Boardroom bias against women in leading UK firms

Britain’s biggest companies are biased when appointing women to their boards, according to a new report.

A study of the country’s largest companies found that women have at best a 20% chance of being made nonexecutive directors, and those hired are paid around 8% less than their male counterparts.

The study, which was carried out by reseachers at the Universities of Edinburgh, Sheffield and Stanford, found no evidence of a pay gap or hiring bias at executive level. The significant public scrutiny of these roles and effective work of remuneration committees seems to counteract any gender bias at this level, researchers say.

The study also found there is no evidence to suggest that having more women in the boardroom increases a company’s productivity. Neither does having more women on the board make the company more profitable. The report argues, however, that more women should be appointed for moral, if not economic, value.

Co-author Dr Ian Gregory Smith, from the University of Sheffield's Department of Economics, said:

“The moral case for gender diversity in the boardroom is unambiguous. The challenge for companies and regulators is to adopt progressive policies that promote diversity even if there is no immediate payoff in terms of firm productivity. The evidence here shows they must try harder.”

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