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Girls & Women

Why Amazing Illustrations of Women on Cardboard Are Cropping Up in London

It’s the year for talking about the gender pay gap — and an often-cited explanation, one of several factors, is the lack of women in senior leadership positions. 

It’s true for a lot of companies. Women are everywhere in lower level positions, but look around at those leading the operation and women seem to have magically disappeared. 

Just this week, a government-backed gender balance review revealed that, among the UK’s 350 biggest stock market-listed companies, women make up only 25% of all directors. That’s an increase of just 1% since October 2017. 

Take action: Sign This Petition to #LevelTheLaw and Empower Girls and Women Around the World

The Hampton-Alexander review released the figures at the halfway point of its four-year review — which aims to see women in 33% of boardroom roles — and right now, the FTSE 350 is not on track. 

In fact, 10 “dark ages” firms still have all-male boards, having failed to appoint a single woman to their boards in the two years since the 33% target was set. 

Now, a new campaign is hoping to help change that. 

The campaign, “Women on Board,” is a project working to bring to light the lack of gender diversity in leadership roles at the world’s largest and most influential corporations. 

Read more: Iceland Starts 2018 in Style by Making Gender Pay Gap Illegal

It’s doing this by literally putting women on board — cardboard that is. The campaign is calling on illustrators, designers, and “un-artistic” members of the public too, to create artworks that show women on cardboard. 

And they’re cropping up all over the place — even on the London underground. 

Sophie Becker, who launched the campaign, emphasised that “it’s not about doing ‘what’s right’ or tokenism.” 

“It’s about investing in companies with the most profitable future,” she told the Indy100. “Time and time again, research has shown that companies with the highest ratio of women in leadership positions report increased innovation, inclusivity, and insight — and subsequently higher profitability.”

Read more: New York Stock Exchange Gets Its First Female President After 226 Years

“That’s where ‘Women on Board’ comes in, by starting a global movement calling professional and aspiring illustrators, designers, and artists to literally put women on board,” she continued. “Together, we can highlight the lack of diversity so that investors stand up and take notice.” 

Since 2011, while the number of women in boardroom roles has more than doubled for the FTSE 100 companies — the UK’s leading 100 stock market-listed companies — women still hold just 29% of boardroom positions. 

“The inglorious 10 companies who still have all-male boards need to drag themselves out of the dark ages and ensure they bring in a more diverse and valuable perspective to the running of their businesses rather than running a closed club of the old boys’ network,” said MP Rachel Reeves, chair of the business, energy, and industrial strategy committee, this week. 

Read more: Benedict Cumberbatch Won't Take a Role if Female Co-Star Isn't Paid Equally

“Many of our biggest companies still have a long way to go to meet the 2020 goals,” she said. “Progress at the board table is at snail’s pace and far too few women are taking the helm as chief executives.” 

To hit the 33% target, the FTSE 350 will have to appoint women to more than 40% of all their boardroom positions over the next two years, reported the Guardian.

At the end of May, the Hampton-Alexander Review revealed the worst excuses given for not appointing women to boards. And they’re pretty atrocious. 

Among the excuses, branded “pitiful” by business minister Andrew Griffiths, were: 

  • Most women don’t want the hassle or pressure of sitting on a board. 
  • All the “good” women have already been snapped up. 
  • We have one woman already on the board, so we’re done — it’s someone else’s turn. 
  • There aren’t that many women with the right credentials and depth of experience to sit on the board — the issues covered are extremely complex. 
  • I don’t think women fit comfortably into the board environment. 

Read more: 6 Frustrating Facts About How Women Are Paid Less Than Men in 2018

Another of the excuses, according to the review, was that “we need to build the pipeline from the bottom — there just aren’t enough senior women in this sector.” 

Claire McCartney, diversity and inclusion adviser at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, told People Management that one way of getting more women into the boardroom would be “placing much more focus on women in active, observable leadership positions.” 

“Organisations can do this by focusing much more on what is being done to carve a path for women already in the organisations to rise up the ranks to these levels,” she said. 

Global Citizen campaigns to achieve the UN’s Global Goals, which include action on gender equality. You can join us by taking action here to empower girls and women around the world.