Top firms lie about female directors, says IoD chief

Charlotte Valeur speaks out as number of female executive directors falls

(Image credit: Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP/Getty Images)

The new chair of the Institute of Directors says Britain’s biggest companies are lying when they say they cannot find enough female or ethnic minority directors.

Speaking to The Guardian ahead of International Women’s Day, Charlotte Valeur, who joined the Institute of Directors in September, criticised large listed companies for not achieving diversity targets.

She said: “Do we really think that’s difficult? It’s a lie. It’s not difficult. I will be very unpopular with FTSE 100 [companies], but I don’t actually mind, because it’s not true that it’s difficult.”

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Valeur added: “People don’t like change. Talent of all kinds is out there, but you have to consciously look for it.”

The percentage of women on FTSE 250 boards is increasing very slowly. In the year to June 2018, it rose from 22.8% to 23.7%. But the percentage of female executive directors of FTSE 250 companies fell during that time, from 7.7% in October 2017 to just 6.4%.

Meanwhile, the Daily Telegraph reports that banks will be forced to publish regular updates on how much they invest in businesses run by women as part of a raft of new measures to boost female entrepreneurs.

Lloyds, RBS and UK Finance, the banking trade body, have already committed to the Investing in Women Code, which will force financial institutions to commit to distributing funding with gender balance in mind. The Treasury launches the code today.

According to a Whitehall-commissioned report published this morning, the gender funding gap – the disparity in capital raised by women when starting a business compared with men – means there are one million fewer women entrepreneurs in the UK than there could be.

The report says that there is a massive price to this issue: it says that if the gap continues, it will cost the economy £250bn over the next decade.

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