In March 2014 - through the Communities Analytical Services Framework Agreement - the Scottish Government commissioned Napier University to undertake a literature review to consider how the barriers to diversity representation on boards (in public, private and third sectors) have been overcome, and what lessons could be learned from good practice examples.
The review focused on gender representation and highlighted the substantial body of evidence to support the theory that greater gender diversity on boards leads to better governance. If a board better reflects the people it serves, it will be better equipped to make decisions affecting people, and so improve its performance. People from diverse backgrounds have diverse experiences to bring to the role. The evidence also showed that organisational cultures which are not solely rooted in traditional male norms will attract a wider pool of talent, both men and women.
The review found that traditionally, public sector boards have had a greater proportion of female board members than private sector boards, with the “leaking pipeline” being a challenge to increase the supply of women in organisations to rise to boardroom positions. The review placed emphasis on the need for greater public awareness on the role of boards in society, on greater transparency when advertising vacant posts and on reporting board diversity. Training and mentoring were identified as key strategies to improve board diversity. In the international context, the review noted that countries that have increasingly used legislation and / or implemented gender quotas achieved higher levels of female boardroom membership than those that have adopted voluntary approaches.
The review concluded that although considerable achievements have been made women remain under-represented in the boardroom.