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Date
24 November 2016

Mishcon de Reya's Women's Forum

In 2011 Lord Davies launched his Women on Boards report, which highlighted that women were underrepresented on corporate boards - despite boards performing best when they include people from a range of perspectives and backgrounds. It also presented practical recommendations to address the imbalance. His follow up five year summary report, published in October last year, announced that the representation of women on boards had more than doubled to 26%.

At Mishcon de Reya's Women's Forum event on 10 November 2016, Jude Kelly, Artistic Director at Southbank Centre, spoke to Lord Davies about his views on quotas, what the biggest barrier to women's success is now and what the future holds for women on boards.

Transcript

Mishcon de Reya’s Women’s Forum with Lord Davies

Mishcon Women’s Forum

Jude Kelly
Artistic Director of Southbank Centre

Mishcon de Reya have put on this event because they want men and women to gather to talk specifically about women and board membership.  Lord Davies has been leading the investigation; he has done two reports now, 2011 and 2015, to see the progress for women on boards.

Lord Davies of Abersoch, CBE

When you look at the UK 51% of the working population is female and the reality is that, at the top of British companies, we should have half men half women, and some will be more women than men and vice versa. 

Jude Kelly
Artistic Director of Southbank Centre

I am interested to know what he has uncovered about unconscious bias as well as, you know, what we know to be sort of the culture.  I suppose the habit of sexism, if you like, and sometimes something more worrying which is a kind of deeper misogyny which can also exist.

Lord Davies of Abersoch, CBE

It’s difficult to believe that five years ago 21% of the top 100 companies in Britain had never had a woman on the board or their executive committees in their history and today the percentage is zero. 

Jude Kelly
Artistic Director of Southbank Centre

I am interested to know how optimistic he is about speed of change, what resistance he has found.  I want to know what’s the difference between a sort of ‘We ought to do this’ and actually ‘We just want to do this’. 

Lord Davies of Abersoch, CBE

I think in the UK we are going through a period where the brain drain of women from corporate world is actually leading to a great rise in entrepreneurial start-ups which is very good for the economy.  On average 6 out of 10 grads coming into a variety of professions are women so I think it is very important that legal firms, hugely respected ones like this one, and other consulting and accounting firms lead the charge, have events like this, and spread the word.  We need radical change in the board rooms, the executive committees and also in the professional firms.

Jude Kelly
Artistic Director of Southbank Centre

I think these events are about leadership in all zones of your life, whether you are a school governor or a parent and that’s why I think it’s also important that we don’t marginalise this into well, this is about women and for women.  It’s about a much more profitable world and I don’t mean profitable simply fiscally, I mean profitable in the sense that you are using people’s potential, building their confidence and making them think that everybody’s responsible for making the world better

Mishcon de Reya