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Financial Times: Macho attitudes rule tech sector

By John Willman
Published: November 14 2007 02:00 | Last updated: November 14 2007 02:00

Macho attitudes at science, engineering and technology companies mean they are less likely to have women in their boardrooms or in senior management positions than companies in other sectors, according to the Cranfield report.

But some companies have brought women into the boardroom and senior management, including at the highest levels.

Drax, the electricity generator, and Anglo-American, the mining group, both have female chief executives. Royal Dutch Shell has three women on the board – one an executive director.

But many others in the sector have no women on the board and little female representation among senior executives.

Smiths Group, the engineering conglomerate, and British Energy, the nuclear power group, are among 11 FTSE 100 companies that have no women on their boards or on their executive committees.

Others, such as GlaxoSmithKline, the pharmaceuticals group, and Rolls-Royce, the engineering group, have just one female non-executive director and no senior women executives.

The Cranfield report says some boardroom practices – habits, language and ways of working – keep highly qualified female candidates out of the top echelons.

Interviews with male directors of five organisations found they were often aware that their procedures were “too macho” in style. Female executives said they sometimes felt excluded, unless they were interested in male sports, and that social occasions could be difficult if there was only one woman present.

“There is a sort of tendency, as the wine flows, for this to become a bit like a sort of boys’ club,” said a board director.

One female divisional director said she had learnt to be more assertive at board meetings to give the right impression.

At first she had sat in the corner with a small book on her lap to keep notes, looking insignificant. Now she never sits in the corner.

To coincide with today’s Cranfield survey, the UK Resource Centre for Women in Science, Engineering and Technology has published a good practice guide to creating more inclusive boardrooms.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2007

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