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Dame Kelly Holmes speaks about lack of female representation on UK Boards

PUBLISHED: 01:16 25 October 2011 | UPDATED: 20:11 20 February 2013

Dame Kelly Holmes speaks about lack of female representation on UK Boards

Dame Kelly Holmes speaks about lack of female representation on UK Boards

Dame Kelly Holmes talks about the lack of female representation on UK Boards and why this is detrimental in both sport and business

My life now is a mix of the sporting world and business and its bizarre, but both sectors seem to highlight the lack of female representation on UK Boards.

Recently I was asked to be a guest speaker at the annual Centenary of International Womens Year networking event for Deloitte (the financial services company and a major sponsor of the London 2012 Games), where the audience comprised of women from across Deloittes key client base.

Prior to the event I was given a report by Lord Davies that focused specifically on the lack of women on UK boards, which was the very topic I was asked to speak about at the networking event held at Pennyhill Park in Bagshot.

In the past this would have been a daunting prospect, but I now find that having served in the British Army (which was quite male dominated) is a real asset when I do these speeches.It definitely helps form a good story about how as a woman I learnt to be successful in my own right, the challenges I and other women faced in achieving promotion and credibility.

But I do believe if youre good enough you will always get noticed anyway.I currently chair my own charity, the DKH Legacy Trust, sit on the Womens Sport and Fitness Foundation (WSFF) Commission and have recently been appointed as Non-Executive Director on the board of TUI Education (part of the TUI Travel Group), a top FTSE 100 Company, so I looked forward to the opportunity to speak on this topic.According to WSFF 2009 leadership audit, only one in five members of the boards of National Governing Bodies for sport are women and 25 per cent of sports have no women holding board positions at all! I find this a little ridiculous in sport and business, given that Lord Davies research suggests the contribution of women to the boardroom can make great improvements to the bottom line of a companys finances.

It has been well documented that women bring a different perspectiveand voice to the table, can impact on boardroom dynamics and are more likely to ensure better communication, focusing on issues such as diversity, social and corporate responsibility as well as ensuring good governance practices.

So why in the 2010 Lord Davies report does it state that women made up only 12.5 per cent of the members of the corporate boards of FTSE 100 companies?

The top reasons for lack of representation were:

Work/life balance
Male/female culture
Maternity leave
Tradition/old boys network

Even though these may be valid reasons, it should not stop appropriately qualified women striving to achievetop positions within any company.

In sport, the under-representationof women at a senior level means it is largely ill-equipped to understand and engage with 51 per cent of the population.

More women want toplay sport than ever, but the way in which sport is led means it could be failing to capitalise on the opportunity to grow grass-roots participation and enjoy greater elite success. With London 2012 just around the corner, lets hope the legacy can change these facts.

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