THE DEBATE about how to get more businesswomen into the boardroom continued last night at the Lansdowne Club, as FTSE 100 chairmen came to hear BAE Systems’ chairman Dick Olver outline his plans for reform.

“It is not a matter of quotas; it is a question of better decisions in the boardroom,” said Olver, who set out his intention to maintain his level of a 25 per cent female board at the engineering and defence firm, after appointing Linda Hudson to look after half the company’s global business and 46,000 staff as president and CEO of BAE Systems, Inc.

Olver, a founding member of the FTSE 100 Cross-Company Mentoring Programme, was hosting the launch for Women and The New Business Leadership, the book written by fellow founding member and director of the group, Peninah Thomson.

Barclays chairman Marcus Agius was unable to make the event as he had flu – “I sound like Humphrey Bogart,” he texted Thomson – but Tesco chairman David Reid was there, joined by his board member Lucy Neville-Rolfe, director of group corporate affairs; Centrica chairman Roger Carr; Sir David Lees, chairman of the Court of the Bank of England; and Dennis Holt, the newly retired Bank of Ireland deputy governor.

Lord Davies of Abersoch, the author of the Government report Women on Boards, poured scorn on any chairmen that filed his report and then forgot about it – “those people are not fit to be chairmen” – and called for “more women at executive committee level” to help the supply of top-level women through the corporate ranks.

“It doesn’t matter how we get there – whether through new chairman, headhunters or pressure from shareholders – we must have radical change in the boardrooms of Britain, and the coalition government is determined to maintain the focus on this,” said Davies.

MEANWHILE, a literary crowd gathered at the Savile Club in Mayfair for the launch of Spills and Spin: The Inside Story of BP, by Reuters oil correspondent Tom Bergin.

The book pulls no punches in its 20-year history of the world’s fourth-largest company, exploring the “fundamental flaws” in former chief executive Lord Browne’s decision to remodel the firm into “strategic business units”, and damning his successor Tony Hayward’s poor communications strategy – as well as the degeneration of the relationship between Hayward (below) and BP’s chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg.

No surprise then, that neither Browne or Hayward made it along for a drink – even though Hayward is currently camping out round the corner in Rothschild’s St James’s offices, after starting the investment vehicle Vallares with Nat Rothschild.

No doubt Hayward will enjoy reading the autographed copy of the book he requested from Bergin when he has a gap in his busy schedule…

VOLUMES in equity trading may have hit a slump – but Mr Whippy has never had it so good, after Cannacord Genuity took an unusual measure to cheer up its institutional clients as the “Italian contagion” hits home.

In a bid to “generate a bit of fun” in the doldrums of the market, the mid-cap broker and investment bank yesterday hired an icecream van, manned by Cannacord’s Anita White, to pay impromptu visits to its clients. Apparently Lazard, JO Hambro and Artemis were “lapping up” the attention.

ABERDEEN Asset Management has added “action and spectacle” to its debut sponsorship of Cowes Week by adding the Extreme 40 catamaran class to its sailing portfolio, to compete in the Extreme Sailing Series.

Skippering the Aberdeen boat will be British Olympic 49-er class contender John Pink, joined by his regular crew John Peacock – although there is no word yet on whether Aberdeen’s chief executive and keen sailor Martin Gilbert will join them on board.

MONDAY mornings will never be the same again thanks to The Gaucho Grill, which has joined forces with Veuve Clicquot to start a two-week petanque tournament on the newly installed court outside its Broadgate Circle restaurant.

Gaucho is looking for eight teams of six to take part in its two-week contest for City residents, held in association with City A.M., with the winners of the knockout stages starting on Monday 18 July for four days each winning a bottle of Veuve Clicquot.

The semi-final winners will each receive a magnum, while the overall winners, who will be crowned City A.M. Petanque Champions of 2011 on Wednesday 3 August, will each be presented with their own petanque set and a jeroboam of Veuve Clicquot.

That’s four bottles of champagne for not much work, so get your team entry in now to Lisa at Gaucho Broadgate on 0207 374 2026. No experience required.