Another communication from the CBI

In response to my last email to John Cridland, I’ve had the following email from one of his colleagues. My response is provided beneath it.

Dear Mr Buchanan,

Thanks you for your further email to John Cridland.

The CBI’s work on diverse boards – published in December 2010 – was led by a group of FTSE Chairmen, headed by the CBI President. The details of this group are in the report Room at the Top, which is available on our website. Like all our policy, it was prepared in full consultation with our members, and the report enjoyed broad support from the other CBI committees when they were consulted. You will understand that the CBI’s governance is a matter for its members, and I will not comment further on this.

We do not accept that our belief that increased diversity in corporate leadership is a good thing represents a move away from meritocracy. The best business leaders, male or female, should reach the top through an efficient talent pipeline. Our focus is to ensure that this pipeline works well for all potential future leaders. Our focus on this area – and strong rejection of quotas – demonstrates our continuing commitment to ensuring we get the best leaders for business of either gender, not just tokenistic gestures.

Best wishes,

Neil Carberry

Director, Employment & Skills

My reply:

Neil, many thanks. I have the report in question, and by the words ‘The CBI’s work… led by a group of FTSE100 chairmen, headed by the CBI President’ I take it you mean the following group of 10 individuals, shown on the last page of the report? Could you please confirm?
So, is this a group of people we can expect to properly reflect the views of CBI members on the issue of gender diversity in the boardroom, or have they been carefully selected to ensure the ‘right’ outcome? Let’s see, shall we?
Males in the group
Sir Win Bischoff, chairman, Lloyds Banking Group – I see from www.30percentclub.org.uk he’s a member of this group of FTSE100 Chairmen committed to having at least 30% of their Board members being female.
Sir Roger Carr, chairman, Centrica (and current President, CBI) – also a member of the 30% Club.
Sir Philip Hampton, chairman, Royal Bank of Scotland – also a member of the 30% Club.
James Smith, chairman, Shell UK. From the website of ‘Business in the Community’ www.bitcdversity.org.uk:
Our target, and how we plan to get there

The Shell Group has a stated aspiration to achieve at least 20% of senior positions filled by women globally, and there is strong senior level commitment to achieving this target. We have undertaken a major study of women’s retention and progression in Shell, which led us to several recommendations for action. We are currently working through these to ensure that barriers are removed. The actions we plan to take will embed diversity and inclusion of women in all our key people processes with greater accountability for results at business, country and individual level.

Sir Michael Rake, chairman, BT Group – would it take a crazy leap of imagination to assume Sir Michael, too, is a supporter of ‘improved’ gender balance in boardrooms?

Females in the group

Helen Alexander, president, CBI. She says in her Foreword to your report, ‘Business will need fresh approaches and different outlooks if it is to thrive in an increasingly challenging and competitive future. Greater gender diversity will help to achieve exactly that.’
Suzanne Baxter, Sally Bott, Alison Duncan and Helen Mahy – I assume all these woman are also supporters of ‘greater gender diversity’?
The report’s authors thank four ‘employers and experts’ who contributed to the report. All four are women, again I assume all these woman, in common with Helen Alexander, are supporters of ‘greater gender diversity’?
SUMMARY
The vast majority of directors of companies which are members of the CBI – and especially of the larger companies – are men. But their ‘representative organisation’, the CBI, sees fit to produce a report on gender diversity written by, or contributed towards by, 14 individuals. Nine of these individuals are women, and all 14 are firm supporters of ‘greater gender diversity’. The report concludes – who could have predicted it? – that greater gender diversity is a goal worth pursuing. Please let me know if I’ve misunderstood or misrepresented the reality of this matter in any way. Thank you.
Best wishes,
Mike Buchanan
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About Mike Buchanan

I'm a men's human rights advocate, writer, and publisher. My primary focus is leading the political party I launched in 2013, Justice for Men & Boys (and the women who love them). I still work actively on two campaigns I launched in early 2012, Campaign for Merit in Business and the Anti-Feminism League. In 2014 I launched The Alternative Sexism Project, aiming to raise public understanding that the sexism faced by men and boys has far more grievous consequences than the sexism faced by women and girls.
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