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Business News 2009
Business News->Glass Ceiling a Distraction: It should be about the Glass Ladder
Glass Ceiling a Distraction: It should be about the Glass Ladder

(27 May 2009)

Glass ceilingThe lack of women on the boards of Britain's top companies has nothing to do with the 'glass ceiling' but because there is a shortage of women ready to step up to the board table says Kathleen O'Donovan, co-founder of Bird & Co, a specialist agency in training women for the boardroom particularly as non-executive directors. Bird said: "There have been too many reports about glass ceilings which lament the lack of women on boards but provide no answers. Boards are willing to recruit women but there is a supply problem. We spoke to chief executives and chairmen and found that the absence of women is no longer a demand-side issue."



Bird & Co's report quotes one senior FTSE 100 independent director as saying: "It is easier to find suitably qualified and experienced male candidates rather than females because there is something wrong with the supply chain." Another said: "The board should reflect both the society in which the company operates and the areas and countries in which it runs its business."

O'Donovan became the first female finance director of a FTSE 100 company when she took that role at conglomerate BTR in 1991. She has a deep understanding of boardrooms and their dynamics, with broad-based experience of the City, financial strategy, M&A and restructuring. She is currently Non-Executive deputy chairman: Great Portland Estates, Non-executive director at Prudential; Trinity Mirror and ARM Holdings and Chairman of the Invensys Pension Scheme. She is also co-chair of International Rescue Committee UK, a charity which supports people displaced by conflict in areas such as Darfur and the Afghan/Pakistan border.

"The subject of women on boards has been debated endlessly, and it’s fair to say that attitudes have changed. As our own research confirms, there is widespread recognition that boards’ performance can be enhanced by the addition of one or more women. Indeed, there is much enthusiasm for programmes to increase the number of women in senior management positions." said O'Donovan.

"For years, this has been seen as a demand-side problem: capable and qualified women blocked out by the glass ceiling. But as our research makes clear, this is now a supply-side issue: increasing female representation on boards is simply not going to be feasible without a significant increase in the pool of women who have the experience and preparation to be classed as genuinely ‘board ready’. This won’t just happen by itself. It needs purposeful and concerted action to make it happen. There’s a need for a ‘glass ladder’ that helps more women to the boardroom by preparing them for the demands that they’ll face when they get there. That is what our Glass Ladder programme does. "

Click here to download a copy of 'The Glass Ladder' report ()

Visit www.bird-co.com for further details on 'The Glass Ladder' programme

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