IoD press release Leading business groups call on UK Government to stop using archaic word ‘Chairman’

The Institute of Directors has joined forces with three other leading business groups to call on the Government to stop using the outdated word ‘chairman’.

Make UK, British Chambers of Commerce and the Confederation of British Industry have joined the IoD in signing an open letter to Government asking for the change.

Currently the word ‘chairman’ is still used by Companies House as its default term in its model articles, meaning it is then repeated in the articles of many thousands of companies across the country.

The letter calls for this to be changed to the neutral term ‘Chair’ and points out the change could easily be incorporated in upcoming corporate governance legislation.

All of the signatories to the letter are taking steps to amend their own articles to use the word ‘Chair’ and they are encouraging all other businesses to follow suit.

Sarah Howard, Chair of the British Chambers of Commerce, said:

“More needs to be done to help the young girls and women of today achieve their ambitions. Research from the FTSE Women Leaders Review 2022 reveals just 8% of FTSE 100 CEOs are women and only 13.7% of executive directorships.

“Currently Companies House still uses the word ‘chairman’ in its model articles of association and has done for many years, meaning it has been used by thousands of businesses across the country when they are set up.

“While businesses can change it themselves, many are under the impression that it is a requirement of Companies House. Language matters. Just as ‘policeman’ and ‘fireman’ have been replaced with more inclusive terms, so too should ‘chairman’ be consigned to the history books.

“Research from the World Bank suggests a direct link between the use of gendered language and differing employment rates between men and women. The default term should be changed to ‘Chair’.

“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.”

Jonathan Geldart, Director General of the Institute of Directors, 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. The importance of language should not be underestimated. By taking this small step, the Government can ensure that gender neutrality is instilled in new business ventures at their inception.”

Dame Judith Hackitt, Chair of Make UK, said:

“This is a welcome and long overdue change which is easy to make and which I hope all businesses across the UK will support. 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.”

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