Government urged to drop the "Chairman"

UK business leaders recommend what they call a simple and "long overdue change" which would "send a clear message on government intent".

Cropped shot of a businesswoman giving a presentation to her colleagues in a modern office
Britain's leading business organisations have united in calling on the government to drop the word 'chairman' from its register of companies operating in the UK.

Language matters: opening up opportunities for women

Replacing the "outdated" title with the term 'chair' in the official register of firms recorded at Companies House in London would help open up opportunities to women, according to an open letter to ministers from the British Chambers of Commerce, the Institute of Directors, the Confederation of British Industry and the manufacturers' body, Make UK."While it may seem trivial to some, language matters," says the letter. "Research from the World Bank suggests a link between the use of gendered language and employment rates between men and women."We recognise that this amendment is not a silver bullet, and other initiatives and activity are needed (but) this change would signal to future generations regardless of gender, that they have an equal role to play in running businesses across the country."The letter points out that, at present, the word ‘chairman’ is used by Companies House as the default term in its model documentation, resulting in many thousands of companies across the UK repeating the term in their articles of incorporation.
Related reading from Relocate Global
According to the business leaders, this situation could be easily rectified by changing 'chairman' to 'chair' in upcoming corporate governance legislation.

More needs to be done to improve gender balance in leadership positions

Jonathan Geldart, director-general of the Institute of Directors, said that while significant strides had been made to improve gender balance in board and leadership positions, more needed to be done.He added, "By taking this small step, the government can ensure that gender neutrality is instilled in new business ventures at their inception.”All of the signatories to the letter are taking steps to amend their own articles to use the word ‘chair’ and are encouraging all other businesses to follow suit.

A "small but very significant alteration"

Sarah Howard, chair of the British Chambers of Commerce, pointed out that recent research showed that only 8% of FTSE 100 companies' chief executives were female.She said many companies believed the term 'chairman' was a requirement of Companies House. "Just as ‘policeman’ and ‘fireman’ have been replaced with more inclusive terms, so too should ‘chairman’ be consigned to the history books.“It’s a small but very significant alteration that will help break down subconscious bias and send a clear message to future generations that they have an equal role to play in running businesses whatever their gender identity.“There is much more that all of us need to do to help address inequality in the business world, and this change would send a clear message on government intent.”

A "long overdue change", despite recent progress

Dame Judith Hackitt, chair of Make UK, called on businesses across the country to support this "long overdue" change, adding, "Despite progress in recent years, it remains the case that women are under-represented in the most senior roles across companies. This is a small, but positive and highly symbolic change that I hope government will back.”

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng has so far dismissed the request

However, according to a report in the Guardian, Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng has so far dismissed the request in private meetings. The newspaper quoted a source close to the minister, who said the decision was not linked to culture wars but was about prioritising parliamentary time.“There is the coronavirus pandemic and the worst war on European soil for 70 years, so understandably there are pressures on parliamentary time,” the source said.

Read more news and views from David Sapsted.

Subscribe to Relocate Extra, our monthly newsletter, to get all the latest international assignments and global mobility news.Relocate’s new Global Mobility Toolkit provides free information, practical advice and support for HR, global mobility managers and global teams operating overseas.Global Mobility Toolkit download factsheets resource centreAccess hundreds of global services and suppliers in our Online DirectoryClick to get to the Relocate Global Online Directory

Related Articles