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Recruiters can drive boardroom diversity, says AER Chair

Recruiters can drive boardroom diversity, says AER Chair

This week’s REC roundtable on gender equality in the boardroom underlined the pivotal role that recruiters can play in sourcing and coaching female executives. The event involved members of the Association of Executive Recruiters (AER) and REC Sector Groups in areas such as Financial Services and HR as well as the CBI, the CIPD, the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) and the Institute of leadership and Management (ILM).

Earlier this year, the Government commissioned Lord Davies, former chief executive of Standard Chartered bank, to look at the issue of gender representation on corporate boards.

At the time of the review, the membership of FTSE 100 boards was 87.5 per cent men and 12.5 per cent women. The proportion of all-male boards in the next 250 largest public companies was even higher. One of the recommendations of the Lord Davies review was to create a Voluntary Code of Conduct for Executive Search firms covering boardroom appointments. The AER and the REC played a leading role in helping create this code.

Six months on from the Davies Report, FTSE 100 firms have appointed 18 women to their board, representing 31 per cent of all appointments made over the period. There are still 14 companies in the FTSE 100 without any women on their boards, but this is an improvement on 21 companies six months ago. Women now occupy 14 per cent of board positions, up two per cent on a year ago.

Reviewing the outcome of the meeting, David Winterburn, Chair of the Association of Executive Recruiters (AER) says:

"Progress has been made but a huge amount needs to be done to achieve the required tipping point.  The Government has so far decided not to recommend quotas, but may do so if the business-led approach and the voluntary Code do not achieve significant change.

“In the short-terms the focus must be on raising awareness of the Code and reviewing current recruitment procedures. In the longer term, we need to address root causes and raise aspirations at an early age.”

Commenting on the contribution that the industry can make in this area, David Winterburn concludes:

“Executive recruiters have a key role to play by pro-actively sourcing more diverse short-lists and by providing coaching support to female candidates. The industry can also lead the way by shining the light on residual barriers and by challenging the status quo. Ultimately, recruiters are in a unique position to make things happen and deliver real change in UK boardrooms.”  

A specific action plan will be developed on the back of the latest round-table meeting. The REC and AER will continue drive a proactive campaign on this issue in partnership with leading business bodies and organisations such as Women Like Us, the Women in Business Network, the Professional Boards Forum and Everywoman Limited.

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