The Business On... Lord Davies, Chair, Review of Women on Boards

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The Independent Online

Um, isn't he a chap?

Yes, that rather underlines the problem. When the Government wanted a senior business figure to investigate why so few women make it on to the boards of Britain's largest companies, it had to ask a man to do the job. Lord Davies is due to report today.

So what are his qualifications?

Well, he does know a bit about minority interests – he's a fluent Welsh speaker. He knows the boardroom well, too. Back when he was humble Mervyn Davies, he enjoyed a successful career in banking, latterly as chief executive and then chairman of Standard Chartered.

But surely bankers are all alpha-male types?

Don't be so clichéd. Yes, Lord Davies likes his sport – he's a fitness fanatic who has served as a non-executive on the board of Spurs – but he's in touch with his sensitive side, too, enjoying art and opera. Anyway, Standard Chartered wasn't like other banks – it came through the financial crisis with its reputation enhanced rather than in tatters.

Are people going to listen to him?

He knows how to wield influence in political circles, having been close to Gordon Brown – he served as a trade minister before Labour got the boot last year. His business connections remain strong, too – he's mates with Roland Rudd, the all-powerful boss of City public-relations agency Finsbury.

The boy from the valleys has come a long way, then?

There you go again with the clichés. Actually, he's from Colwyn Bay in North Wales, miles from the valleys. He started out working for what was then Midland Bank in Liverpool, but spent a good deal of his banking career working around the world.

And what will he say today?

Broadly, that we should not yet have quotas compelling companies to appoint more female directors, but that we do need targets and constant monitoring of business's progress towards hitting them. It's the sort of compromise one would expect from someone savvy enough to have negotiated a way through the thickets of banking and politics.