Rarely has the issue of Women on Boards been in the news as consistently as it has over the last two years. The Lord Davies report has done much to highlight the value to the bottom line of a more diverse board. Whilst progress has been made in appointing more women to the board in the FTSE top 100 companies, there is still a long way to go to reach Lord Davies target of 25% of board members of UK companies being female by 2015.
Currently, debate is centred around the proposed introduction of quotas. Whilst David Cameron has refused to rule out imposing quotas if sufficient progress isn't made, the Government's current position (in its submission to the European Union Justice Commission consultation on EU board quotas) is that a voluntary approach is better.
But whether you favour quotas or measurable targets, surely this is missing the point? Of far more relevance is the recent revelation that the gene pool of women suitable for board positions is reaching full capacity. So what's happening further down the chain and why aren't there enough women at the next level down, ready and willing to take their place on the board?
Research amongst women who have already made it to the top has identified critical job assignments that women need on their CV's to be eligible for a place on the board, for example an overseas posting and profit and loss responsibility. We also know that many corporates are losing high potential female talent during the crucial childbearing years. Whilst research amongst women currently at the top gives some insight into the female talent drain during child bearing years, the majority of these women were at work with young children in the late 90s.
There is currently a resounding silence in the body of research from the voice of women at work in 2012 who are in the process of starting a family. What issues are they currently facing? What are the barriers to achieving the critical job assignments that will make them eligible for the Board? Until there is a greater understanding of why high potential women of childbearing age are leaving the corporate workplace in 2012, it will be difficult to address the talent pipeline required for gender balanced boards of the future.