Frustration over progress on diversity in the boardroom

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womenChairman of Centrica and President of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), Sir Roger Carr, has warned that progress on UK boardroom diversity has slowed so much it has started to plateau.

Speaking at an Ernst & Young (E&Y) women’s network event for FTSE Chairmen on 30 April, Sir Roger Carr said that if progress did not start to pick up, then it would be hard to avoid implementation of European quotas.

He said:

“Is this just one of those areas where change comes slowly, where we have to be patient?

“I hope not, because I don’t want to be patient; we shouldn’t be measuring progress and success in inches, but instead in miles.”

E&Y’s UK Chairman, Steve Varley, commented:

“There is a danger we can reduce diversity to just a numbers game, chasing targets.

“Really to me the starting point to changing behaviours is changing attitudes. And that means changing the way we think about diversity.”

Expressing his views, Varley said that every time a business decision is made, the Chairman should look around the boardroom table and consider the diversity of those making the decision, and think whether it was a wide enough pool of views.

He stated:

“Are we just encouraging people who look like us and talk like us?

“Unless there is real progress on equality, there is a danger we are all just colluding in a fantasy. We really all want a place where equality is not just a stated principle but a universal reality.”

It has been revealed that E&Y will launch a National Equality Standard this autumn, which it says is the UK’s first.

The company states that it has more female UK partners than any other Big Four accountancy firms at 17%, and in October 2012, took a bold decision to publicly announce targets for both female and black and minority ethnic new partner admissions.

Joanna Santinon, Tax Partner and sponsor for the firm’s Women’s Network, called for greater diversity on candidate shortlists.

She said:

“Too frequently we hear from FTSE chairs that they are receiving shortlists that are less gender diverse than they would like.

“Given the wealth of female talent in the marketplace, there should be no reason why every shortlist for senior boardroom level positions cannot have gender balance.”

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