Has Cranfield solved the Catch 22 for Women NEDs?

The Non Exec Hub has long championed a belief that more can be done to encourage Chairmen and Recruiters in terms of thinking creatively about how and where NEDs can be found. And it looks as if Cranfield University’s International Centre for Women Leaders may be able to show the way. They’re about to publish an annual list of 100 Women to Watch – containing the names of 100 women who sit on FTSE 100 executive committees or hold very senior positions in other organisations.

The initiative is more than symbolic. Speaking to the Sunday Times, Professor Susan Vinnicombe, the centre’s director stressed: “These women are an immediate pool of talent who deserve serious consideration. We did not want companies just to recycle women who are already NEDs, as happened in Norway when it brought in the quota.” Vinnicombe was a member of the Davies steering committee which recommended that FTSE 100 boards comprise 25% women directors by 2015. “But search companies kept telling us that there were not enough women available, which got us very irritated.”

That irritation is shared by the team at The Non Exec Hub. We’re regularly advising potential NEDs (of both genders) on how to widen their networks and look for the roles that are ‘right’ for them – but we regularly hear the same feedback: ‘companies and recruiter’s seem to want a stereotype, with exact experience and effectively proof that I’ve performed the role before.’

Hopefully, the Cranfield list will grab Recruiters’ attention and begin to unravel the Catch 22 conundrum. The need to do is very clear. The Sunday Times highlighted the case of Christine Tacon and the advice she received from Chairmen when looking for her first role as a non executive director. She received consistent response: get plc board experience. Apart from the round-and-round-in-circles head spin, this causes real practical concern – as we know from our own experience the value of exposure to NED and Trustee work outside the FTSE 350. Simply put, the debate needs to widen – and Recruiters need to deepen their search for the many women who, right now, can make outstanding NEDs.

Author Bio:

Heather White is CEO of Non Exec Hub. To find out more about this online community and unique resource, contact her at[email protected]

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