Calls for more women in boardroom

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SHADOW Scottish Secretary Ann McKechin is leading calls for a spin-off version of the "30% Club" north of the Border amid concerns female representation at a boardroom and senior level in this country is worse than for the UK as a whole.

McKechin is hoping to organise a non-partisan meeting as early as next month of trade unions, women's groups and Scots females in high level corporate positions to help solve a swelling crisis around female employment in Scotland.

Figures last week showed that women have been the biggest victims over the last 12 months of unemployment north of the Border, while industry experts say there are particularly acute problems around female representation at a high level in both listed and private Scots firms.

Since its launch in November, the 30% Club - which was the brainchild of Helena Morrissey, chief executive of Newton Investment Management and Labour peer Mary Goudie - has been a roaring success in the Square Mile.

A number of FTSE 100 chairmen, including Sir Win Bischoff of Lloyds Banking Group and Roger Carr of Centrica, have signed up to the voluntary target of filling 30 per cent of board-level positions with female candidates. Martin Gilbert, head of Aberdeen Asset Management, has also proposed that fund managers should vote against non-executive directors who aren't seen to be doing enough to increase diversity in the board room.

While some Scottish firms are setting a good example - three of Standard Life's 11-strong board are women, for instance - recruitment experts say women trying to climb the corporate ladder in Scotland often face greater challenges than their counterparts in the rest of the UK.

McKechin said: "Scotland has a wealth of female talent struggling both to enter the labour market, but also to progress to the top once they are in it.

"By bringing together women who've made it against the odds to the top of their professions with members of trade unions and women's groups who have expertise in driving forward campaigns and raising public awareness, I hope we can make the most of our talented female workforce in Scotland.

"Wasting women's talents is bad news for everyone, particularly business."

Her calls have been backed by Stephen McCafferty, former group HR director at Standard Life, who now runs the consultancy Leader, Talent, Performance.

McCafferty said: "It seems crazy in this day and age that corporate Scotland still hasn't woken up to the need for greater diversity.

"The business case is clear: companies with greater diversity, in particular with a greater proportion of women on their boards, produce better business results. Some of our best known companies still have no female representative on their board."Some of Scotland's biggest companies including Aggreko, Wood Group, AG Barr and Robert Wiseman Dairies have no female representation at the top.

Ewan Hunter, director of Edinburgh-based HunterSearch, said although quotas have been dismissed in the past, other attempts to improve diversity over the last 10-15 years have not enough of an impact. He said a more "positive approach" is now required. "It highlights again the need for a proper cultural change in Scotland towards women in senior roles," Hunter said.

Positive examples of women on the boards of Scottish companies include Katherine Garrett-Cox, chief executive of Alliance Trust, Jackie Hunt, chief financial officer at Standard Life, Jann Brown, managing director at Cairn Energy, Margaret Lang, chairman of Intelligent Office UK, and Penny Hughes, non-executive director at Royal Bank of Scotland.

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