The Equality and Human Rights Commission has recently published new guidance to advise companies, search firms and recruitment agencies about positive steps that can be taken to improve the representation of women on boards.

To help companies make full use of positive measures available under the Equality Act 2010, the guidance includes a range of steps that can be taken to improve gender representation on boards, such as:

The guidance also makes clear that using women-only shortlists in order to increase gender representation on boards is unlawful under equality law.

The Commission has recently launched a GB-wide inquiry into the recruitment and appointment practices of the top 350 listed companies at board level. The Inquiry, to be chaired by EHRC Commissioner Laura Carstensen, will work closely with these companies to examine their recruitment and selection processes and the experience of applicants and decision makers. The aim is to identify recruitment practices which make a difference and deliver open, fair and merit based appointments.    

This inquiry builds on a previous Commission report, which found that the appointment of women to FTSE 350-listed non-executive director roles is being held back by selection processes which favour candidates with similar characteristics to existing, largely male, board members.

“Research suggests that companies with diverse boards produce better performance and many companies recognise this. Equality is for everyone, and it is clear that there is still much more to be done to ensure that women have an equal opportunity to succeed on merit in gaining board positions,” commented EHRC Commissioner, Laura Carstensen.

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