: “It’s all about balance. It has been a conscious decision to keep a steady ratio of men to women because I think it’s important and reflects real life.” SilverDoor’s senior management team is made up of 12 women and 12 men, so this is true at all levels of the company.