women-in-boardroomThe drive to encourage diversity and gender equality in the boardrooms of UK companies has slowed to the extent that the only option may be to introduce European quotas.

This is the warning issued by Sir Roger Carr, president of the Confederation of British Industry and chairman of Centrica, who said at a women’s networking event that he is concerned about the pace at which companies are attempting to establish equality in the workplace, especially at boardroom level.

“Is this just one of those areas where change comes slowly, where we have to be patient?” he questioned, adding he does not want to be patient and that firms “should not be measuring progress and success in inches, but instead in miles”.

UK chairman at Ernst & Young Steve Varley was also in attendance at the event, and he acknowledged there is a risk that promoting diversity could simply turn into a “numbers game” in order to meet targets.

Noting that there are 11 male CFOs at UK companies for every female CFO, he said there needs to be a fundamental change in attitude if boardrooms are to become more diverse.

“That means changing the way we think about diversity,” he remarked, adding chairmen hold a responsibility to ensure boardrooms are not just made up of “people who look like us and talk like us”.

Mr Varley was optimistic for the future, stating that work done by organisations like the 30% Club – a group of UK chairmen voluntarily looking to boost female representation in the boardrooms of FTSE-listed companies – is resulting in a change in the way businesses select top-level staff.