The announcement by Glencore Xstrata that they had appointed Patrice Merrin to their board means that every company in the FTSE 100 now has female representation on their boards. Commenting on the appointment, Business Secretary Vince Cable said “This is a historic day for the FTSE and for the reforms I’ve been pushing for to ensure that there is more diversity in the talent running our biggest companies.”
Admittedly this is only the first step and more still needs to be done to increase diversity across FTSE 250 companies and others. Interestingly, a recent report revealed that far from London leading the way, it is the smaller cities within the UK which have the greater percentage of female representation on their boards. Compared with the national average of 30%, companies domiciled within the London EC postcode report 21% female representation whilst Kirkwall in Scotland posts figures of 39%.
But diversity within leadership is not just a numbers game. A diverse board is better equipped to anticipate and meet the needs of employees and customers alike. “Research suggests that companies with more diverse boards perform better and take fewer risks” (ICAEW) and when it comes to characteristics of world class leaders such as encouraging the heart and inspiring a shared vision, the chances of success are greatly enhanced if the board mix speaks directly to the rest of the employees.
The recent FTSE 100 appointment represents a milestone in leadership terms. But it is only when diverse leaders bring their own talents fully to bear that businesses will truly reap the benefit.