22 January 2020

Dorset LEP well on the way to achieving gender diversity

Dorset LEP well on the way to achieving gender diversity

With one third of our board members being female, and a team led by a female Director, we’re well on the path to achieving gender diversity at Dorset LEP.

The Strengthened Local Enterprise Partnerships whitepaper, issued in July 2018, put out a call for greater diversity across all LEP boards in the UK, with an ambition for females to comprise at least one third of board members by March 2020.

In response, the Dorset LEP Board reflected on the existing board membership, recognising it was not representative in terms of gender diversity and agreed to set our sights on improving this picture by March 2020.  

We’re proud to share that we met this target four months ahead of schedule, thanks to a planned approach and the successful recruitment of four new board members.

Here’s how we got here... and our plans for the future.

  1. Review of our board recruitment pack

To ensure future board member posts could be appealing to potential male and female applicants, the job descriptions for Dorset LEPs Chair, Deputy-Chair and Board Members were reviewed and put through a gender decoder, identifying the following:

  • Chair of the Board = heavily male biased
  • Deputy-Chair of the Board = male biased
  • Board Members = heavily female biased.

To address the gender bias, we replaced some of the masculine-coded words in the Chair and Deputy-Chair job descriptions with feminine-coded words - actively seeking to include more feminine-coded words to make the roles more appealing females as well as male candidates. Alongside this we also prepared a set of gender neutral job descriptions to use going forward.

  1. A new approach to recruitment

Call to arms

Sara Uzzell, our (then) newly appointed Deputy Chair and Equality & Diversity representative shared a thought piece on why more women should consider applying for board positions.

National events

Sara Uzzell also attended the LEP Network Women Leader’s Roundtable in September 2018, sharing a personal account of the benefits of non-executive positions, calling for more women to consider applying for LEP board positions.

Campaign launch

In November 2018 we hosted a Local Women Leaders’ Conference in Dorset, chaired by Sara Uzzell and Dorset LEP Director, Lorna Carver, both talking passionately about women leaders in business and promoting Dorset LEP Board opportunities and leading a discussion to gain views on Dorset’s growth.


We attracted several applications for our Board vacancies, and happily this included a greater pool of female candidates, four of which were successfully appointed, and who are contributing to our board and new governance structure:

Next steps

We recently co-presented and sponsored a pilot event for NatWest’s national Back Her Business campaign and we’re continuing our work with Natwest, and others, to support their Expert in Residence initiative in Dorset, as well as preparing to host our next annual Women Leaders Conference.

We’re looking forward to building on this achievement within Dorset LEP to constantly improve our decision-making, as well as supporting wider campaigns encouraging Dorset-based organisations in becoming more diverse.

If you have any questions, please contact dorsetlep@bournemouth.ac.uk.  

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