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The appointment of women to FTSE 350-listed non-executive director roles is being held back by selection processes which ultimately favour candidates with similar characteristics to existing male-dominated board members, according to a new report released by the Equality and Human Rights Commission.
The report, produced by Cranfield School of Management, is the first in-depth study into the appointment process to corporate boards and the role of executive search firms (ESFs). It follows the recent Davies Review which called upon ESFs to take on a more active role in increasing gender diversity on FTSE boards.
The report reveals a recognition by many chairmen and search firms that gender diversity should be increased at board level. Search firms have introduced a voluntary code of conduct and had some success at getting more women on long lists. But when it comes to shortlisting and appointing, the candidates who are selected tend to be those who are perceived as “fitting in" with the values, norms and behaviours of existing board members, who are largely men.
Baroness Prosser, deputy chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission said:
“Research shows that diverse boards produce better performance. Many companies recognise this and we commissioned this report to support their efforts to improve the representation of women at board level. However, the often subjective way appointments are made ends up replicating existing boards rather than bringing in the talented women who could bring real benefit to individual company performance and ultimately help Britain’s economic recovery.”