There’s good news and bad news on the diversity front this month. New official figures show that 33% of all FTSE 100 board directors are now women, hitting the Government’s own target a year early, and up from just 12.5% less than a decade ago.
That’s the positive bit – and the fact the milestone was achieved on a voluntary basis, without the need for legislation, fines or penalties, received big thumbs-up from business secretary Andrea Leadsom.
However, the same report from the Government-backed Hampton-Alexander Review also highlighted the fact that for the wider FTSE 250 the percentage sits at 29.5%, still some way short of that 33% target, prompting the secretary of sate to issue a ‘must do better’ warning.
In fact the report listed more areas where work is needed. So business leaders shouldn’t be too quick to congratulate themselves.
Concerns were raised over the lack of female representation in key executive roles, with the statistic that a mere 15% of FTSE 100 CFOs are female being spotlighted.
Research, included in the review, by King’s College London found that women in senior positions continue to face everyday sexism and what researchers called ‘‘micro-aggressions’’ and ‘‘incivility’’ in the workplace.
A survey of almost 350 men and women at board or executive committee level found that: 33% of women reported someone at work had made disrespectful or insulting remarks about them, compared to 13% of men; 23% of women reported that they had been shouted or sworn at by someone at work, compared to 16% of men; and 39% of women reported being targeted by angry outbursts or “temper tantrums” by someone at work, compared to 23% of men.
Those findings ought to be shocking for anyone.
One step forward, but a lot of shuffling of feet in other areas, might be the overall conclusion.
Although this report focused on listed companies there’s no evidence there’s any difference in privately-held firms.
Hospitality prides itself on being egalitarian, with the ability of a humble pot washer to make it to the CEO’s chair being an often cited example of the progression possible. It’s a rarity though, and the sector shouldn’t get complacent, particularly because it does claim to be a leader in fairness.
The Plan B mentoring project is doing much to help women reach the higher levels of management in the sector, and we are seeing more women selected for senior front-line operational roles. But just do a head-count and you can see there’s still a big discrepancy – and we know that’s not down to ability.
While the gender-gap may be narrowing, that may not be the biggest diversity challenge that hospitality and the business community in general faces. In another report out since the start of the year, those same FTSE 100 firms have been accused of dragging their feet on ethnic diversity targets ahead of a 2021 deadline.
Only 53 of Britain’s largest listed companies on the LSE have at least one director from an ethnic minority, according to figures compiled for the Parker review - a tiny increase from the 49 companies that had met the target since the review was launched in 2017.
The same target of having at least one non-white board-level director was also set for the FTSE 250 but with a deadline of 2024. Only 54 of the firms listed on the FTSE 250 have reached that goal.
And yes it’s a problem for hospitality businesses too. Again, do a headcount of your own company or at any industry gathering.
Hospitality has made great strides in recruiting at entry level and shifting the image of the sector, with charities like Clink and Only A Pavement Away making a real difference to people’s lives.
Many bosses are also doing more to engage with their younger team members, understanding their perspectives and encouraging their careers – and there’s a great clip on social media of Pret a Manger CEO Pano Christou putting a teenager he met when going back to his old school to talk about apprenticeships on stage to close a Pret quarterly meeting. It’s brilliant and inspiring – go find it and watch.
There is a lot of good work being done, so this is not about the sector beating itself up, but it is about recognising there is a lot more to do. Creating good culture has its benefits, as the data shows, organisations in the top 25% for gender diversity on their executive teams are 21% more likely to have profits above their industry average, for example.
The one danger is for leaders to get distracted by the “privileged, white, male’ debate, and the backlash being seen in parts of the media that it’s “all gone too far” and men are now somehow being discriminated against in the workplace.
The truth is that large swathes of business - and hospitality is no exception - are run by privileged, white men. I’m male, I’m white, I’m well educated, I live in the West – I am privileged. And although I have worked reasonably hard and have enjoyed success, I also know how much harder it would have been if I had been female, non-white, disabled or otherwise disadvantaged. That’s the reality we should all remember.
There’s a bigger prize to be won here – improving diversity in our teams from top to bottom should be a must for any self-respecting business.
When low-tech works
Technology is the big disruptor across hospitality – whether it’s payments, reservations, reviews, feed-back, staff scheduling or delivery. But does it have all the answers to driving business efficiency?
A story from the States that has been gaining traction on social media, is about how fast-casual chain El Pollo Loco trimmed its operations manual from a massive 447 pages down to just 77, tightening the document into three crucial sections: operating procedures and processes, restaurant cleaning, and recipes, which have all been reworked to be completed in six steps or fewer.
All of it was done by the training and ops teams simply getting together and revisiting its ways of working. Simple is always better. They might even get people to read it.
Peter Martin: Fairness and equality – the campaign still has a way to go
There’s good news and bad news on the diversity front this month. New official figures show that 33% of all FTSE 100 board directors are now women, hitting the Government’s own target a year early, and up from just 12.5% less than a decade ago. That’s the positive bit – and the fact the milestone was achieved on a voluntary basis, without the need for legislation, fines or penalties, received big thumbs-up from business secretary Andrea Leadsom.