Diversity is key

13 March 2012
Rebecca Ellinor, managing editor, Supply ManagementUK Prime Minister David Cameron isn’t ruling out quotas as a means to increase the number of female directors. Although he stressed he would rather not have to resort to them. The PM was speaking 12 months after the publication of a government-commissioned report that found the boards of British businesses were lacking gender diversity. A year on, the latest figures indicate little improvement. There are a number of reasons for this, some of which we explore in our cover feature. But whatever the causes, the outcome is the same – not many women on the boards of British businesses. Five years ago, the inaugural meeting of a networking group for women in procurement took place at BT Tower. Lamia Walker, then director at the Centre for Women in Business at London Business School, warned against an all-women group. She said networking clubs comprising men and women were more successful than single-sex groups. And while it’s predominantly made up of women, The Blueprint Club agreed to male buyers being part 
of its mentoring and networking service. The argument in favour of diversity applies to organisations as a whole. As one of the club’s members, Beth Wallace, director and owner of Wallace Consulting, says: “It has been proved that a mix enriches the world.” Broadly speaking, men and women have different attributes that help to provide part of that mix. In one example, Paula Gildert, head of development, strategic sourcing, at Novartis Pharma, points to the hormone oxytocin, which has been linked to collaboration – 
a hormone women produce more of than men. “Collaboration is a way to engage and motivate better sustainable results – this is mission critical for successful business,” she says. It would be a shame to have to introduce quotas to, as David Loseby at PMMS puts it, “enforce something that should happen naturally and organically”, but as Meryl Bushell, one of the founder members of The Blueprint Club, sees it, it’s a “necessary evil” for the short term.
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