Business Secretary, Vince Cable, has announced that Charlotte Sweeney is to review the Voluntary Code of Conduct that the executive search industry use during the board appointment search process.

The Code was established in July 2011 in response to a recommendation in the Davies Review on Women on Boards. Written by the executive search community, it sets out nine key principles of best practice to follow throughout the search process. Progress on all the recommendations of the Davies Report was published recently in the Davies Review steering board’s 2013 report.

The Sweeney review will look to test the strength of the Code, develop areas of accountability and identify any practical changes that have been made to the recruitment process as a result of the Code. The review will also look at whether women are accounting for 30% of the initial long-lists of candidates submitted to company Chairs by executive search firms – as required by one of the nine principles of the Code. The expectation is that a similar representation is demonstrated on the short-lists submitted at a later date.

Charlotte Sweeney will interview and challenge key stakeholders including Chairmen, board consultants, female directors, investors, HR Directors, Company Secretaries and other interested parties to get a better picture of the compliance of the code. A short report will be presented to the Secretary of State and Lord Davies by December 2013.

Charlotte Sweeney said: “The representation of women in the top positions of the UK FTSE350 companies is important for the growth of our economy. The Voluntary Code of Conduct for Executive Search Firms plays an important part of the recruitment process for board appointments. I am delighted to take on this role to review the Code and I’m looking forward to speaking to the key stakeholders in this area to ensure we continue to improve the representation of women in our boardrooms”.