Headhunters can play role in boosting women in UK boardrooms: review

Mon Mar 3, 2014 7:08pm EST
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By Jemima Kelly

LONDON (Reuters) - Headhunter firms should do more to help boost the number of women sitting on British boards, including compiling a list of "board-ready women," a government-backed review said on Tuesday.

The independent review by Charlotte Sweeney, a diversity consultant, made 10 recommendations to increase the number of women on the boards of Britain's biggest companies.

"The headhunting community is a crucial catalyst to introduce more capable women in the boardroom," said Business Secretary Vince Cable, who commissioned the review.

"However, they can often be one of the first hurdles that talented, board-ready women face when trying to reach the top, so I welcome any efforts to improve the transparency of the industry."

The review called on headhunting firms to share gender ratio statistics with the government at all stages of recruitment so that it can assess how successfully its gender equality "code of conduct", set out in a 2011 review and signed up to by 70 search firms, is being implemented.

The 2011 government review, by former trade minister Lord Mervyn Davies, said all FTSE 100 .FTSE companies should aim for at least a quarter of their boards to be comprised of women by 2015, though it stopped short of advocating enforced quotas.

Some progress has already been made, with women now making up 20.4 percent of board seats in Britain's 100 biggest listed companies, up from 12.5 percent when Davies conducted his review, according to the latest data from the Professional Boards Forum, which tracks female board appointments.

Two all-male FTSE 100 boards still remain: Glencore Xtrata (GLEN.L: Quote) and Antofagasta (ANTO.L: Quote).   Continued...

Workers walk in the rain at the Canary Wharf business district in London November 11, 2013. REUTERS/Eddie Keogh