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Only two women applied for Bank of England governor role | Business

Only two women applied to become the next governor of the Bank of England, despite the fact the Treasury hired a specialist headhunting firm aimed at diversifying its list of candidates.

Men accounted for 21 of the 23 applicants hoping to take over from Mark Carney in the central bank’s top job, with Andrew Bailey, the outgoing boss of the City watchdog, the Financial Conduct Authority, ultimately successful. Bailey is due to start as governor on 16 March.

Data released by the Treasury after a Freedom of Information request by the Guardian showed that both women who applied to be governor made the shortlist, alongside seven male candidates.

Santander’s UK chair, Shriti Vadera, and Minouche Shafik, a former deputy Bank of England governor and current director of the London School of Economics, were both widely reported as candidates for the job. There was also speculation that the former City fund manager Helena Morrissey might be standing.

The revelation of such a small pool of female applicants comes despite the involvement of Sapphire Partners, a headhunting firm that specialises in diversity and placing women in top roles. It was paid £90,000 to conduct the search.

While the Bank foots the bill for the search, the Treasury appointed Sapphire Partners and was in charge of the final selection, which was delayed because of the general election and announced by the chancellor, Sajid Javid, on 20 December. The Treasury’s selection panel was made up of three men and one woman.

Carney’s departure was seen as an opportunity for the Treasury to appoint the Bank’s first female governor in its 325-year-old history. As head of the City watchdog, Bailey was cited by observers as a safe pair of hands, with extensive experience as a former deputy governor at the Bank.

In a letter sent to the Treasury committee in December and published on Monday, Javid said Bailey was “highly qualified” and had “long experience in central banking and regulation with a strong international profile”.

Javid said: “I believe that his knowledge and skills will be extremely valuable at the Bank of England in the coming years.”

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However, the Treasury has faced criticism over a lack of diversity across the Bank of England’s upper ranks. In 2018 the Treasury committee grilled the then chancellor, Philip Hammond, when Jonathan Haskel – the only man from a shortlist of five candidates – was appointed by the Treasury as the latest member of the Bank’s rate-setting monetary policy committee. Only one woman – Silvana Tenreyro – is a member of the nine-strong MPC.

A Treasury spokesman said: “Our aim was always to appoint the best possible candidate, which is what we have done. And it was right to take steps to run as open a recruitment process as possible. We will continue to support that agenda in the future.”

The Bank of England declined to comment.

Sapphire Partners has worked for the Treasury to fill high-profile roles before. Last year the headhunting firm helped select Colette Bowe and Jayne-Anne Gadhia as external members of the Bank’s financial policy committee. However, Gadhia, the former boss of Virgin Money, withdrew before she had started her term to head the UK operations of the cloud computing firm Salesforce.

Sapphire Partners has been approached for comment.

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