Women in the boardroom still shut out by 'boys' club' culture - News - The Independent

Women in the boardroom still shut out by 'boys' club' culture


The appointment this week of Clara Freeman as Marks & Spencer's first female executive board member elevates her to an exclusive club. According to surveys, there are just two other female executive directors of FTSE- 100 companies, Kathleen O'Donovan and Rosemary Thorne, finance directors respectively of J Sainsbury and the industrial conglomerate BTR.

Although news of the promotion of Mrs Freeman - a 42-year-old mother of two who was formerly head of personnel at M&S - came at the same time as Rolls-Royce Motor Cars' announcement that it was appointing its first woman executive board member - Christine Gaskell, from Fisons - there is little evidence that women are finally breaking through the "glass ceiling" which stops them progressing to the very top of the career ladder.

The view that one of the biggest bars to women's promotion are the "boys' club" attitudes and the long-hours culture prevalent in British industry was thrown into fresh relief yesterday by the top businesswoman Prue Leith, who attacked the "stupidity" of working long hours, which she said discriminated unfairly against women. Many male managers were playing a "stressful power game" by starting work at the crack of dawn and staying late in the office, she complained.

Ms Leith, founder of a successful catering company and a non-executive director of several companies, said she had suggested at a recent board meeting that executives should set an example by leaving work at 5pm to spend time with their families.

In 1994 the Institute of Management (IoM) produced a shock report showing that the proportion of women managers in British industry had dropped after 21 years of successive rises. The long-term trend was resumed last year, however, with another rise - from 9.5 per cent to 10.7 per cent - while the figure for women on the board hit a new peak of 3 per cent.

Roger Young, director general of the organisation, said this was still not sufficient. "There are not enough women at board level by a long shot. They bring a different perspective and different talents, and represent 50 per cent of society, so should be up there." He is, however, encouraged that more women appear to be aspiring to board positions - they account for at least half of the participants on many of the management courses that the IoM organises.

The Institute of Directors, which stresses that it does not favour positive discrimination, reports a 70 per cent increase in the number of women directors attending its development courses. The number of women members of the organisation, meanwhile, has grown by about 30 per cent in the past year, so that they represent about one-tenth of the 35,000-strong UK membership.

Opportunity 2000, the organisation that promotes women in business, was also encouraged by a doubling of the proportion of women managers among its 295 members in its fourth year of operation ending last November.

However, women still account for only 1 per cent of main board positions, and Liz Bargh, director of Opportunity 2000, believes there is a lot of work still to be done. "We just have to keep on saying that this is a serious business issue."

Leading article, page 14


Managing director in charge of the City pension fund business Deutsche-Morgan Grenfell

Horlick, 33, known in the Square Mile as "Superwoman" because she manages to combine her demanding post with marriage to a banker and having four children, is one of a band of influential women in finance. Someone who has known her since university days says: ''She's so dynamic she's frightening.''


Finance director of BTR. A hard-working 37-year-old who won favour with senior management of a famously cost-conscious organisation with her business acumen. BTR controls Dunlop and has a turnover of nearly pounds 10bn. O'Donovan helped to complete BTR's pounds 1.5bn bid for Hawker Siddeley. Colleagues say she likes to "get on with the job" - something that apparently means regular 13-hour days. A keen Manchester United supporter.


Chief executive of Laura Ashley, with long experience of retail business, both in her native US and in Britain. Appointed vice-president of Bloomingdales in 1984. Six years later, lured to Britain to turn round British Home Stores, a performance that established her reputation in this country. Became chief executive of Mothercare for two years before returning to the US. Aged 51, she relaxes with "easy fiction, the theatre and gardening in Arizona".


Finance director of J Sainsbury since March 1992, and a council member of the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants, aged 44. Was previously group financial controller at Grand Metropolitan and has been financial director and company secretary at Harrods and in the finance department at Storehouse. Fellow of the Association of Corporate Treasurers and involved with the Prince's Youth Business Trust.

John Travolta is a qualified airline captain and employed the pilot with his company, Alto
people'That was the lowest I’d ever felt'
Life and Style
healthIt isn’t greasy. It doesn’t smell. And moreover, it costs nothing
peopleThe report and photo dedicated to the actress’s decolletage has, unsurprisingly, provoked anger
Home body: Badger stays safe indoors
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
The programme sees four specialists creating what they believe are three perfect couples, based on scientific matchmaking. The couples will not meet until they walk down the aisle together
tvUK wedding show jilted
Arts and Entertainment
US pop diva Jennifer Lopez sang “Happy Birthday” to Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, president of Turkmenistan
musicCorporate gigs become key source of musicians' income
Arts and Entertainment
You've been framed: Henri Matisse's colourful cut-outs at Tate Modern
artWhat makes a smash-hit art show
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig believed to be donning skis as 007 for first time
Mikel Arteta pictured during Borussia Dortmund vs Arsenal
champions league
Yes supporters gather outside the Usher Hall, which is hosting a Night for Scotland in Edinburgh
voicesBen Judah: Is there a third option for England and Scotland that keeps everyone happy?
Arts and Entertainment
Pulp-fiction lover: Jarvis Cocker
booksJarvis Cocker on Richard Brautigan
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke and Pharell Williams in the video of the song, which has been accused of justifying rape
music...and he had 'almost no part' in writing it
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior QA Engineer - Agile, SCRUM

£35000 - £50000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior QA Engineer (Agil...

Marketing Executive - West Midlands - £28,000

£26000 - £28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Digital Marketing Executive (SEO, PP...

Retail Business Analyst

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our retail client ...

Senior C++ Developer

£400 - £450 Per Annum possibly more for the right candidate: Clearwater People...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week