The 30% Club believes that gender balance on boards not only encourages better leadership and governance, but diversity further contributes to better all-round board performance, and ultimately increased corporate performance for both companies and their shareholders.
The 30% Club aims to develop a diverse pool of talent for all businesses through the efforts of its Chair and CEO members who are committed to better gender balance at all levels of their organisations. Business leadership is key to our mission, taking the issue beyond a specialist diversity effort and into mainstream talent management.
The 30% Club approach - collaborative, concerted business-led efforts - can help accelerate progress towards better gender balance at all levels of organisations. The 30% Club does not believe mandatory quotas are the right approach. Instead, we support a voluntary approach in order to realise meaningful, sustainable change. 30% Club efforts are complementary to individual company efforts and existing networking groups, adding to these through collaboration and the visible and voluntary commitment of senior business leaders.
In November 2009, a focus on diversity at Goldman Sachs brought Helena Morrissey and Mary Goudie together. The event, on balancing gender diversity at an executive level, showed that however hard any one company tried, there was little sign of a breakthrough and only 10–15% of senior roles were being filled by women. The two decided to follow up, and gauge whether there was appetite for a concerted push on the issue. Despite many efforts being made to encourage women and to develop awareness of the importance of diverse teams, Helena realised that there was no measurable goal. Research suggests that 30% is the proportion when critical mass is reached – in a group setting, the voices of the minority group become heard in their own right, rather than simply representing the minority. The idea of the 30% Club was born – initially focusing on corporate boards and engaging the chairs of the boards who had the power to change the shape of their own boards. Both Sir Roger Carr, then of Centrica, and Sir Win Bischoff, then of Lloyds Bank, immediately pledged their support, expressing some frustration that having recognised the positives of a more balanced board, they had found it hard to make that happen through the normal recruitment process. In November 2010, with a small group of founding chairmen supporters, the 30% Club was officially launched. The Financial Times’ ‘Women at the Top’ conference was held in London that year - we remain grateful to them for reporting on the launch with a cover story. Lord Mervyn Davies published his Women on Boards review on 24 February 2011, in which he set out 10 recommendations forming a blueprint for voluntary, business-led change. Lord Davies’ decision not to recommend mandatory quotas in the UK resonated with us. The 30% Club now had 24 Chair supporters and its neutral, non-commercial status had helped it to gain traction and to become a ‘voice’ on the issue. The 30% Club held its first major seminar, at Cass Business School, in July 2011. The then Home Secretary, Rt Hon Theresa May, MP, then also Minister for Women and Equalities, spoke at the event. One of the major new points to emerge from that seminar was made by Martin Gilbert, CEO of Aberdeen Asset Management, who suggested that if institutional investors really got behind this issue, it would take only a year to see meaningful change. Our first Investor Seminar, ‘Diversity and Stewardship’ in early 2012, attracted 150 attendees drawn mainly from the fund management community. Our Investor Group then had eight institutional fund management companies; now there are 23 members, representing c.£6trn of assets under management. We hosted an event looking at the degree to which executive search firms have adapted their recruitment processes following their adoption of a Voluntary Code of Conduct. Cranfield School of Management presented the findings of research on the topic, commissioned by the UK’s Equalities and Human Rights Commission. In July 2012 we reached 50 chairman supporters – The then Business Secretary, Rt Hon Dr Vince Cable MP, spoke at our celebratory event. During 2012 the 30% Club worked hard to demonstrate the success of a business-led approach to change, to answer the threat of a legislated quota imposed by the European Union. We submitted a number of responses to the EU Consultation on Gender Imbalance in Corporate Boards on behalf of the overall 30% Club, our Investor Group and a significant number of supporting chairmen who contributed their own submissions. Our campaign to prevent the introduction of a mandatory quota intensified and we were delighted when the EU Justice commissioner, Viviane Reding, moved away from a legislative approach in October 2012 to return a month later with a less onerous proposal. With better gender-balanced boards in the UK clearly in the spotlight, we turned our attention to the development of the executive pipeline. The 30% Club’s initial formal event on the subject, ‘Transforming Business Culture’, was kindly hosted by the London Stock Exchange on 30 November 2012, where the 30% Club also opened the market. During the morning, we explored the need for more radical changes to business working practices, not just to benefit women, but to attract and retain future generations of talent from both genders. A number of professional services firms approached the 30% Club to help with their specific challenge of high female graduate intake but very few female partners. Management consultant McKinsey kindly facilitated a pro bono project with 17 such firms and the initial output was presented in late 2012. This project has now been formalised and is a key workstream within our overall programme. In 2013 the 30% Club focussed on three main objectives, recognising firstly that there remained much to do to reach the goal of 30% women on UK boards, especially given a noticeable slowing in the pace of female appointments; not surprising as the pace of change had previously been very rapid and a number of previously all-male boards had moved quickly to appoint female NEDs. Secondly, we continued to focus on the pipeline of senior female talent. And thirdly, we worked to help the launch and development of 30% Clubs in other countries – this is clearly a global issue. The 30% Club’s proactive, positive and collaborative approach shows there is a better way forward than either imposing a legislated quota or doing nothing. We can offer strategic advice and help, for example, with recruitment of chairmen to local groups run within the same philosophical parameters. We have devised some basic protocols to help ensure the message is globally consistent. The aim for 2014 was to intensify pipeline efforts with our focus extended to encompass earlier stages of career and education. We officially launched our Cross-Company Mentoring Scheme and set up a Career Strategy group aimed at providing practical workshops for women in the early stages of their careers. Our international reach broadened thanks to 30% Club launches in the US, Ireland and Southern Africa. 2015 has seen us focus on the formalisation of a series of working groups, and the launch of our Technology group and our Sport & Business group. We began an ongoing relationship with Speakers for Schools focussing on the younger end of the pipeline, and furthered the development of our Higher Education Working Group. We have now launched in Australia, Malaysia and Canada, with further launches planned for Italy, the Gulf Cooperation Countries, Portugal and Chile. We have also announced new leadership with the appointment of Brenda Trenowden as the new lead for the 30% Club globally, reflecting the increased reach and scale of the campaign since its launch five years ago. Now, we are focussing on the continued drive towards 30%, but more importantly on bettering the gender balance at each stage of the journey from schoolroom to boardroom.