By Claire West

Business Minister Edward Davey and Lynne Featherstone, Minister for Equalities, have today announced that Lord Davies of Abersoch will develop a business strategy to increase the number of women on the boards of listed companies in the UK.

Research from Cranfield University has highlighted a lack of female directors in Britain’s top businesses, with women making up only 12.2% of directors of the FTSE 100 companies in 2009. The FTSE 250 companies have an even lower proportion of female directors at 7.3%, and nearly half of them do not have any women in the boardroom.

Lord Davies, who is the former chairman of Standard Chartered PLC and a former Government minister, has been asked to build on the work carried out by Professor Laura Tyson in her 2003 report by identifying the obstacles to women becoming directors of listed company boards, and making proposals on what action Government and business should take to improve the position.

Lord Davies will present his recommendations by the end of the year.

Business Minister Edward Davey said: “Diversity on boards is a very important issue and something that the Coalition Government is very committed to. This is why the Government wants to lead by example on this issue, announcing today its aim to place women in at least half of all open board level roles by the end of the Parliament”.

“We want to work with business leaders to remove the obstacles to UK plc benefiting from the skills and experience of women. This is not just about gender equality, but about improving performance and ultimately productivity too”.

“Mervyn is a true champion of this cause and worked hard to emphasise the importance of diversity while he was at Standard Chartered. I know that he will work with the same determination in this new role and he has the profile and standing to drive forward this important area of work.”

Equalities Minister Lynne Featherstone said: “Equality is as good for businesses as it is for women – diverse organisations reflect their customers better, understand them better and offer better products and services as a result”.

“It is essential that we don’t miss out on the talent and skills of half our population if Britain is going to compete in a fast-moving global economy. We need to do more to identify and tear down the barriers that prevent women rising to the top in business, and I look forward to working with Lord Davies to make this happen.”

Lord Davies of Abersoch said: “While it is essential that the boards of UK companies are meritocratic, the fact that there are only 131 female directors in FTSE 100 companies means that we cannot be using all the skills and talents that make our workforce so competitive”.

“I am looking forward to leading this work and hearing the views of those with an interest in this area. I hope to help more women to rise to the top of their professions and become our business leaders of the future.”

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