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UK – Executive search firm code of conduct review announced

10 September 2013

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

Charlotte Sweeney was previously International Head of Diversity and Inclusion for Nomura International PLC. Her review will look to test the strength of the Code, develop areas of accountability, as well as identifying the 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 still accounting for 30% of the initial long-lists of candidates submitted to company Chairs by executive search firms. The expectation is that a similar representation is demonstrated on the short-lists submitted at a later date.

Business Secretary Vince Cable said: “The argument for greater female representation in the top positions of our biggest companies is clear. We’re committed in seeing this happen and the Code has played a big role in the progress we’ve seen to date. Charlotte’s review will help make sure that women are treated fairly in the recruitment process and I look forward to receiving her report later this year.”

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”.

Charlotte Sweeney will be interviewing and challenging 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.

The Voluntary Code, established in July 2011, was a recommendation of Lord Davies’ following his review into Women on Boards in February 2011. Written by the executive search community, it sets out nine key principles of best practice to follow throughout the search process.

At the time of its launch, Lord Davies commented: “I am pleased to see that the Executive Search community has come together to launch their code of conduct. This code is a positive step forward and I hope to see all Executive Search Firms signing up to its recommendations. By implementing these principles and working with FTSE 350 Chairs and boards, the head hunter community will help to bring more talented women to the top table, improving board effectiveness in the UK.” 

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