Chair or Chairman – Does it really matter?

Chair or Chairman – Does it really matter?

Why is there a call for change?

Several leading business groups, The Institute of Directors, British Chambers of Commerce, Make UK and the CBI (Confederation of British Industry), have joined forces to call on the UK Government to stop using the word ‘chairman’. They have all signed an open letter suggesting the default term as used by Companies House be changed to the more neutral term of ‘Chair’. They have also suggested how this change can easily be adopted into corporate governance legislation.

Jon Geldart, Director General of the IoD said:

“Whilst significant strides forward have been made on improving gender balance in Board and leadership positions, we must continue to strive for greater representation by women. Clearly changing Companies House’s model articles is no silver bullet, but neither is it trivial. By taking this small step, the Government can ensure that gender neutrality is instilled in new business ventures at their inception.”

The FTSE Women Leaders Review recently published a new set of recommendations for achieving greater gender balance for women on boards and in leadership roles, with a focus on creating a pipeline of future leaders. Their report builds on previous work carried out through both the Davies Review and the Hampton Alexander Review.

It shows remarkable progress, as nearly 40% of UK FTSE board positions are now held by women compared with 12.5% just 10 years ago. Additionally, the percentage of female non-executive directors (NEDs) on FTSE 100 boards is at an all-time high at 44%,

But there are still very few women in the most senior leadership roles, with just eight female CEO’s currently in the FTSE100. The number of women in Chair roles across the FTSE 350 rose to 48, up from 39 in 2020. This is progress again…but is still only 14%, which does not feel right.

Does it really matter?

Some may ask does it really matter, as it’s not like women are barred from the role. Some may say that technically the traditional title of Chairman is actually gender-neutral or that the term Chairwomen may be used where it’s appropriate. That this is just political correctness.

But language is important. Perceptions and optics are important. Removing barriers to the aspirations of women is important.

ABSTRACT support this move and, from the reaction of many, it feels like the corporate world does too. In business terms ‘Chair’, is a neutral alternative to Chairman or the less commonly used Chairwoman. Removing this seemingly small barrier will be another step towards greater equality in business. And ABSTRACT believes that greater diversity in the corporate boardroom leads to better judgment and decision-making.

ABSTRACT think it’s part of the natural evolution of business that, with greater numbers of women progressing to senior leadership positions and board roles, we will naturally see more women as company Chairs in the near future and that this seemingly small change will help that process.

So how can ABSTRACT help?

ACCELERATE, is their career management development programme, which includes a module dedicated to Boardroom Expectations and Future Readiness. They want to help more individuals reach their potential, and that includes supporting more women into senior leadership roles. Their award-winning learning and development programmes promote inclusive leadership, career management for women (alongside other unrepresented groups), and will help you and your people to create a modern business that is equipped for today’s social objectives.

To find out more, visit the ABSTRACT website. 

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