Women on boards: public want quicker pace of change

Women on boards: public want quicker pace of change
Companies may be required to report on their progress to get more women into the boardroom, under proposals announced by the Government Equalities Office. It comes as new research shows that 61% of people think there are not enough women directors in big businesses.

A survey, commissioned by the Equalities Office, shows that 61% believe businesses are losing out on talent by having fewer women in senior roles. In response, the Government has asked the Financial Reporting Council to consider including a new principle in its UK Corporate Governance Code to require firms to report on what they’re doing to increase the number of women in senior management positions.

This new principle builds on Clause 158 in the Equality Bill allowing employers to take a protected characteristic (sex, race, etc.) into account when deciding who to recruit or promote, where people having the protected characteristic (e.g. being a woman), are at a disadvantage or are under-represented, but only where the candidates are equally qualified and it is proportionate to do so, e.g. if a man and woman are equal in all respects, but the number of women in the role is disproportionately low, the woman can be chosen, subject to proportionality.

Current legislation allows employers to undertake a variety of positive action measures, e.g. offering training and encouragement for certain forms of work. But it does not allow any form of positive action at the actual point of recruitment or promotion. Clause 158 extends what is possible to the extent permitted by European law, and applies in relation to all protected characteristics, not just sex.

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