A voluntary code drawn up by 19 executive search companies, encouraging them to promote gender diversity at boardroom level, has received the backing of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI).

“This voluntary code will encourage head-hunters to work with companies to widen their search to reach beyond the usual suspects to produce more diverse long lists of candidates,” said Katja Hall, chief policy director at the CBI.

The news follows a call last week by UK technology mentoring scheme MentorSET, which said more women in IT needed to become mentors.

The CBI recently published its own report on the issue of boardroom diversity and made clear its support for having a broad range of opinions, backgrounds and skill sets represented in British boardrooms.

The confederation takes the view that setting internal targets tailored to the particular circumstances of specific businesses is the most appropriate way to increase the number of women in directorial positions.

Hall reiterated the CBI’s position in a statement on Friday and said: “Chairmen really need to drive this process and ensure they do not over emphasise existing boardroom experience and consider other transferable skills.”