More taxpayers’ cash should be spent on attracting women to college governors’ boards in a bid to combat under-representation, according to the Women’s Leadership Network (WLN).

The campaign group’s chair, Sally Dicketts (pictured right) said the “magnitude of the role and the need to have the right people” meant more needed to be done to get women in roles of governance at colleges.

“There is a strong business case for using colleges’ existing expertise and HR resource to ensure the process of recruiting governors is similar to that of appointing senior staff, rather than the largely informal processes currently used, which offer insufficient rigour,” she said.

Ms Dicketts, who is also principal of Oxford and Cherwell Valley College, spoke out after research by WLN showed just how badly women were under-represented on FE college governor boards.

The majority of governors are men and most have been in the role for more than three years”

It found they had almost twice as many men and that less than 18 per cent of FE chairs were women.

It further found committees were almost three times as likely to be chaired by a man and in just 2.5 per cent of cases were governors appointed through competitive interviews.

“Colleges may worry about spending public funds on expensive recruitment processes for a volunteer board, but the magnitude of the role and the need to have the right people, and the right mix of people, must also be considered,” said Ms Dicketts.

“The majority of governors are men and most have been in the role for more than three years and some for more than ten, thus perpetuating the dominant culture.”

The purpose of the WLN research was to examine the performance of the FE sector in the context of Lord Davies’ February 2011 report Women on Boards, which highlighted the under-representation on corporate boards.

It looked at the positive contributions of women on boards and made a series of recommendations to improve the gender mix.

“As Lord Davies said, this is not a ‘gender numbers game’ — it is about the richness of a board that can combine different perspectives, backgrounds, life experiences and skills to offer a fully rounded view of a college’s achievements, ambitions, strategic decisions and forward plans, and to offer staff and students a clear demonstration of women’s achievement and success,” added Ms Dicketts.

Rob Wye, chief executive of the Learning and Skills Improvement Service, which funded the research, said: “This is an important and useful piece of research into the gender diversity on FE boards, and provides an excellent resource for corporations to better understand the national picture of women’s involvement in FE governance.”

Dan Taubman MBE, senior national education official at the University and College Union, said: “We believe there should be monitoring of who exactly is on FE corporation, urgently. This kind of monitoring hasn’t been done on a national scale for some time.”

He added: “The number of black and minority ethnic FE governors is probably also fairly low.”

Visit to read the findings of the WLN research, carried out over six weeks this summer, in full.

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