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Véronique Laury becomes Fifth Female FTSE 100 Chief Executive

Category: Industry News, Employer Focus, Chief, promotion

Véronique Laury become Fifth Female FTSE 100 Chief Executive

The promotion of Véronique Laury to Group Chief Executive of Kingfisher flies in the face of a number of trends.

It is disproportionately rare to see women reach the top job in a FTSE 100 firm, with the current rate of 5% far lower than the level of women on the Main Board and Operating Board (c.20%) or levels below the Operating Board (c.24%) as seen in The Green Park Leadership 10,000.

A PwC study in 2013 showed that although the numbers of females being appointed Chief Executive in large UK businesses has stayed at a fairly constant rate, the level of females in the outgoing class of Chief Executives is at a far lower rate than their male counterparts. Certainly, it would seem that Kingfisher would be keen for this trend to become their reality as they replace Sir Ian Cheshire after his lengthy seven year tenure at the top.

Indeed, the trend which seems vindicated by this promotion is the rather intuitive judgement that the pipeline for the board (lying in the levels below the board) naturally will have an impact on the higher levels of the firm. The Retail sector in the FTSE 100 has one of the most gender diverse pipelines for the board and we see the results with the recently departed Angela Ahrendts and Véronique Laury’s recent promotion.

However, with such low levels, there are certainly other factors at play which need to be addressed. Gender diversity at top levels is only partially a result of gender diversity at lower levels.  Indeed, the incredibly low levels of ethnic diversity in the Retail sector seen in The Green Park Leadership 10,000 shows that gender is not the only issue about which retailers must take heed.

It does seem a point for pause that this hire occurs in a predominantly DIY based retail group. DIY is a traditionally male-dominated field and yet store-based retail is a traditionally female-dominated field. Homebase, a direct competitor of Kingfisher subsidiary B&Q, has recently made a move to cater to female customers, in line with the changing demographics of the DIY consumer market – surely a similar strategy must be at least a reasonable probability for Kingfisher.

These are issues, which in the field of executive hiring strategy in FTSE 100 firms are amplified, when paired to the broader diversity awareness required to stave off the poisons of groupthink and inequities in opportunities for female and ethnic minority employees.

The importance of role models cannot be underestimated and this prominent hire will go a long way to helping top level leadership represent the increasing female majority seen in higher education in the UK in 2014. It is not an issue of the impact of one hire but it is the broader role that it plays in a future for British industry which behaves cleverly toward talent in a way which harnesses the power of cognitive diversity.

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