The best way to improve gender diversity in the workplace is from below rather than fighting representation at top levels, according to Google’s head of diversity and inclusion for the EMEA region.

Mark Palmer-Edgecumbe told People Management that he believed the debate around female representation in the boardrooms of top businesses is a ‘red herring’ and claimed that companies need to start building a female talent pipeline at lower levels.

“I think the key thing is to challenge the composition of the level below that, the senior executives and managers as they are the people who will be on the board in future,” he said.

“This level should be 50:50 men and women. And we are certainly going in the right direction here at Google.”

His comments come after Google completed its Code F mentoring scheme, which aims to improve diversity as part of a wider drive to discover the best talent from diverse and under-represented groups.

Each eight-week programme sees participants paired with a Google engineer, or senior staff member who provides guidance over the course of various projects completed by the mentee.

Since the schemes were introduced at the end of 2011, over 100 participants across the world have received advice, career development guidance and networking opportunities from a variety of mentors.

Google’s commitment to improve diversity at all levels has also been seen in similar projects including the Top Black Talent scheme targeted at people from black and ethnic minority backgrounds and Tech Ability, which focuses on people with disabilities

“If we are to design and build the most effective products and services for our customers we need staff that represent that diverse group of customers,” Mr Palmer-Edgecumbe added.

“We know from research we have done internally that diverse teams make better decisions; they are more creative and produce more interesting products and services.”