Only 37 out of 242 directors at Scotland's top 30 publicly quoted companies are women.
That this amounts to an increase of almost one-third in a year underlines just how much of a men-only club the boardroom is.
The sudden improvement reflects the growing pressure for a better gender balance at the top levels. Optimists will discern a recognition among more enlightened companies that a greater female representation at board level improves performance. Cynics will point to a desire to avoid the imposition of a legally binding quota of 40% women, currently under consideration by the EU. Following a review in the UK there is now an agreement (albeit non-binding) among the FTSE 100 companies that they will aim to increase female board representation to 25% by 2015.
Next week senior executives in Scotland will take a significant step towards changing the boardroom culture with the inaugural meeting of The Two Percent Club. It is more than a campaigning organisation. As Helen Cook, human resources director at the corporate banking division of RBS and chair of the steering committee, tells The Herald today, all industries need a pipeline of male and female talent to provide better-balanced boards, with gender only one aspect of wider diversity.
The key question is: are quotas the answer? Opinion among women is divided. Some, such as internet entrepreneur Martha Lane Fox, argue that since other tactics have proved only marginally effective, mandatory quotas are the only way to ensure women are fairly represented. Most female high-achievers worry that this could do more harm than good, leaving all women directors open to the charge of being "golden skirts": appointed to tick a box instead of on their own merit.
To avoid this potential undermining of the cause, the focus must be on the considerable advantages of having more women, and people from a range of backgrounds, at the top table. Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, is one of a number of highly successful women who have suggested that if more women had been in senior roles at banks, diluting the testosterone-fuelled culture of risk-taking, the global economy would not have collapsed so disastrously.
Ms Cook and her colleagues at The Two Percent Club have highlighted the need to identify talented women and provide a channel for them to reach the top. Yet motherhood remains the biggest stumbling block. Firms which are far-sighted enough to offer flexible working arrangements reap the reward of retaining talented staff who squeeze more work into fewer hours. A prime example is Unilever. Aiming to have women making up 55% of senior managers by 2015, it allows employees to work anywhere and set their own hours as long as they get the job done. It is high time others exchanged the macho culture for pragmatism and progress.
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