Open up the boardroom elite

The business case for senior women is indisputable. Any business that can encourage more women can attract a greater number of customers because from the top down it understands a wider proportion of the population.

Companies also become less one-dimensional and also enjoy a wider pool of skills and talent.

The critical issue now is how do we make it happen?

Some of the stepping stones to diversity are more obvious than others – such as reviewing candidate sourcing strategies and analysing induction processes.

Many companies claim to follow these stepping stones already, but their strategies will be useless unless they heed one very important piece of advice. To get more women to board level, companies need to analyse the appointment and understand what role they need to fill. Get this wrong and the following stages of your recruitment process will make little difference to the construct of your board.

Time and time again, companies make an appointment that ‘feels comfortable’, but is based on instinct rather than fact.

Our research suggests that the more senior the appointment, the less time is spent defining the brief. The rigour and openness common at lower levels are simply not evident. Diversity professionals are rarely employed to add value to executive appointments, even though they are used at all other levels of recruitment.

Not all companies fall into the trap of the ‘obvious and instinctive’ appointment, but UK boardrooms are populated by a relatively small elite. There is a very real need to open this inner sanctum to a broader population.

Boardroom culture needs to adapt, modernise and reflect the world outside or it will simply spit out new talent if indeed it manages to attract it in the first place.

Kate Headley is a director of diversity consultancy, Performance Through Inclusion

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