Tyson opts for a non-execs census

Laura Tyson, the management expert appointed by the Government to identify a new gene pool of non-executive directors, yesterday recommended an annual census of UK companies to track how many women, ethnic minorities and people from outside the City were being appointed to their boards.

Ms Tyson, who was asked in January to consider ways to inject diversity into company boards, said she had decided against the Government's recommendation of formulating a list of 100 new potential non-executives from groups of people who currently are absent from most boardrooms.

The move followed findings by Derek Higgs, who considered the whole role of non-executives in UK public companies, that women make up only 4 per cent of Britain's directors and less than 1 per cent of its chairmen. Ethnic minorities account for less than 1 per cent of directors.

Ms Tyson, Dean of London Business School, said it would not be helpful to formulate a list of 100 candidates as a way of widening the spectrum of board members. "We want companies to carry out a thorough assessment of what skills they need when hiring a non-executive rather than relying on their informal network. So we thought formulating a list would be inconsistent because we do not know what specific companies need and it would also not be possible for us to do a thorugh search of the talent available," Ms Tyson said.

Instead her report, published yesterday, recommended the Department of Trade and Industry should persuade companies to take part in an annual census which would record details about their non-executives. This would give the issue "high visibility," Ms Tyson said, and could therefore influence businesses to make efforts to hire individuals from a wider range of backgrounds.

Acevo, the association for heads of charities and other voluntary organisations, welcomed the report, but called on the Government to set up a register of suitable candidates that companies could draw non-executives from. Stephen Bubb, CEO of Acevo, said: "If you are running a manufacturing company in the Midlands and there is a position coming up, this would make it easier to find someone rather than getting your mate from the golf club."

Patricia Hewitt, trade and industry secretary, said: "We must see real results in broadening the talent pool of directors appointed to our boardrooms."

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