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About the inquiry into board appointments - FAQs

In 2011 Lord Davies published the report of his review into why there had been so little progress in recruiting women on to the boards of corporate companies.

At the time women made up only 12.5% of directors on boards of the FTSE 100 companies and just 7.8% of directors on the FTSE 250 companies. There had been little change in the decade before.

Lord Davies recommended a business led and voluntary approach to improve the representation of women on FTSE company boards. This included setting targets (a minimum of 25%) and reporting on progress. The latest Government figures (October 2015) show that women's representation on boards of FTSE 100 companies has risen to 26.1% and for FTSE 250 companies it is 19.6% - up from 23.5%  and 18%  respectively in March 2015. There are no longer any all-male boards in the FTSE 100 but there are 15 in the FTSE 250.

The numbers of women holding executive board director posts remains very low. The Inquiry will examine the recruitment of executive and non-executive directors.

The aims of the Inquiry are to look at how FTSE 350 companies and their agents make decisions about the appointment of board directors, and examine whether those recruitment practices are transparent, fair and result in selection based on merit.

We plan to identify where improvements are needed to ensure recruitment practices utilise to best effect the provisions of the Equality Act 2010, and the equality requirements in the Financial Reporting Council’s Corporate Code of Governance (as amended September 2012) with the aim of achieving better representation of women on FTSE 350 company boards.

We have published legal guidance on the requirements of the Equality Act in the recruitment and selection of board directors. This guidance sets out the legal framework within which appointments to boards must be made.

Our focus in the Inquiry is on how companies and their agents make decisions about the appointment of board directors.

The focus of evidence to date has been on the role and practices of search firms in the appointment process. There has been very little evidence collected from FTSE companies about their recruitment behaviour and practices.

The Inquiry will use the evidence of appointments made in the 12 months from July 2013 to July 2014 to examine how the FTSE350 companies and their agents have made decisions about the appointment of board directors. It will identify where improvements are needed to ensure recruitment practices are transparent, fair and result in selection based on merit.

This is an Inquiry into the practices of the UK’s largest 350 companies (by market capitalisation) which have their primary listing on the London Stock Exchange. For the avoidance of doubt we have defined FTSE 350 companies as those companies listed on the London Stock Exchange website on 24 July 2014.

The Commission has a legal power, under section 16 of the Equality Act 2006 to conduct an Inquiry into anything relating to its duties in relation to equality and diversity under section 8 of the Act.

An Inquiry is a means of collecting the evidence we need to gain a clear picture of equality and human rights in Great Britain, and we can carry out an Inquiry into any area where we feel there is a benefit to wider society. For this Inquiry, the Commission will use evidence of appointments made in the 12 months from July 2013 to July 2014 to examine how the FTSE 350 listed companies and their agents make decisions about the appointment of board directors.

The Commission will examine how FTSE 350 companies carry out recruitment and make decisions on suitability for board director roles in light of the provisions of the Equality Act 2010 and the Financial Reporting Council's Corporate Code of Governance (as amended September 2012). The Commission will:

  • use evidence of appointments made in the past 12 months to examine how the FTSE 350 listed companies and their agents make decisions about the appointment of board directors including examining the key decision points and the roles and practices of decision makers and their agents throughout the process.
  • examine whether those recruitment practices are transparent and fair and result in selection based on merit.
  • identify where improvements to recruitment practice are needed to ensure recruitment practices utilise to best effect the provisions of the Equality Act 2010, and the equality requirements in the Financial Reporting Council's Corporate Code of Governance (as amended September 2012) with the aim of achieving better representation of women at board level.

The official Notice containing the full terms of reference is available to download

Confidentiality and disclosure of information

The Equality Act 2006 sets out specific rules relating to information received by the Commission when carrying out an inquiry under section 16 of the Act. We will not disclose information received from you or your organisation during the inquiry unless any of the following limited circumstances set out in section 6 (3) of the Equality Act 2006 apply:

  • with the consent of each person to whom the information relates in the report of the Inquiry
  • for the purposes of carrying out the Equality and Human Rights Commission's functions in relation to its enforcement powers
  • in pursuance of an order of a court or tribunal
  • if the information is anonymised so that no one to whom the information relates can be identified
  • for the purposes of civil or criminal proceedings to which the Equality and Human Rights Commission is party
  • if the information was acquired by the Equality and Human Rights Commission more than 70 years before the date of disclosure.

We will not include information in the report of the inquiry without the consent of the person who provided that information.

Last updated: 26 May 2016