Posted on:
6th June, 2019

LEPs commit to more gender diversity on their boards

Over 150 of the country’s top women leaders from the world of business and public sector are gathering in London today at a milestone event aimed at getting more women involved in the work of their LEP, and to inspire more of them to join their LEP board.

LEPs commit to more gender diversity on their boards

The LEP Women Leaders 2019 event follows on from a recommendation in the government’s ‘Strengthened Local Enterprise Partnerships’ review which stated that by 2020 a third of LEP boards should be made up of women, rising to half by 2023. Many LEPs have already exceeded the 2020 aim, with more on the way to achieving it. To date collectively 28% of LEP board members are women.    

Minister for Women and Equalities, The Rt Hon Penny Mordaunt MP said:

““All over the country LEPs are doing fantastic work. The Solent LEP in my area is working with female business leaders to encourage more young women to take up opportunities in STEM related industries, encouraging a generation of young women to reassess the way that they look at their careers and develop a world class skills base in the Solent.

“LEPs are making real progress and I hope more women leaders will be inspired to get involved in the work of their LEP.”

In September last year LEP women chairs and board members held the first women leaders’ roundtable with other women business leaders not involved with LEPs. The aim was to gauge how LEPs could raise their profile with senior women leaders and encourage more to apply to join LEP boards. The roundtable revealed that many women do not respond to traditional non-executive director recruitment methods, such as advertisements on LEP websites or in local media, particularly if written in business jargon. It became clear that women prefer to talk with people directly and to hear from them what is actually involved in a LEP board role, and how their membership can make a difference.

Today’s even seeks to build on that by:

  • understanding the challenges and barriers women leaders face, and how LEPs can better help women address those barriers
  • learning from each other about how best to inspire future generations of women to become LEP leaders
  • sharing the impact that LEPs are having on their local communities, detailing what’s involved, and how women leaders can influence that impact.

Christine Gaskell CBE DL, Chair of Cheshire and Warrington LEP, and first woman on the board at Bentley Motors, said:  

“Today shines a spotlight on women leaders and celebrates their achievements, it’s also about inspiring more women to get involved with LEP boards.  

“There’s an array of groundbreaking ‘firsts’ among the women leaders joining us today – but leadership isn’t always about being at the front or being the only one, nor is it just about ‘bumping up the numbers’. 

“Having more women in leadership positions is about equality – securing those roles because they are the best person for the job. Our LEP boards must better represent the communities they serve and work in - made up of different voices from many different backgrounds. 

“Collectively 28% of our LEP board members are women. We want to increase that to 50% on all LEP Boards by 2023. LEPs are moving in the right direction - we are getting there, but we are by no means complacent.  We are acutely aware of what needs to be done – and today’s event will help accelerate our progress.”

The format and make up of LEP Boards is governed by the 2019 National Assurance Framework which makes clear that by 2020 a third of boards must be women, rising to half of all boards being represented by women by 2023. In addition, at least two-thirds of the Board must be representatives from the private sector. The LEP must also ensure that there are Local Authority representatives on the LEP Board to ensure democratic accountability and provide local intelligence. At least one member of the main LEP Board must be designated as a Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) Champion for the LEP, their role is to champion SME businesses and their interests within the LEP and local community. LEPs should have a maximum of 20 board members, with the option to co-opt an additional five with specialist knowledge on a one year basis. The Chair must come from the private sector.

Notes to Editors:

1. A full list of speakers and panellists is available here and include:

  • Melanie Dawes CB, Permanent Secretary at the Ministry for Hosing, Communities & Local Government
  • Charlotte Keenan, Head of the Office of Corporate Engagement in EMEA, Goldman Sachs
  • Dr Ann Limb CBE DL, former chair of South East Midlands LEP, and LEP Ambassador.
  • Denise Wilson OBE, Chief Executive, Hampton-Alexander Review
  • Christine Hodgson, Chair, Capgemini UK plc
  • Karen Smart, Managing Director, East Midlands Airport
  • Tajinder Banwait, Founder and Managing Director, Urban Apothecary
  • Rosie Ginday, Founder and Chief Executive, Miss Macaroon
  • Stacey King, Group Regional Director, BT Group
  • Anja Skvortsova, Associate Director, Audeliss
  • Julie Baker, Head of Enterprise and Community Finance, NatWest & RBS.
  • Katrina Morris, Disability Rights UK.

2. The LEP Network is a gateway to news and information which enables England’s 38 Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) to come together on areas of shared importance, engage with Government, and share knowledge and best practice. The Network is also there to help those outside the world of LEPs, understand what a LEP is, what LEPs are trying to achieve and how to engage further with the relevant LEP. Each of the 38 LEP Boards comprises representatives from local authorities and private enterprise. 

3. To locate your nearest LEP please go to:

4. For further information about LEPs please go to: