An innovative mentoring scheme designed to increase the number of women in the boardroom is to get underway.
It will see the chairmen and chief executives of 20 of the UK’s largest businesses mentoring senior women executives from other companies.
The programme is part of an initiative called Women Directors on Boards run by consultancy The Change Partnership along with Cranfield University, PriceWaterhouseCoopers and a number of senior women in Government.
Women currently account for just around nine per cent of FTSE 100 directors.
FTSE chairmen taking part will include Maarten van den Bergh of Lloyds TSB; Charles Miller Smith of Scottish Power; Gerry Robinson of Allied Domecq; and Baroness Hogg of 3i.
Other names involved include BAE Systems, HSBC, National Grid Transco and Pearson.
"It is unique," said Peninah Thomson, director of The Change Partnership, told The Financial Times.
Thomson is co-ordinating the project with Jacey Graham, former head of diversity strategy at Shell International.
"It has the potential to have a material and beneficial impact on the breadth and variety of skills and leadership styles available to UK boards," she added.
Board-level appointments are still by and large made through introductions and old boys' networks.
Thomson said some companies often complain they cannot find suitable external women for directorships and some had asked for help in identifying women in their own ranks to take part in the scheme.
"The cross-company aspect helps bring different people to the attention of chairmen and chief executives, so that as appropriate career opportunities arise they may be able to introduce mentees to others," she added.