How level are today’s playing fields (or boards)?

by Haydon Waldek

My oldest daughter is 8. For those of you who are parents you will know that one of the great things about having an 8 year old in the family is that that is about the age they are able to grapple with the nuances of playing board games, and playing them well enough to give any discerning parent a run for their money. For me as a parent, it has been great to resurrect such fun, gentle banter-filled pursuits over the last few months; pursuits that drift out of life when your children are born and you spend more of your time changing nappies and sitting through CBeebies than searching for killer 7 letter words or deciding whether Miss Scarlett did it with the lead pipe or the rope.

Our latest game of choice is chess. A game I love dearly but one that I have played less and less ever since my fellow pupils and I found a taste for it in the Sixth Form common room many, many years ago. We love it and my daughter certainly has a talent for it. At her school there is an active chess club which is of a good standard, regularly competing at county and occasionally national level. I’ve suggested that she join, but even at the age of 8 I receive the reply ‘no way, it’s only the boys that go to chess club!’ I’ve tried to suggest to her that she would be cool if she went as the only girl, a ground breaker. Other girls probably love it too and would be sure to follow and thank her for taking the lead. But no, Dad, there is no way I’m going; I’ll stick to my other clubs, thanks.  

Of course the club is open to girls, but tradition and the stuck-in-the-mud scenario of boys-following-boys is a powerful thing. I can’t make her go, and wouldn’t want to, but it’s a shame. A missed opportunity.

With this on my mind it’s interesting, and heartening, to read in the press today that FTSE 100 firms appoint more women to their boards. Tacit sexism is a subtle, dreadful thing.  We all know of the “old boys’ network”, the unfairness of nepotism, and the importance of addressing such an illogical imbalance. As Katja Hall says in the article, "To keep up momentum businesses must now continue to work on building the talent pipeline by supporting more women to take on management roles and helping mothers return to work".

I couldn’t agree more. 

As ethical and environmental financial advisers, we are very careful to invest clients’ money in businesses that do the right thing. We analyse information about them very thoroughly, based upon a vast myriad of criteria, part of which is to examine employment practices and approaches. 

Hopefully, with measures such as ours, Government bodies monitoring businesses for statistics such as this, and the press highlighting them, between us and others we can carry along "This … journey of small steps".

And one day, if my daughter decides that she wants to run a FTSE 100 company, it won’t be her sex that stops her from doing it. And if her CV states that, among other things, impressive competition wins from national chess tournaments are one of the reasons she should be interviewed for the job, all the better.