Fewer women are public directors

BY SHAMILLE SCOTT Business reporter

Friday, September 21, 2012

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THE proportion of women who make up public boards has fallen by two percentage points over the last three years.

The 51% Coalition would rather the trend be in the opposite direction.

The coalition would like to see each sex make up no less than 40 per cent of boards in the public and private sectors.

An analysis by Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES), a German foundation, shows that the percentage of women who sit on some 91 public boards in Jamaica fell from 33 per cent in 2009 — based on research by the Women's Resource Outreach Centre (WROC) — to 31 per cent in April.

FES and WROC are partners with the 51% Coalition: Development and Empowerment through Equity, a group lobbying for a quota limiting the number of men and women on boards.

The group contends that quotas would help to recruit women into decision-making positions in public and political life.

"Quotas are not about giving any women preference," said Judith Wedderburn, director of the FES, which focuses on areas such as good governance and gender.

Instead, it's about allowing the boards and the country to benefit from the diverse experiences of a wider range of people, she said.

The analysis showed that of the boards reviewed, 21 had chairwomen, while 70 had chairmen.

The fall in the numbers shows how much work needs to be done, said Wedderburn, although some additional women have already been appointed since April.

Gender diversity makes good economic sense as it can add to companies' bottom lines, Wedderburn said.

European companies with the most gender-diverse management teams had higher share-price growth compared to their industry averages between 2005 and 2007, according to research by global management-consulting firm McKinsey.

A list of 50 Jamaican women who can strike a balance on boards was published in April by the 51% Coalition and has been forwarded to the Government.

Dorothy Whyte, WROC's executive director, said she was not aware of any of them being appointed to date.

Marlene Street-Forrest, general manager of the Jamaica Stock Exchange, said quotas take time to work so women should take the first step to getting involved in listed businesses.

"More women should invest in companies," she said. As shareholders, they would be able to speak at annual general meetings, bringing them to the attention of executives.




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