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Britain’s Boards need talent

Britain’s Boards need talent

News Release issued by the COI News Distribution Service on 24 November 2009

New research commissioned by the Government Equality Office show that women are deterred from applying to sit on boards because corporate boards are dominated by “old boys’ networks”.

The research found that women continue to be under-represented at board level despite having the right education and experience they need to succeed.

It also found that board room cultures were often inhospitable to under-represented groups and that the small number of female board directors was not down to a lack of aspiration or competence on the part of women, but a failure by companies to identify their talent.

However the report singled out the positive action provision in the Government’s Equality Bill as being particularly helpful for women in the future, allowing businesses to employ a person from an under represented group when all the candidates are equally qualified.

Minister for Women and Equality, Harriet Harman, said:

“When I first supported the Female FTSE Report in 1999 it was clear there was a lack of women in boardrooms. This new research shows that we are moving in the right direction and there is still much more that needs to be done.

“Businesses that run on the basis of an old boy network and do not draw on the talents of all the population will not be the ones that flourish and prosper in the 21st century.”

Dr. Ruth Sealy, one of the authors said:

“The report highlighted the appointment process to boards as remaining open to subjective bias due to a lack of transparency of openings and unclear selection criteria, particularly in the private sector. Initiatives to improve boardroom diversity also need to tackle subtle factors such as stereotyping and culture.”

The research also highlighted a number of existing initiatives that were having a positive impact in the UK. Examples included the FTSE100 Cross-Company Mentoring Scheme and programmes run by the United Kingdom Resource Centre (UKRC), an organisation for women in Science, Engineering and Technology.

The new research was released to coincide with the publication of Canfield’s annual Female FTSE 100 Report, which highlighted a drop in the number of women holding key positions in FTSE 100 companies.


Please contact the Government Equalities Office press office.

* The research, carried out by Cranfield University School of Management, was split into two reports, the first looked into why there are so few women and under-represented groups, such as people from BME backgrounds or disabled people, on public and private sector boards, and the second looked at what is being done to improve diversity on boards, focusing on the UK, Norway, Spain and the Netherlands.

* The Equality Bill will allow employers to choose to take positive action to appoint a person from an under-represented group, provided candidates are as qualified to do the job as each other, and so balance things out if they want to. Qualified refers to competence, suitability or professional experience.

* The Government Equalities Office is responsible for the Government’s overall strategy, legislation and priorities on equality issues. It was established in July 2007. The Office also has direct responsibility for policy on gender equality, sexual orientation, and for integrating work on race.

* Cranfield School of Management is one of Europe’s leading university management schools renowned for its strong links with industry and business. It is committed to providing practical management solutions through a range of activities including postgraduate degree programmes, management development, research and consultancy.

* For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact: Emily Reed, Press Office, Cranfield School of Management on: T: +44 (0) 1234 754348 or E:


Government Equalities Office press office
Phone: 0207 276 0932