BHP Billiton now has 3 women on its board! Yeah!

Published: 16/08/2015

Shriti Vadera becomes senior independent director at BHP Billiton

Shriti Vadera has been promoted at BHP Billiton. Photograph: Graeme Robertson for the Guardian

First, it is promoting Shriti Vadera from a non-executive position to the powerful position of senior independent director. The former Labour party minister becomes one of the most influential business women in the UK, also sitting on the board of drugs group AstraZeneca, and chairing Santander UK.

And in the same breath, BHP is bringing in Anita Frew, currently deputy chair of Lloyds Banking Group, as a non-executive director.

When it comes to women on FTSE boards, the mining sector has the lowest percentage of female members, according to a recent McKinsey report, with just 17% compared with 32% in the most women-populated retail sector.

BHP appears to be striving to improve the stats. It has used two executive search firms, JCA Group and Heidrick & Struggles, to produce all-women shortlists for consideration for board positions and it’s not just at this level that it is hiring women. Its graduate intake of women has increased from 35% to 45% in the past couple of years.

With the Australia-based Carolyn Hewson on its board it now has three out of 12 board members who are women, meeting the 25% target set by diversity tsar Lord Davies.

Women in Mining, the non-profit organisation that campaigns for the promotion and progress of women in the UK mining sector, might have something to celebrate.