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In America there are more men called John leading companies than there are women - which is why I'm taking the fight global

Ann Cairns 
Ann Cairns, global co-chair of the 30% Club Credit: Tara Atkinson

With all the concerns over Brexit it’s easy to forget what has worked well over the past few years. I count the 30% Club in that bucket. Since 2010 we have worked to increase the number of women on boards in the City, led at first by founder Helena Morrissey, then for four years by Brenda Trendowden. Now, it's my turn.

We haven't staged a single protest in support of our ideals. Instead we have engaged with FTSE CEOs and Chairmen, convincing them that boards with at least 30 percent women just make sense. Several of those we've signed up have gone on to bring others on board: we've found that it's much easier to change an executive's mind if a friend is doing it. 

So, why 30 percent of women on boards? Well, the typical 10-person board might contain one or two women. The dynamic in the room is so different when that number is boosted to three and women can be a critical mass.

Of course, 30 percent is a floor, not a cap. Once boards reach we believe they will see the value in diversity and continue to recruit in this way, as the both nominations committees and interview panels include women.

Despite the work we've been doing, it's still too early to declare victory. Last week I was in Spain at a CEO retreat with senior leaders from Beijing to Bogotá. About 60 delegates in total, but just five women.  

But even in those small numbers the women contributed a great deal to the debate. Imagine the fresh ideas that could have been brought to the table if there had been more of us there. It was heartening to hear support from an African chairman and CEO who pointed out that in America there are more men called John leading companies than there are women.

Helena Morrissey in her office at Legal & General. She founded the 30% Club in 2010 Credit:  Andrew Crowley

The 30% Club is now in 14 countries and I am pleased to say it recently launched in Japan. How we work is affected by the differing business cultures and rules in the country we're in. For example, in the UK we benefit from term limits which naturally refresh company boards every so often. Sadly these don’t exist in the US, a place where many feel the need for every type of diversity. You don’t have to go far in America to hear people say that businesses must reflect the people they serve.

In many places today we have more women than men graduating from university. We owe it to these women to give them every opportunity to make it to the top. That's not to mention the women returning from maternity leave and career breaks. They deserve the chance to pick up where they left off and go as far and as fast as they can.

There is a Chinese saying - that women hold up half the sky. It would be good for the world if a few more women were closer to it. That’s why I am so pleased to hear Christine Lagarde will be the next leader of the ECB after her impeccable performance as the head of the IMF.

I love spending time with a diverse mix of people and I believe a more balanced workforce at every level would create a great place to do business for everyone. That’s why I’m excited to lead the 30% Club into the next era.