IN DAVOS last year, the World Economic Forum stirred debate by insisting its strategic partners include at least one woman in their delegations. A month later, Lord Davies released his report Women on Boards, recommending targets for the number of women on company boards. At Aviva, we believe that a balanced leadership team is vital to a business’s success.

Diversity brings a broader, more rounded perspective to decision-making and risk management. Companies with more women on boards are more effective and have been shown to outperform rivals.

In line with the Davies report, Aviva will have 25 per cent female representation on the board this year. But it isn’t just about signing up to targets. If we want to see more women on boards then we need to be looking at how we approach diversity across the business.

The key for me is ensuring women are confident they have the same opportunities open to them as men, whatever level they’re at within the organisation. That means hard-wiring diversity into HR practices such as talent management and making sure our selection processes are fair, transparent and based on merit.

With succession planning, for example, we make sure we have a balanced mix of high potential candidates identified, both inside the company and when working with recruitment consultants.

Mentoring too has an important role to play. We recently introduced a scheme whereby members of the senior management team are mentored by future female leaders. The idea is to provide the women involved with an opportunity for development while the leadership team gains valuable insight into the challenges women face as they progress in their careers.

There’s no question cultural change takes time. But this is an investment worth making. At the end of the day, it’s in everyone’s interests to make sure companies are recruiting and promoting from the widest possible talent pool. This is all just good business sense.