Vince Cable has openly called on David Cameron to improve the diversity of his cabinet by appointing more women.
The Lib Dem business secretary's intervention came as a new report by Lord Davies found that just over one in five (20.7%) of boardroom directors at FTSE100 firms were women, a larger rate than in the Prime Minister's cabinet (18%).
Asked if Cameron should draft more women into Cabinet, Cable told HuffPostUK: "The simple answer is yes."
The business secretary's answer, speaking at the launch of the Lord Davies' report at Barclays Bank in the City of London, was met with applause by the assembled businesspeople.
The peer, who used to be a government trade minister, warned firms of the need to get female talent into their boardrooms.
"I think a company that doesn't get the mood of a society on this issue actually deserves to go out of business," he said. "You shouldn't be a CEO, a chairman or a head of HR if you don't get the mood that this is about good business practise."
Blogging on the Huffington Post UK, culture secretary Maria Miller wrote: "The simple truth is we need fewer than 50 more women on FTSE 100 Boards to reach the 2015 target, but crucially we need to see many more women supported to climb up the ladder behind them. There is a prize to be had by those Boards and those businesses, who get this right."
The gender imbalance in Cameron's cabinet, with just four women out of 22 members, has led to critics accusing him of a "woman problem". Ed Miliband accused David Cameron of "failing women" after the prime minister was backed up by an all-male frontbench at a recent Prime Minister's Questions session.
Cameron's only female full cabinet members are home secretary Theresa May, international development secretary Justine Greening, culture secretary Maria Miller and northern ireland secretary Theresa Villiers.
The number rises to five with the inclusion of Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, although she is only a minister "attending cabinet" rather than a full cabinet member. However with the addition of ministers attending cabinet, just five out of 33 (15%) are women.
Cable's message to the prime minister provoked bemusement on Twitter however as all four of the Lib Dem cabinet members are men. Lib Dem MP Lorely Burt, who ran for the deputy leadership, told HuffPostUK that the party was "desperately" trying to appeal to women.
@asabenn yeah ok, who then?
— Vincent Carroll (@VincentN15) March 26, 2014
Perhaps Clegg could appoint *one*? MT "@asabenn: Asked Cable if Cameron should appoint more women to Cabinet: "The simple answer is yes.""
— James Chapman (Mail) (@jameschappers) March 26, 2014
— David Mills (@DavidMills73) March 26, 2014
Chancellor George Osborne recently appointed a woman, Nemat Shafik, to the Bank of England's Monetary Policy Committee, after a wave of criticism for failing to appoint any to the Bank's nine-man group.
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