I've been off line recently having been sailing along the south coast with friends over the past couple of weekends and surprisingly given the forecasts we have had some really good weather and my factor 50 has really come in handy. The first weekend we sailed from Gosport to Bembridge on the Isle of Wight with the National Air Traffic Controllers on their annual sailing regatta where we were on the committee boat and after a good sail where the NATS teams successfully followed a cryptic Solent treasure hunt we sat back and enjoyed a few gin and tonics with a deputy harbour master and made party hats for their celebratory dinner in Gun Wharf. My cockpit companion ended the night by making my friend a very happy woman by doing a lap of honour around the deck all be it without his party hat.
Being currently just about competent crew and with a view to taking a day skipper course at the end of November we've decided to go out sailing as often as we can so were out again last weekend when we went from Gosport up to Beaulieu and moored up for the night with a very tasty homemade lasagna and ginger cake and lots of you've guessed it gin and tonics. On the Sunday we tacked our way back towards Gosport having failed to quite beat the tide up the Southampton Water to see the boat show but still had a good day and lots of food. This isn't the sport to do if you're looking to slim down.
What is quite interesting is that the friends we sail with are mostly men. They generally come armed with a practical engineer's way of looking at things and often an air traffic controller's superb knowledge of the weather systems and seem to quite naturally and quite literally pick up the ropes. Imagine my joy when then I met up with a new client yesterday and his legal assistant began to tell me all about how she had loved sailing with her grandfather who had sailed with Chay Blyth and that she had also like me studied history. That gave me some encouragement as I have been secretly thinking that surely it can't be all that complicated and even those of us with a humanities training must be able to get it. Even more interesting was that it turns out that my new client owns the Victorian Horse Sands Fort in the Solent that we always sail past on our way out of Haslar Marina and into the Solent which looks pretty intimidating from the perspective of a little yacht being thrown around in the waves below it's impressive and dangerous concrete and granite exterior. It's a developer's dream when you consider one of its best selling points is its fabulous 360 degree sea views.
I'm happy to stand corrected but my current perception is that there seem to be more men than women sailing and apart from a few excellent husband and wife teams you can absolutely guarantee that unlike any other event in life when you want a much needed hot shower in the Marina facilities after a day covered in sea salty water that being a woman you won't have to wait in a long queue. I always ask the guys why their wives haven't come with them but usually get answers like "she even gets sea sick in the bath". I think that's a bit of a shame but then everyone needs their space and time out and sailing is very relaxing as well as exciting at times.
It made me think that sailing is analogous to company board rooms. It's been my absolute pleasure to work with some very strong and capable female directors but they are still even in 2011 few and far between. Quite often you see the same names on different boards as Non-Executive Directors, what the French call "Golden Skirts".
Ten years ago women on boards made up about 5% and today only around 12.5% of a FTSE 100 board makeup. It's becoming a more pertinent discussion since Lord Davies' Report earlier this year which suggested that companies should publish the number of women sitting on their boards and working in their organisations, recommending that businesses in FTSE 350 companies should set their own targets for increasing female representation on their boards by 2015 and that the FTSE100 should challenge themselves to increase the proportion of female directors on their boards to 25% by 2015.
It is a major driver now of corporate governance reforms to get more minorities on boards to robustly question the executive directors and represent shareholder and employee interests. There is growing evidence that companies with more women on their boards outperform their male-dominated rivals. There are still underlying issues like why do women still earn less than men and why is it that the higher up the ladder you go the less women you'll meet? It can't still be the case that women drop out of ambition once they have a family in a world where we will still have to all work to maintain any sort of life for many years to come. Sadly I have come across women in legal and company secretarial roles who just will not promote themselves or other women and accept the status quo and even participate in jokes about token women on boards with the male directors. Why is that?