The key to getting women on boards? Men

Published: 19/06/2015


Helena Morrissey is trying to get more women on corporate boards. Men have been some of her most important advocates.

It might seem like Helena Morrissey can do it all—she’s the CEO of Newton Investment Management and mother of nine children—but when it comes to getting more women on corporate boards, she can’t do it alone.

In 2010, Morrissey launched the 30% Club with the aim of getting corporate boards in the United Kingdom to be made up of at least 30% women by 2015 through voluntary change. The initiative has made significant progress on its goals: FTSE 100 boards were 24% female in early 2015, vs. 13% in 2010. Morrissey expects to meet the 30% mark by the middle of next year. The program has expanded to the United States, Hong Kong, South Africa, Ireland, and Australia.

Speaking at Fortune’s Most Powerful Women summit in London on Monday, Morrissey attributed a significant portion of the 30% Club’s success to its recruitment of male advocates.

At one point early on, Morrissey tried to spread the 30% Club’s mission by personally writing letters to the FTSE 350. She’d started with the A’s. By the time she got to H, she’d received several nasty responses from executives who asked why Morrissey was interfering with their boards.

“I realized that waving a big stick doesn’t work with companies. Peer pressure was more effective,” she said. When captains of industry say this is the sensible thing to do, others follow. “The key is getting men involved. Then it’s men pressuring men.”

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