Changing Places: women on boards

Monday, 29 June 2015

workplace equality

Oxford Brookes’ Centre for Diversity Policy Research and Practice (CDPRP) is undertaking new research to investigate the experiences of senior women in the academic and corporate sectors who serve as non-executive directors (NEDs) on company boards and as independent directors on university governing bodies.

One of the key objectives of this research is to explore the benefits about the transfer of skills and expertise between businesses and academia.

We need to tear down the self-imposed barriers between academia and business

Melanie Richards, Vice Chairman of KPMG

This research is co-funded by KPMG and supported by the 30% Club. Melanie Richards, Vice Chairman of KPMG, welcomed this work and commented: "We need to tear down the self-imposed barriers between academia and business. We can each bring different insight and experience into each other's boardrooms and use out diverse perspectives to improve the quality of discussion and debate."

30% club

This project also intends to raise awareness among senior women working in HE and in corporate organisations about opportunities to share their talents and expertise by joining company boards and university governing bodies.

This research is particularly timely, as the 2014 Female FTSE Board Report from the Cranfield International Centre for Women Leaders highlighted that there are still few women with a background from outside the corporate mainstream. This is in spite of Lord Davies’ report on Women on Boards recommending, back in 2011, that UK boards need to consider women from outside the corporate stream including education.

More recently, the Department of Business Innovation and Skills in its letter sent to the Higher Education Funding Council for England setting out the funding for the HE sector, has explicitly stated that “the sector should go much further to seek out and harness the diverse talent available” to fill senior roles, including those of independent governors.

Therefore, developing a pipeline of talented women from a corporate background would be of crucial importance to increase gender diversity on universities governing bodies.

Logo for KPMG

The research will be led by Professor Simonetta Manfredi, Director of the CDPRP, Dr Louise Grisoni, Assistant Dean for Research and Knowledge Exchange in the Faculty of Business and Norma Jarboe OBE, author of WomenCount: Leadership in Higher Education (2013), former Director of Opportunities Now and adviser to CDPRP.

Deliverables will include a report presenting the full research findings to be published in early 2016 and workshops with senior women from an academic and a corporate background to encourage cross-sectors synergies and work.