Martin Vander Weyer tells an interesting tale in his Any Other Business column this week of Business Secretary Vince Cable demanding that companies appoint more women to senior positions:
‘The Business Secretary has been busy behind the scenes, too. “We had a letter from Vince telling us we should appoint a female non-exec…” one chief executive told me last week “…and we’ve found a really good one, totally one of the boys, she even likes shooting.”‘
Martin points out that Cable’s campaign is ‘about equality for its own sake rather than the distinctive qualities of female decision-making, and the otherwise already emancipated objects of his support feel themselves patronised’. He suggests that women should be less interested in being ‘an unheeded monitor of men behaving badly’ or a way of making the annual report look a little more diverse, and instead aim to be in the chair themselves. He suggests the Barclays chairmanship as one excellent job for an all-female shortlist.
But some MPs are also very keen for the next appointment to the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee to be a woman too. Sajid Javid stumbled rather on Tuesday when asked about this in the Commons, giving a clumsy answer about MPC appointments being on merit which suggested that there were no women who merited the role at all. Unsurprisingly, Labour made a nice fat fuss about this.
His colleague Andrea Leadsom, who sits on the Treasury Select Committee and was herself a banker before entering parliament, has a slightly different view, though, and thinks that the next appointment should be a woman. ‘I think there’s a huge need for greater diversity on the regulatory boards,’ she tells me. ‘The Monetary Policy Committee, the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority would all benefit from wider experience and backgrounds to challenge the risk of group think. Having high-calibre women should only improve the thinking of those committees.’
Perhaps Vince Cable will fancy getting involved in this one and will write to George Osborne urging him to appoint a female MPC member. Although there’s no guarantee the Chancellor will reply…