Top fims will ensure 30 percent of longlisted candidates are female.
Leading firms of headhunters have signed up to a code of conduct to help bring about more female boardroom appointments, it has been announced.
The code, agreed by 19 of the top executive search firms, sets out best practice, including a requirement that in most cases 30 per cent of candidates on any initial ‘longlist’ drawn up by the recruiter should be female. Search firms will be also expected to raise the issue of gender composition of the board at an early stage in any brief, to give the right support to candidates who are breaking through the glass ceiling and to work with company chairman and their committees to identify succession plans.
The code is a response to Lord Davies’ Review of Women on Boards, which was published in February this year. One of its recommendations was that headhunters needed to show a collective commitment to addressing the issue of boardroom diversity.
The code applies to search firms working with the FTSE 350, the biggest 350 private sector companies in the UK.
One of the seven principles listed in the code reads: “When presenting their longlists, search firms should ensure that at least 30 per cent of the candidates are women – and, if not, should explicitly justify to the client why they are convinced that there are no other qualified female options, through demonstrating the scope and rigour of their research.”
In response to the launch, Lord Davies said: “I am pleased to see that the executive search community has come together to launch their code of conduct today. This code is a positive step forward and I hope to see all executive search firms signing up to its recommendations. By implementing these principles and working with FTSE 350 chairs and boards, the headhunter community will help to bring more talented women to the top table, improving board effectiveness in the UK.”
Home secretary and minister for women and equalities Theresa May said: “I welcome the launch of the executive search firms’ code of conduct today and I am pleased they have responded so well to the challenge set by Lord Davies. I would encourage companies to sign up to the code and also encourage any company using recruitment services to ask if they have done so. It is essential that our boards draw on the talents of everyone – this is not just good for women, but good for our economy.”
Under the other recommendations of the Lord Davies Review, large firms have until September to set themselves aspirational targets for the number of women on their boards. According to the report, only 12.5 per cent of FTSE 100 directors are female, which drops to just 7.8 per cent for the FTSE 250.
However, a growing number of chairmen at large companies have signed up to the ‘30 per cent club’ which voluntarily commits them to achieving at least 30 per cent female representation.