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Posted on:
8th March, 2019

"Not enough women are putting themselves forward for non-executive positions"

Anja Skvortsova is Associate Director of Audeliss. She has over 13 years’ international experience in executive talent acquisition. Here Anja underlines the reasons why not enough women are applying to be LEP board members and suggests some solutions.

"Not enough women are putting themselves forward for non-executive positions"

In 2010, the government set out its plans for local economic growth through the formation of Local Enterprise Partnerships – business-led partnerships between the private sector and local authorities designed to steer strategic growth, promote jobs and boost productivity throughout local communities. Since forming, LEPs have leveraged more than £7.6bn in private sector investment; helped build 93,200 new homes; created more than 180,600 jobs and supported more than 196,000 businesses.

However, while their recent report indicates that private sector involvement in economic decision making in local areas has had a positive impact on their respective communities, the government’s LEP Review published in July 2018 revealed a lack of gender parity on LEP boards. Naturally, this doesn’t come as a huge shock.

Despite recent progress, companies of all sizes and sectors are still struggling to level the playing field within boardrooms across the country. As part of their review, the government has said that 1/3 of every LEP Board will be women by 2020, and 1/2 of every LEP Board by 2023. While many LEPs have made progress to meet these targets, there are still certain steps that can be taken to improve gender diversity at board-level.

First and foremost, we must address the underlying reasons as to the lack of female representation within LEP boards. Already, recruitment for these positions is competitive, open and transparent to attract a steady stream of diverse talent to LEP boards.

The crux of the problem is that not enough women are putting themselves forward for non-executive positions at Local Enterprise Partnerships – for instance, a recent job ad for a board member within the Dorset LEP only received one application from a female candidate out of eleven in total. On the surface, the work undertaken by LEP board members primarily benefits local communities – however, there are still several strong reasons as to why women should apply for non-executive board positions.

For one, working at board-level on an LEP is a brilliant opportunity to harness your skills and experience in order to make a difference in the area you live and work in. The nature of this role will see you crafting strategic plans and identifying key opportunities for boosting productivity and promoting economic growth within the community; it will act as a platform for you to influence investment decisions in your area and see the positive impact your projects have in tackling issues such as skills, housing and infrastructure in your local area.

As opportunities go, board-level involvement in an LEP is highly rewarding as it gives passionate non-execs the sense of giving back in a far broader way - not only will you be lending your expertise to help businesses thrive, but your contribution will actively influence the economic growth in your area; it will enable you to work on a diverse range of challenging projects and see the fruits of your labour in the form of job creation, business success stories and improved access to housing and opportunities in the community.

The satisfaction gained from such a position goes without saying – yet, other than social good, board members of LEPs cite collaborative working as another key benefit attached to the role. In order to achieve the strategic ambitions of your LEP, the role will see you meeting and working with a vast range of talented people from different sectors and backgrounds. Unfortunately, societal constructs can lead many women to believe their expertise isn’t sufficient enough for such a role – yet, by overcoming self-doubt, recognising their talents and understanding the unique value they could bring to a board, ambitious women could bring about a significant positive difference to their respective LEPs.

Clearly, more needs to be done to encourage women to leverage their talent to help local communities. On 6th June, The LEP Network will be hosting an event to assist LEPs to achieve their gender diversity ambitions by bringing together a sizeable group of female leaders to showcase existing women in leadership positions and inspire more women to get involved with LEPs.

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