The Institute of Directors' first ever female chairman has spoken up about the lack of women in boardrooms and in top management roles across the business sector. At the institute's annual convention, Lady Barbara Judge said she wants changes at all levels to encourage more women to take on business roles.
As only five FTSE 100 chief executives are women, Judge pointed out the fact that there are more than three times as many men named John who are CEOs than there are women in the equivalent role. She told the convention: "My priority as director is to open the doors wider to women. I don't just want to cause a trickle, but I a flood of women directors."
The 68-year-old businesswoman and lawyer who, among others, has taken on the role of UK business ambassador for trade and investment, said she was lucky because her mother was dean of a university who believed her daughter had the right to a successful career. However, Judge said the overall culture in business should change in order to make it more accessible for women.
"We're not going to change education, we're not going to change girls' aspirations, if we don't work from it at this level. It has to come from the top," she said. "I want governments and business leaders... to show girls that an executive job is within their reach."
Judge's comment come just days after the UK banking industry revealed 31% of its board members are female. Although the number is a strong improvement on the 19% in 2012, the global average is still at 22% for banks.
Adam Jackson, MD at recruitment firm Astbury Marsden, said: "For a long time banks were seen as an 'old boys' club' but these statistics suggest that this mentality is changing. With 31% of board members in the UK's biggest banks now women, women are finally breaking through the glass ceiling. But the biggest banks outside Europe are lagging far behind."
The business world is moving forward in terms of diversity and equality, with women making up over a quarter of the total number of FTSE 100 board members. Judge said she saw a better gender balance in the younger generation but admitted the problem starts with education.
"When a girl is smart and she is good at maths, in the past she was told to become a nurse. Now she is told to become a doctor," she said. "Why can't women be nurses and doctors and engineers and executives? We don't teach them enough about business education. Young women need role models, they need inspiration, they need other women to show them it's possible. There is no such thing as a female career."