31 January 2013

Vince Cable calls for change to male-dominated boardrooms

Business secretary Vince Cable has resurfaced arguments over diversity in the workplace, calling for FTSE 100 firms with all-male boardrooms to take action to increase the number of women in senior positions.

Suggestions in 2012 that quotas should be introduced in the boardroom were dismissed in the European Union after lawyers questioned the legality of allotting 40% of the seats to women by 2020. However, the debate doesn’t seem to have settled, with Mr Cable becoming the latest spokesperson to appeal for more female representation at the top of leading corporates.

The business secretary has written to the chairman and CEOs of the last 7 FTSE 100 firms with all-male boards, asking Antofagasta, Croda, Glencore, Xstrata, Kazakhmys, Melrose and Vedanta, to explain the steps they have made to make their boardrooms more diverse.

He said: “Over the last two and a half years we have seen real progress in the number of talented women reaching the boards of our top companies. During that time the number of all-male boards has fallen from 21 to the last seven remaining today, with the welcome news from mining giant Randgold being the latest step.

“My vision by 2015 is that Britain will not have a single FTSE 100 board without a significant female presence.”

He went on to say that diversity in the boardroom is a matter of good governance and good business, rather than simply about equality. There is international evidence that diverse boards benefit from fresh perspectives, opinions and new ideas, which crucially serve in the interests of the business.

Last week Mr Cable announced that three of the five appointments to the Business Bank Advisory Group will be female, with seven of the 21 Departmental Board and four of the nine attending the Executive Board, also women.