Cherie Blair speaks out for Women at Board Level

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Cherie Blair discussed the importance of gender diversity at board level during last night’s Women in Leadership Beyond 2012 event, writes AskGrapevine HR this week

Speaking at the event, organised by the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) and Women in Management (WiM), Blair outlined how firms that fail to appoint women to board level risk their business underperforming.

Founder of the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women, a charity which provides women across the world with the skills, technology and access to finance to become successful small business owners, Blair says that society has not got around how women can fulfil themselves as mothers and as participants in the workplace.

“It’s about getting women at every level of the business and getting women into the pipeline,” she added.

The issue of women in the boardoom has dominated the HR agenda for many years, and has escalated since the launch of the Lord Davies report. There are currently eight all male boards in the FTSE 100.

Lord Davies’ report set out recommendations of having 25% of FTSE 350 board directorships chaired by women by 2015. Speaking at the event, Professor Susan Vinnicombe OBE of Cranfield School of Management, said that: “If we maintain this pace, we will reach 27% of women on boards by 2015.”

Also speaking at the event was Caroline Waters, Director of People and Policy at BT. She agreed that to have more women at board level, you need to look at all levels of the organisation rather than just focusing on senior roles.

Waters said: “The mistake everybody makes is thinking it’s just the women below board level. You have to feed the pyramid and start from the beginning.”

On discussing the issue of women reaching senior positions, Waters warns that women are more affected by failure: “Sometimes we [women] succeed but when we fail the burden of perceived failure is shared by every woman in the organisation.”

The event was held on the launch of CMI research, which suggests that men earn £400,000 more than women over their lifetime when following the same career path.

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