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Attracting more women to the top table in finance

05/03/14

Of 130 directors of 17 companies floated on the London Stock Exchange last year, only 15 (11 per cent) were female, according to the latest analysis from the Financial News.

The figures are slightly more positive when it comes to firms already on the FTSE 100, where 20.4 per cent of directors are women; the corresponding percentage for the FTSE 250 is 15.1 per cent.

A great deal of discussion has taken place in recent years about how the financial services industry can improve the number of female workers who rise to the top; the prospect of quotas has been mooted, by the EU as well as other organisations.

However, as the market for initial public offerings in Europe revives following a flat few years, concerns have been raised once again that the leadership structure of many firms is 'too male and too pale'.

Anne Richards, chief investment officer of Aberdeen Asset Management, said there have been fewer women reaching the top echelons of business than she anticipated.

"It's ultimately the chairman's responsibility. They ultimately have to get it, if there is a major shareholder involved, they have to get that it matters too. Unless they are convinced, then nothing will change," she added.

One problem when it comes to initial public offerings is that firms tend to look for board members with a great deal of expertise, meaning they are less likely to take a chance on an unproven figure.

Jenny Willott, junior minister for women and equalities and for employment relations and consumer affairs, recently spoke at the Work & Family Show 2014.

She said: "We need to make sure they're looking at a broader poll of women. Headhunters tend to go for people with the same likeness to themselves and we need to break away from that."

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