…so says an executive of a FTSE 350 company in a report published by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills yesterday. The business minister, Andrew Griffiths, describes the excuses offered by firms defending the lack of women on boards as “pitiful and patronising”, but no one said change was easy.
As the only woman on the board, it’s tough. Being the sole representative of your gender, supposedly reflecting the whole diversity of female perspectives and with the expectation that your presence will change the fortunes of the company for the better – no wonder there’s a sense of disillusionment around UK board tables.
I was the only woman at the table in production meetings at the very start of my career as an engineer, and I wanted to get it right. I sat and listened at first, but then everyone got used to me saying nothing and I couldn’t break into the conversation when I did have something to say. So if there’s a woman contributing less than you’d hoped in your meetings, whatever level you’re working at,
- find out about the key issues before you even get to the meeting;
- allocate time on the agenda for specific inputs from those involved, so that they can come prepared;
- make sure everyone has the opportunity to share their thoughts, opinions, experience during the discussion;
- check round the table before moving on to the next agenda item.
Good meeting practice helps to make the time spent together, effective. Don’t let anyone sit there saying nothing – we’ve all got something to contribute – but sometimes you’ve got to ask us before we can make ourselves heard.