“I think this crisis is a wonderful opportunity for companies to shift towards a more meritocratic working environment”. Così Ruth Sealy, Senior Research Fellow and Deputy Director dell’International Centre for Women Leaders (che ha sede all’interno dell’università inglese di Cranfield) ci parla del rapporto tra l’occupazione femminile e l’attuale crisi economica. E analizza la relazione tra performance aziendali e presenza femminile nel direttivo societario, basandosi sul rapporto che lei ha curato “Ftse women” (presenza femminile nei Cda delle società quotate a Londra, vedi il post dell'11 gennaio ).
D: Is recession making thinks worse for women? Is the companies's board going back to "zero omen" presence, as far as you may have recorded preparing the annual Female FTSE report?
R: So far we have no specific research regarding the impact of the recession – there has been much speculation in the UK about whether companies are making women redundant more readily than men (which of course is completely illegal), particularly those on or about to go maternity leave. In addition there is some speculation as to whether women might be more willing to take redundancy than men, perhaps to make life-changes. These may have impacts in forthcoming years, in terms of the "pipeline" to leadership. At present, there has been no impact on the number of women on boards in the FTSE100 companies, but that is just a superficial measure. Deeper investigation later in the year may give different results.
D: Catalyst (an american ngos') did a research to prove that companies with a higher women presence in the bord are scooring better in corporate performances. Could you say something similar for the Ftse?
R; In the Female FTSE Report we can say that there is a correlation between the market capitalisation size of companies and the presence of women on the boards. What it is not possible to say is the direction of causality – does having women on the board increase the market capitalisation, or is it just the companies with bigger market capitalization who go and get women on their boards. The Catalyst study is frequently cited, but there are as many academic studies saying that it makes a difference as there are saying that it does not.
D: Isnt' this crisis also an opportunity for companies to shift toward a more meritocratic working environment, in your opinion?
R: I think this crisis is a wonderful opportunity for companies to shift towards a more meritocratic working environment. There are plenty of studies that show that having more diverse leadership teams make better decisions and are more competitive. We know that diverse boards have better corporate governance procedures and practices, and poor corporate governance has undoubtedly been an issue in the recent past. The systemic behaviours of excessive risk taking and short-termism are more clearly associated with "masculine" ways of working than "feminine" ones. There is evidence that the "transformational" style of leadership is more effective and productive than the traditional "transactional" one, and that the former is more readily associated with women's leadership style than men's. In addition, with the "Babyboomer" generation retiring, there is a talent shortage forecast which cannot be filled be only using (the male) half of the talent pool. All of these reasons, nevermind the moral and ethical ones, should point to companies moving to a more genuinely meritocratic working environment. However, in reality, will that happen??…time will tell.