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Board diversity is more than a ‘shop window’ but can lead to a real prize for business, FTSE 250 told

Steven Holliday, chief executive at National Grid addressed FTSE 100 and FTSE 250 leaders this morning saying: “Board diversity may be the ‘shop window’ but the real prize for business is to ensure increased diversity throughout the leadership of a company.”

This morning representatives from the business world gathered to discuss the progress made on Lord Davies' recommendations to get more women into British boardrooms.

Attendees included business and HR representatives from the FTSE 100 and FTSE 250, the Women on Boards Steering Group and Equalities minister Lynne Featherstone.

Davies said: "The debate has not only caught people's imagination, but has driven real change in the corporate world.

"With a third of the FTSE 100 and a fifth of the FTSE 250 represented at today's event, I'm optimistic that today's discussion will drive further progress to address the key issues of training and mentoring for women already working within businesses.

"We have already seen the first steps towards gender equality in the boardrooms. For this to be sustained we will need to ensure a stream of talent is made ready for board roles."

Equalities minister Lynne Featherstone, added: "The business case for increasing the number of women on boards is clear. It's about improving performance and having a board that reflects and understands its customers.

"Better use of women's skills could be worth billions of pounds to our economy each year. Progress is being made, but there is still a long way to go.

"Increasing women's representation at senior levels will increase diversity and help close the gender pay gap."

Hosted by Boyden, the global executive search company and PwC, the assurance, tax and advisory firm the event took place at the Four Seasons Hotel, Park Lane, London.

Boyden managing partner John Ellis said: "Boyden has been delighted to be a host for the event today and to be a champion for the executive search profession on the women on boards issue. We are pleased that such a highly influential group of business people are taking this issue so seriously and hope that today will act as a catalyst to increase the rate of change."

PwC partner Sean O'Hare said: "The Davies report has caused many companies to reflect on their diversity policy, in particular when selecting board directors.

"From our Board Effectiveness reviews it's clear that more diverse boards lead to a richer debate in the boardroom and our own experience at PwC also confirms that."

Lord Davies was tasked by business minister Edward Davey and equalities minister Lynne Featherstone in August 2010 to develop a business strategy to increase the number of women on the board of listed companies in the UK. Davies and his Steering Group published their recommendations in February this year.

The Women on Boards six month progress report, from Cranfield School of Management was presented to the prime minister at Downing Street on Wednesday 12 October at his Women in Business reception. The report found women make up 14.2% of FTSE 100 directors - up from 12.5% in 2010.

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