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Board diversity - the Davies Review

This article was previously published on the Leadership Foundation website.

Improving the Gender Balance on British Boards: Women on Boards, Davies Review October 2015

The Davies Review details the increasing representation of women on the boards of private sector companies over the last five years. It finds that while significant progress has been made further work is required to increase the number of female chairs and senior independent directors, and, in particular, the appointment of executive directors.

The review acknowledges that addressing the lack of female representation at the 'executive layer' is a complex and longer-term challenge.

One of the areas discussed in the Davies Review is the use of a voluntary-led approach, rather than the adoption of mandatory quotas, introduced in some countries. The Davies Review is strongly in favour of continuing with the current approach, and suggests having achieved the current target of 25% for women on the the boards of FTSE 100 companies, the target should be raised to 33% to be achieved over the next five years (2020).

Looking at gender representation in higher education, it is interesting to note that the Committee of Chairs of Scottish Higher Education Institutions (CSC) have announced in a policy statement on gender a commitment to achieve a minimum of 40% of men and women on governing bodies of Scottish institutions, with the remaining 20% being drawn from either gender. Institutions have until 2018 to meet the target. Recent research undertaken by the Equality Challenge Unit has shown for some institutions this may prove a significant challenge. At the beginning of 2015, on average 34% of the members of the governing bodies of Scottish higher education institutions were women. However, the proportion for individual HEIs ranged from 13% to 48%. A joint Leadership Foundation/Women on Boards reception will showcase the current benefits and opportunities to serve on a governing body in higher education for women who are thinking about serving.

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