In 2020, FTSE research indicated that there were more men called Peter holding CEO positions in top UK companies than female CEOs. The Peter Problem is prominent in the UK, with only 1/5 businesses being run by women and the issue of a man named Peter being more likely to hold a CEO position than a woman.
Only 6% of Britain’s top firms have female CEOs… making it appear that there is a lot of improvement still required by national industries to include diversity in their ranks. These female CEOs are often scrutinised more densely and made into public figures, due to their rarity. Emma Walmsley is Pharma’s first female CEO and believes companies should attract and support diverse communities within their workforce, as ‘you cannot be a modern employer in an industry that should be future-facing and modernizing (arguably much more aggressively than it is) without being very demanding’ on gender equality.
Thankfully, as with Walmsley’s landmark appointment, the last ten years does show progress. The workplace has become more inclusive of women succeeding and holding positions of powers in the last ten years, especially when we *finally* have a female Vice President in the United States (Kamala Harris). Harris represents history for women, and for Jamaican and Indian heritage with her ascension to the nation’s second-highest office. She recognises that although she represents power, it is important that she will ‘not be the last’ woman to hold this position or other positions in society. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is another high-profile female politician in the US. She refuses to be silenced, often challenging her male colleagues on sexism and abusive speech to women (Ted Yoho, ‘I am someone’s daughter too’) and Latino women’s history (Mike Lee). And in the UK, Theresa May held the Prime Ministerial position for three years, Amber Rudd served as Home Secretary for two years, proving that women could hold male-dominated positions of power (and would have arguably been more prominent on diversity if they weren’t overshadowed by Brexit).
The Hampton-Alexander Review was enacted to boost the representation of women at the highest corporate levels in the UK in 2016, setting a minimum target of 33% inclusion of women on boardroom seats by December 2020 (which was reached in May). However, 41% of the FTSE 350 companies are still not meeting these standards, with most women having better progress in non-executive director roles.
The added dimension of COVID-19 has affected gender inclusivity for the worse, with the Fawcett Society adding that women were more likely to suffer in business due to the burden of childcare; more likely to lose their job. On the other hand, the pandemic has increased flexible work, positively impacting men to share in childcare more frequently than before. Hopefully, this can become the new norm, making it easier for women to hold CEO positions and succeed in business, regardless of their gender.
I really recommend Hidden Figures as an inspiring story about individuals who chose to believe in their talent and their hard work and to push back on a system when they knew it was wrong.