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Women on boards – Davies report progress update

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It is no small achievement that women now represent over a quarter of the FTSE 100 board members when viewed from the starting point of 12.5% in 2011. It is even more remarkable as it has been a business-led initiative without quotas, only targets, and just a slight nudge from the UK Corporate Governance Code. Finally, businesses are in a place where the question on gender diversity is how it can be achieved not why. But a board’s work is never done as there is the same distance to travel to achieve balance, although the journey looks less arduous.

The statistics on women on boards come from the Government-backed Davies Review, which has been championing the gender issue for the last five years, and reports annually. It now plans to focus on FTSE 350 companies with the aspirational target of increasing female representation from 21.9% to 33% by 2020.

As delighted as I am to see the much needed progress in the boardroom, this is only part of the diversity picture. I find myself in agreement with Chuka Umunna and Vince Cable on the need to increase ethnicity on boards. The commercial reasons for not having all-white boards, be they men or women are just the same as those for better gender representation. And so on. And so on. Higher performance can be achieved if the team, whether they are based in the C-suite, something more junior, or even a rugby team, has a diverse range of skills, backgrounds, education as well as protected characteristics such as gender, race, age and orientation. Simple as that.

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