Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Here we go again

Merry-go-round a never-ending cycle of activities and events (especially when they seem to have little purpose)

It is depressing, albeit unsurprising, that Balfour Beatty has failed in its search to find a woman senior civil engineer with FTSE 250 experience to appoint to its Board of Directors.   After all, there are only three construction companies, including Balfour Beatty, in the FTSE 250, so the pool is rather limited.  Balfour Beatty was also seeking someone with strong commercial experience in Asia. It might have been possible for a woman civil engineer to have acquired that by working for one of the 11 mining companies or the one electricity company in the FTSE 250 – but unlikely.  
So Balfour Beatty has succumbed to the default position for choosing women directors. The company has chosen a lawyer, working in a non construction sector and from the other side of the Atlantic. As I commented in May, more women from outside the UK get to the top of UK companies. For evidence take a look at my story on the Cranfield Report, Milestone, millstone or the same old grindstone.

When it comes to constructive women in FTSE boardrooms, the odds will remain stacked against them until companies and their headhunters recognise the Catch 22 and take a more realistic approach to selection criteria.  Until then, the field will be left to women from the US, Australia or Canada, many with non technical experience, unless more home-grown constructive women take a leaf out of one female architect's book  - she  retrained as an accountant to get on to the company board.

A dispiriting thought for those women clambering on the interminable merry-go-round of recruitment and selection panels. But hang on a moment.  In the US, a merry-go-round spins anti-clockwise. In the UK, a merry-go-round spins in a clockwise direction.  In today's climate, I know which way I would prefer to travel. Headhunters and board directors take note.

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