‘One and done’ – a sharp, compelling headline-grab

The Financial Times and Daily Telegraph have picked up a neat soundbite from a government-led report on women on boards. Despite the report’s press release emphasising how more women than ever are on the boards of FTSE-350 companies, the phrase ‘one and done’ has captured the attention of reporters and headline writers – it refers to the idea that some boards appear to have stuck at one women director.   

The term has appeared before – popping up in isolated reports last year and earlier in 2019. But its continued appeal is understandable.  The simple phrasing, and rhyme, work well in a quote but it’s also headline-writer’s dream, packing punch in just three shot words.   

And, yes, it’s focused on a negative rather than the pure positive of improvements that have been made. This is down to readers’ tastes as well as journalist cynicism. Newsrooms know from their data that taking a negative slant will attract more clicks.   

It’s also forward looking and is very much about the new phase of the campaign for more women on boards. The Telegraph article quotes Denise Wilson White, chief executive of the Hampton-Alexander review saying: “The next stage is turning our attention to what we call ‘one and done’ firms, where they appointed one woman several years ago and are not for changing.”

Importantly, the Hampton-Alexander review body benefits from prioritising a message about what they’re campaigning for now – rather than simply collecting a pat on the back for what’s been achieved already.