The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has published the results of its inquiry into fairness, transparency and diversity in FTSE 350 board appointments. The report highlights improvements in headline figures for the number of women on boards, but also the fact that there are wide variations in the performance of individual companies. Two thirds of FTSE 250 companies do not have 25% female board members and the number of women holding executive directorships is still very low – 90% of FTSE 250 companies did not have a female executive director in 2013/14.

Alongside the inquiry findings the EHRC has published good practice guidance for companies and executive search firms on improving the diversity of company boards.

Recommendations include:

  • Making an appointment – prepare role descriptions and person specifications that draw out objective and measureable criteria against which candidates will be assessed, avoiding subjective concepts such as "chemistry" or "fit".
  • Reaching the widest possible pool of candidates – publicise roles widely to help ensure a diverse range of candidates; consider whether lawful positive action is needed to encourage under-represented groups to apply.
  • Providing a clear brief – if using an executive search firm, provide a clear brief; consider asking the search firm to achieve a realistic diversity target to support the company's diversity commitments.
  • Assessing candidates consistently – to ensure appointments are made on merit, assess candidates consistently against the objective and measurable criteria already identified; consider lawful positive action to choose between equally qualified candidates.
  • Establishing board accountability – boards should have strategic oversight of diversity across the company and monitor and report on progress regularly.
  • Widening diversity in senior leadership positions – having greater diversity in the talent pool will help in succession planning; regular reviews of diversity in relation to recruitment, development and retention can help identify barriers to recruitment and progression.