Increasing diversity is essential to appointing the best people to our public boards. We are making real progress in increasing the number of women who are appointed. In 2014-15, 44% of new appointments were made to women, which is up from 39% in 2013-14. The steps that we have taken to increase diversity include streamlining the application process and increasing the awareness of opportunities through outreach and other events, a central website and the use of social media. We have introduced unconscious bias training for senior personnel in the Cabinet Office, including permanent secretaries and, indeed, senior Ministers.
I thank the Minister for that comprehensive reply, which has pre-empted my supplementary. I wonder whether, in some cases, it is a lack of confidence that inhibits women in making an application for a public appointment. Could more be done to communicate to women that their applications are encouraged and will be successful?
It is really important that we get the very best people into public appointments. Women will play a crucial role in that. We recently received a report from Sir Gerry Grimstone that was commissioned to make appointment processes much more efficient, effective and streamlined. We have hit the highest figures ever recorded for women in public appointments, but we have not done enough. We want to go much further and to hit the 50% target we have set ourselves.