By Maximilian Clarke

The exclusion of women from the UK’s boardrooms is inconsistent with a functioning modern economy.

This is the message delivered by the Institute of Directors during this morning’s (Wednesday) Women as Leaders conference at the chartered institute’s London headquarters.

Speaking at the conference, Simon Walker, the Institute’s Director General stated that he had made advancing the cause of female business leaders one of the core objectives of his term.

“There is no doubt that role of a director has been seen in the past as a job for the boys,” spoke Walker. “This image is changing, but it has not yet been entirely dispelled.

“The notion that women should not play an equal role with men in the boardroom is not only unjust, but — equally importantly — inconsistent with the efficient functioning of a modern economy. I am absolutely convinced that the IoD must assume a position of leadership in advancing the cause of diversity on boards and in other leadership positions.”

Walker announced three steps the Institute is taking in pursuit of a more equitable gender balance:

Firstly, this year we have launched the first IoD training course specifically designed for female directors: Women as Highly Effective Directors.

Secondly, the IoD has proposed that companies should be required to report on boardroom diversity — including gender diversity — in their annual reports (on a comply or explain basis), along with any targets or progress associated with his policy. We expect this change to be implemented in the UK Corporate Governance Code in 2012.

Thirdly, we are planning to establish an IoD directory of potential female directors that could be made available to head-hunters and companies seeking to add non-executive directors to their board.

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