Female-only shortlists to get more women on boards blocked by Human Rights Commission

Business Secretary Vince Cable had hoped using all-female shortlists would be a way to get more women on boards

The use of female-only shortlists to get more women on City boards has been found to be unlawful, according to the Equalities and Human Rights Commission.

The Business Secretary Vince Cable had hoped using all-female shortlists would be a way to get more women on boards to meet Lord Davies’ target of 25 per cent on FTSE 350 boards by next year.

Mr Cable asked the commission to advise on legality but the commission yesterday said it would be “unlawful sex discrimination”. It instead issued guidance on how to improve gender representation on boards.

The commission also launched an inquiry into the recruitment and appointment practices of the top 350 listed companies at board level.

 

The inquiry will be chaired by EHRC Commissioner Laura Carstensen. This is the second inquiry by the commission which issued a report that said the appointment of women is being held back by selection processes which “favour candidates with similar characteristics to existing largely male board members”.

Vince Cable said: “The headhunting industry have been looking for reassurances on the legality of all-women shortlists. That’s why I welcome the EHRC’s guidance, which has clarified this issue.”

He added: “While more needs to be done to ensure women are properly represented in the boardroom, there are now no all-male boards and women account for over 22 per cent of FTSE 100 board positions.”

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