Enhanced code for exec recruiters launched to boost women on boards

Business secretary Vince Cable has today (1 July) launched an Enhanced Code of Conduct for executive search firms to support more women appointments to FTSE 350 boards.

Tue, 1 Jul 2014 | Matt Bodimeade

Business secretary Vince Cable has today (1 July) launched an Enhanced Code of Conduct for executive search firms to support more women appointments to FTSE 350 boards.

Cable has called on recruiters to "show their commitment to this work by embracing this new enhanced code”.

"Executive search firms are crucial to achieving gender diversity in both executive and non-executive roles," he said.

Over 70 firms signed up to the original voluntary code of conduct launched in 2011, and in response to the independent Sweeney review in February 2014 the search industry has developed a new enhanced code to recognise those firms driving progress and embedding higher standards.

Jonathan Swain, director of public sector executive search at Penna, one of the original firms signed up to the voluntary code, told Recruiter that he welcomes any progressive approach, which increases an organisation’s “desire and ability to improve the diversity of their boards, in the broadest sense”.

The new Enhanced Voluntary Code of Conduct for Executive Search Firms gives recognition to those firms who have been most successful in the recruitment of women to FSTE 350 boards.

Denise Wilson, chief executive Women on Boards – Davies Review, told Recruiter that the launch of the Enhanced Voluntary Code of Conduct recognises a “paradigm shift in the traditional FTSE board candidate”.

“It recognises the increasing importance of gender to their clients and FTSE boards, and a profession prepared to stretch itself and distinguish those search firms doing most to drive up the percentage of women on boards."

The Enhanced Voluntary Code was drawn up by the search firms themselves, working with the Davies Steering Group, and contains 10 new provisions, from launching initiatives to support aspiring women to sharing of best practice and running awareness programmes within their own firms.

Under the new provisions, firms will provide evidence to the Davies Steering Group that they have:

  • supported the appointment of at least four women to FTSE 100/250 boards over the last year
  • achieved a proportion of at least 33% female appointments across all their FTSE 100/250 board work
  • supported women in achieving their first FTSE 350 board appointment
  • have fully delivered against more qualitative aspects of the Enhanced Code in their daily practices.

However, Kate Shoesmith, head of policy at the Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC), said that although the new enhanced code is a “step in the right direction” it sets a “number of challenging targets for executive search firms which won’t be achievable without the endorsement and co-operation of their FTSE 350 clients”.

“We know that there is still a lack of understanding about the executive search process and what ‘good’ looks like,” she added.

The news comes after Recruiter reported last week that all FTSE 100 boards now have at least one woman serving on them, as the UK's top companies come close to meeting Lord Davies' 25% target for women on FTSE 100 boards by 2015.

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