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Boardroom Diversity

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Webinar - Bulldogs and Bloodhounds

The new Government statements advocating greater diversity on boards can focus opportunity to address not only gender, but also diversity of thought, experience and personalities. High performing board members will harness this concept in its wider sense to effectively manage and evidence their decision making.

How diverse should boards be?

The fourth ICAEW thought piece on corporate governance focuses on diversity, outlining the principal drivers that can help boards set and assess diversity objectives and promote long-term business success.

Widening the business gene pool

Competitive advantage in business is derived from doing old things in new ways as well as doing new things altogether. The same is true in nature; the survival of the fittest, or evolution by natural selection, is about success through the ability to change to meet the changing environment.

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Guides and publications


How diverse should boards be?
A ICAEW thought leadership report asking what a truly diverse board looks like - a board that is diverse not just in appearance but in substance. Published in April 2014.

United Kingdom

Diversity in the boardroom: A guide for business and board-ready candidates in the UK
Report jointly published in April 2010 by the Government Equalities Office (GEO) and the CBI. The report highlights some of the initiatives which exist in the UK to improve boardroom diversity.

Feedback statement: Gender diversity on boards
In October 2011 the FRC announced its decision to amend the UK Corporate Governance Code to strengthen the principle on boardroom diversity which was first introduced into the Code in June 2010. The statement summarises the main points from the consultation responses, the decisions taken by the FRC and the reasons for those decisions.

FTSE Women leaders: Hampton-Alexander review
Initial report of the Hampton-Alexander review into increasing the number of women in senior positions in FTSE 350 companies. This review is looking at ways to ensure to that talented women at the top of business are recognised, promoted and rewarded. The focus of the review is on senior women below the company board.

Gender diversity in the boardroom: reach for the top
Survey report from the CIPD, published in February 2015, highlighting some of the key benefits of having a good gender balance on boards, such as bringing different perspectives to decision-making, reflecting the wider diversity in society and improving business performance. This sample explores HR practitioners’ perspectives on gender diversity in the boardroom and practical strategies for improving female representation at the top of organisations.

Gender diversity on boards: The appointment process and the role of executive search firms
Research report commissioned by the Equality and Human Rights Commission and published by the Cranfield International Centre for Women Leaders in May 2012. The report examines the board appointment process and the role of executive search firms within in with a particular emphasis on initiatives to make boards more gender balanced. The EHRC website also has a guide to Good Practice for Diversity on Boards, updated November 2016.

Report into the diversity of UK Boards (Parker Review)
Findings of a review carried out by EY into the diversity of boards in FTSE 100 companies, published in November 2016. It found that the boardrooms of Britain’s leading companies do not reflect the ethnic diversity of either the UK or the stakeholders that they seek to engage and represent. Ethnic minority representation across the FTSE 100 and 250 is disproportionately low and the report makes recommendations for the long-term.

Report on board effectiveness: Highlighting best practice, encouraging progress
In September 2011 the Association of British Insurers (ABI) published its report on board effectiveness. The report focuses on three key issues, with one being boardroom diversity, and aims to 'help companies to better understand the views of institutional investors on effective boardroom performance'. The report includes the results of analysis of FTSE 350 annual reports to examine what companies are doing to improve diversity in their boardrooms and across their whole organisations.

The Tyson report on the recruitment and development of non-executive directors
Report from a group of business leaders following up on recommendations from the Higgs report. The report looks at how 'companies might draw on broader pools of talent with varied and complementary skills, experiences and perspectives to enhance board effectiveness'. The report was published by the London Business School in 2003.

UK Board Index: Current board trends and practices at major UK companies
Comprehensive review  of governance practice in the largest 150 companies in the FTSE rankings, published by Spencer Stuart in 2016, indicating of the state of boardroom health during 2015-16. The report places particular importance on the theme of diversity – in addition to gender and nationality, the dimensions of age and ethnicity are explored.

Women in finance: A springboard to corporate board positions?
This report, commissioned by ACCA and the Economic & Social Research Council and published by ACCA in December 2012, explores the role of a financial background or qualification in FTSE 100 board appointments for women. The report was announced in the press release Finance background helps women get boardroom positions.

Women in finance charter
The charter sets out the commitment of HM Treasury and signatory firms to work together to build a more balanced and fair finance industry. It was drawn up in March 2016, based on the findings of a review by the CEO of Virgin Money and pledges to implement four key industry actions. There is also a timeline of the Charter's achievements in its first year.

Women on boards (Davies report)
Independent review into female representation on UK corporate boards by Lord Davies of Abersoch, published in February 2011 by the BIS. The recommendations include that UK listed companies in the FTSE 100 should be aiming for a minimum of 25% female board member representation by 2015.

Women on boards 2015: fourth annual review
Report published in March 2015, tracking progress on the recommendations made by Lord Davies’ 2011 ‘Women on boards’ report.

Women on Boards Reports
Government hub page for reports relating to Lord Davies Women on Boards review, including the annual review and 5 year summary. 

Women's employment and pay (Kingsmill Report)
Report published in April 2001, after the government commissioned a review of non-legislative and cost effective measures to improve women’s employment prospects and participation in the labour market.


2013 Chief Executive Study: Women CEOs of the last 10 years
Strategy&'s annual Chief Executive Study examines CEO successions and success among the world’s top 2,500 public companies. The 2013 edition focused particularly on women CEOs between 2004-2013, highlighting a few key differences between male and female CEOs.

Breaking the glass ceiling: Women in the boardroom
The third 2013 edition of this report by Paul Hastings LLP provides updates to jurisdictions with notable developments over the past 12 months, as well as five new jurisdictions: Austria, Denmark, Finland, India and Sweden. It aims to provide a comprehensive, global survey of how different countries are addressing the issue of gender parity on corporate boards. 

Diverse abilities: Leveraging all abilities to build high-performing organizations
Report from the first EY Diverse Abilities Leadership Summit, in December 2014, where company leaders discussed new thinking and practices to help leverage diverse abilities to create high-performing organisations. The report, published in May 2016, captures some of the key ideas and themes that emerged from the summit.

Diversity drives diversity: From the boardroom to the C-suite
A 2013 Ernst & Young report focusing on diversity in boardrooms of US companies at the time of their 2013 annual meetings, with some comparisons of diversity across industry sectors. It also explores the impact female directors and leaders are having on diversity.

European Women on Boards studies 
The EWoB studies on Gender Diversity on European Boards are carried out with key stakeholders (companies, women board candidates, etc), with a view to assess the situation and to contribute to making progress in terms of women’s participation in decision-making. The study provides quantitative data, and an analysis and recommendations. Realising Europe’s potential: progress and challenges (April 2016) examines the participation of women directors on the boards of the STOXX 600 companies between 2011 and 2015. The study also looks at other related topics such as the inclusion of women directors and board committees and the promotion of women into board leadership position. Realising Europe’s Potential: Experiences and Best Practices (July 2016) confirms the findings of EWoB’s first study, acknowledging that the “representation of female directors on boards of the largest European listed companies has almost doubled in the last five years”, while at the same time highlighting the need for organisations to measure gender diversity, established targets and actively monitor progress.

Executive remuneration in Australia
A report published in January 2010 by the Australian Productivity Commission. Chapter 6 discusses the role of the board and includes a section on attracting talented and experienced candidates. The report provides an insight into the current situation of female under-representation on boards and looks at measures to improve gender diversity in boardrooms.

Women in business 2016: Turning promise into practice
International business report from Grant Thornton, published in 2016, examining why a third of businesses still have no women at senior management level. It examines diversity in leadership in a number of countries around the world, the types of roles occupied by women and the qualities required for leadership. It also offers some recommendations for improving gender diversity in leadership.

Women in the boardroom: A global perspective
The fourth edition of this biennial report, last published in 2015 by the Deloitte Global Centre for Corporate Governance, gives an overview of current initiatives around the world, both legal and regulatory, to increase the number of women serving on corporate boards.

Women matter
Series of reports regularly published by McKinsey Global Institute since 2007. The reports in this series explore how gender diversity and leadership styles typically adopted by women leaders impact on company performance and report on developments to increase female representation in senior positions.

Women on board: the Norwegian experience
Report published in 2010 by the German political foundation Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung which documents the introduction of a quota for female board representation in Norway. The report looks at how the quota came into being and which changes it has set in motion since its introduction in 2003.

Women on boards: Commission proposes 40% objective
This collection of reports and factsheets including country specific information was published by the European Commission in November 2012 in support of its proposed legislation to establish a 40% quota for female board members in publicly listed companies.

Research and statistics

A joint report on UK Boardroom diversity
A joint BDO and Quoted Companies Alliance annual board review, looking at the board composition of all UK listed companies and analysing underlying trends. 2nd edition published 2016.

2014 Board practices report: Perspectives from the boardroom
A joint Deloitte and Society of Corporate Secretaries and Governance Professionals report, presenting results from a survey of the Society's membership. The survey covered a number of board governance areas, including board composition. Since the previous 2012 survey gender and ethnicity diversity on boards has gradually improved, but there appears to be a standstill on adding younger board members.

Boardroom Diversity Index (Australia)
This annual survey, published by Women on Boards since 2010, is the 'first comprehensive publicly available data measuring female participation on the boards of organisations in Australia'.

The Female FTSE Index & Reports
Annual benchmarking report by the Global Centre for Gender and Leadership which has been published since 1999 and includes details of the number of female non-executive directors on the corporate boards of the UK's top 100 companies.

Women on boards: benchmarking early adopters of the Corporate Governance Code 2012
Interim report published by Cranfield School of Management in November 2012 which monitors the progress of FTSE 100 companies on the diversity amendment made to the UK Corporate Governance Code and provides a benchmark of best practice based on early adopters of the revised Code.

See also


The Library provides full text access to a selection of key business and reference eBooks from leading publishers. eBooks are available to logged-in ICAEW members, ACA students and other entitled users. If you are unable to access an eBook, please see our Help and support advice or contact library@icaew.com.

Ideas for leaders collection

A collection of the latest global management and business thinking summarised into straight forward and understandable language. This collection comes in 7 volumes covering the following: Volume 1: Strategic leadership; Volume 2: Corporate culture and performance; Volume 3: Innovation & entrepreneurship; Volume 4: Strategy and operations; Volume 5: Leaders behaviour and development; Volume 6: Networks & communications; Volume 7: Customer focus; Volume 8: Governance, risk and corporate social responsibility.

It's not a glass ceiling, it's a sticky floor: free yourself from the hidden behaviours sabotaging your career success

Aims to build career development skills for women in business. Includes chapters on work-life balance, communication skills, and self-confidence.

Woman's place is in the boardroom, A

The book makes the case for promoting women to the board of directors. It includes interviews and case studies of women in business to support the argument that board diversity creates more value for shareholders.

Woman's place is in the boardroom, A: the roadmap

Guide to implementing organizational change to improve gender equality. It is especially concerned with establishing women on the board of directors.

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Trade press articles

The library provides access to a range of articles in full text from leading business, finance and management journals. Access to articles is provided to logged-in ICAEW members, ACA students and other entitled users subject to suppliers' terms of use.

Gender parity by 2055

A short progress update on the proportion of directorships held by women at US publicly traded companies. Bill Proudman argues that American companies cannot afford to wait until 2055 to achieve gender parity.

Diversity and inclusion: pace matters

Leaders who understand that advancing diversity and inclusion takes time and continuous effort are more likely to see lasting results. The authors suggest a continuous improvement approach.

REIT industry has lackluster board diversity

New report finds the real estate investment trust (REIT) industry is lagging behind in improving gender diversity on UK and US boards.

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Articles and books in the Library collection

Selected articles and books

This is a selection of articles and books in our print collection which contain information on boardroom diversity – click on the links to see our catalogue record and holdings for each item. Please contact us if you would like to borrow a book or request a copy of an article.

If women are the solution, what is the problem?
Economia, No.36. March 2015. pp.66-67.
The debate about gender diversity on corporate boards is mostly about how to get more women on boards: there is very little discussion about why the number should be increased. But boards without female members have successfully run many companies for many years and company failure is rarely, if ever, ascribed to board gender balance. What problem is this intervention designed to address?

Across the Board?
Economia,  No.36.  March 2015.  pp.41-44.
Article looks at whether getting more women into the top level of companies' governance should be done, and which countries are doing it best. The question of women on company boards - how many to have, and how to get them there - has been one of the key business debates of the decade. Now, according to Thomson Reuters, more than half of corporate boards have a least a 10% female membership. A 2014 study from Credit Suisse concludes board diversity has increased in almost every country, reaching 12.7% globally. And among companies in the MSCI World stock market index, women currently hold 17.3% of all directorships. Looks at quotas in US, Brazil, UK, Norway, South Africa, China and Japan.

Beauty queen: inside the reign of Avon's Andrea Jung 
D.Himsel (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014, 228 pages)
Former Avon vice president Deborah Himsel uses Andrea Jung's story as a case study for two timeless leadership questions: What makes great leaders great? And what makes them fail? Using interviews with other CEOs and leadership experts, she explores the unique challenges Jung faced as a female Fortune 500 CEO.

Women on board: insider secrets to getting on a board and succeeding as a director  
N.Calderon (Quotation Media, 2014, 327 pages)
Includes chapters: the status quo; getting a seat at the table; contributing from day one; board work; succeeding as a director and creating visionary boards; a call to action; are you ready to make a difference?; and additional insights and resources for today's director.

Views from some of the world's top female accountants 
International Accounting Bulletin, March 2014, pp.8-10 
Mentoring women and female role models within the business are some of the most frequently suggested measures to encourage women to take leadership roles. The author speaks to some of the profession's prominent and successful role models about their experience, advice and views of gender diversity.

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