MY heart sinks whenever we are sent a picture for use on our Business pages and it shows a group of besuited blokes stood in varying states of awkwardness.

If the photos we receive are anything to go by then you would assume that North-East bosses spend most of their time either loitering around Newcastle Quayside, standing in formation on the stairs of nondescript offices, holding up mobile phones and pointing to apps, or peering through the end of a pipe.

You would also assume that most bosses are male, and in that respect, sadly, you would be correct.

The number of women gaining places at university is rising twice as quickly as that for men, the latest figures show. In the most recent intake about 60,000 more women than men gained university entry.

But there is a scandalous shortage of female role models who hold the most senior business positions in Britain’s biggest companies.

Despite the progress made by the Davies Review into gender diversity in boardrooms the number of FTSE 100 female executive directors still represents less than 10 per cent.

There are just nine more female executive directors on FTSE 350 boards than in 2010 and the number of female chief executives has barely increased. This has led to concerns that progress made by Davies has not been seen below board level, with gender targets mainly having been met by increasing the numbers of non-executives on the board - meaning women aren't really being given the jobs that matter.

In addition, while the gender pay gap has narrowed in the problem is still acute in senior jobs. In the 50- to 59-year-old age group, the average man earns 18 per cent more than a woman, according to Government data.

These sound more like figures you would expect from the dark ages of the business world than a supposed fair and equal society in 2016.

The Davies review says a third of all board seats at Britain’s biggest companies should be held by women by 2020, but the target should not be anything but 50 per cent. Norway, France and Belgium, who are ahead of the UK in terms of boardroom gender diversity, have set formal quotas for female representation.

I am not convinced this is the way forward and women I speak to say they want to be promoted on merit rather than via a quota system.

Anyway, the problem is systemic and needs to be tackled at the grassroots.

The government can do more to help by expanding free childcare, promoting flexible working and tackling occupational stereotypes in schools.

The latter is something we in the media have a responsibility to address too. Flick through the business pages of some of the most high brow national newspapers and you will find token pictures of famous women – beautiful pop stars and actresses – who are used to ‘enliven’ a page that is otherwise filled by stories and images of blokes doing the serious business of running the economy.

The Echo cannot claim to be immune to such behaviour. We all have a responsibility to redress the balance. 

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