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Fourfront claims SMEs provide the key to encouraging more women onto boards

Following the news that Britain’s top companies have doubled the number of female directors, Aki Stamatis, chairman of commercial interiors specialist Fourfront Group, is urging small and medium-sized businesses to follow Fourfront’s example and encourage more women onto their boards.

Stamatis is the driving force behind Women in Fourfront, a 10-month programme of group workshops and individual coaching, aimed at key women within the business. The programme, which was set up in May 2014, concludes this week. A second programme, aimed at a new group of women, launches this summer. He said:

“The female perspective is very powerful in every issue within a business. It adds enormous value to clients, can often save money by offering a different way of doing things and creates a better working environment. Unleashing the potential of women in the business is an excellent way to grow and develop organisations.”

Research from the government, released last week, found that women now accounted for 23.5 per cent of FTSE100 board members, up from 12.5 per cent in 2011. The target is 25 per cent by the end of this year, meaning that another 17 women need to be appointed. However small companies are less diverse at the top, with woman accounting for 18 per cent of directors of FTSE250 boards. Fourfront has two women on its board, and seven men.

Women in Fourfront, which has seen 15 female Fourfronters take part, has had a major impact on the business. Stamatis added:

“I have noticed a significant change in how some of the women in our business have performed and interact with the wider business as a result of the programme. We have seen our second woman board director and other promotions across the business.”

The programme, which was run by external provider Career Savvy Women, included four workshops focusing on confidence, communications, contribution, credibility, and career success. This was supported by personal profiling, individual coaching sessions, support creating a development plan and a 360 degree feedback session. The participants will now receive a mentor to help to further develop their skills, with the aim of mentoring the 2016 Women in Fourfront programme. As a result of the Women in Fourfront initiative, action learning groups are being set up in the business with the aim of encouraging communication and problem-solving across the group.

Pippa Savory, head of HR at Fourfront Group, commented:

“Working in a very male-dominated industry can be daunting. We recognised that by embracing women and offering them support to develop their skills and play on their strength is a win-win situation. From balancing children with a career, to finding our inner confidence, there was something for everyone.”

The conclusion of the programme follows the launch of NextGen, a young professionals business network designed to accelerate skills development, connect young people within Fourfront and feed their expertise back into the business.

UK commercial interior specialist, Forefront Group, consists of four independent businesses – design and fit-out company Area Sq, interior contractor Cube Interior Solutions, commercial furniture specialist Sketch Studios and workplace design consultancy 360 Design Studios.

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