Male managers and executives are blocking progress on gender equality in UK companies. Passive resistance to more women in leadership roles is widespread, according to a recent study by the Chartered Management Institute (CMI). But active resistance is also common.
Two thirds of the managers surveyed are convinced that their company can also meet future entrepreneurial challenges without giving women equal rights in management. 33 percent of male respondents believe that too much effort is being made in their workplace to attract more women to leadership roles. Among the women surveyed, it is 13 percent.
Great Britain is seen as a pioneer when it comes to diversity. 39.1% of positions in the top corporate boards of the FTSE 100 index were held by women last year. Ten years earlier it was just 12.5 percent. The trend does not only apply to large, international corporations. It was also 37.6 percent in the FTSE 350, which includes medium-sized listed companies.
Fewer and fewer companies are using multiple women in leadership, with only six of the FTSE 350 companies still having a single female representative, an approach known locally as “One
“Progress is far too slow, and these troubling results even suggest that the risk of regression is ever-present,” warned Ann Francke, executive director of the CMI, on releasing the data not to lose sight of the issue. “We still have a long way to go, but the CMI data is showing signs of resistance and perhaps even early evidence of a backlash from many men.”
Diversity has become increasingly important in management for years. Teams made up of people of different genders, from different cultures and with different educational backgrounds regularly come off as more innovative in studies, they create more sophisticated risk management and a healthier working atmosphere. Representatives from different groups also help to address customers and business partners appropriately.
The concern about regression in equality underlines a development of the past few days. At the general meeting of the insurer Aviva, several shareholder representatives addressed CEO Amanda Blanc with misogynist slogans. The development of the Aviva share indicates that Blanc “is not the right man for the job,” complained one shareholder in his speech.
In fact, the company’s valuation has increased by over a third since Blanc took over as CEO two years ago. Another retail investor asked if she was the right person to wear the pants.
Finally, one shareholder commented that it was good that the management group now had so many women. “They are so good at simple housekeeping. I’m sure that this will be reflected in the direction of the company’s management in the future.”
The requests to speak left him stunned, said the head of the board of directors, George Culmer, at the end of the event. “I am not thanking all of you for your contributions as I feel some of the comments were grossly inappropriate and I would not expect and hope to hear anything of the sort at a future AGM.”
The company said that while inappropriate comments have occasionally been made at annual general meetings, they have not been misogynistic in the past.
Blanc himself underscored the concern that such sexist rhetoric has been on the rise in recent times. With over 30 years in the financial services industry, she’d grown accustomed to sexist and derogatory comments and had a lot of misogynist scars. But the situation just wasn’t getting any better.
“I would like to tell you that things have gotten better recently, but to be honest it has increased,” she wrote on LinkedIn after the AGM. The surprising thing is that such jokes have been made in private in the past, for example among colleagues in the confidentiality of an office. “The fact that people are now making comments like this at a public general meeting is a new development for me personally.”
Such sexist hostilities as Blanc has just experienced are just one of the very high-profile examples of the inequalities that exist at all levels of organizations, said Francke of CMI. She acknowledged that the huge benefits of gender equality for corporate performance need to be better communicated.
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