Women in the arts criticise Channel 4 board decision
Leading female arts figures, including Baroness Bakewell and Baroness Jowell, have asked the government to explain why it blocked the appointment of Anthea Efunshile to Channel 4's board.
Efunshile was the only female candidate put forward by Ofcom to join the board.
Culture Secretary Karen Bradley vetoed her appointment.
Playwright Bonnie Greer and Baroness Amos have also signed a letter requesting an explanation from Mrs Bradley.
"We are united in our belief that Althea was an outstanding candidate and would have been a tremendous addition to the Channel 4 board," the letter to the culture secretary says.
"We are writing to you to express our dismay at your unprecedented decision to block the appointment... and call on you to explain the reasoning behind this decision as a matter of urgency."
Mrs Bradley did approve four white males to the board who were also put forward by Ofcom, the broadcasting regulator.
Baroness Rebuck, chair of book publisher Penguin Random House UK, is also among the signatories of the letter.
"We strongly feel that the decision to block Althea Efunshile's appointment to the Channel 4 board undermines the government's warm words on boardroom diversity," it states.
"It represents a significant step in the wrong direction that will do real and lasting damage to efforts to boost diversity in leadership positions across business, the professions and public life."
More than 50 MPs have also written to Mrs Bradley to request an explanation for the rejection of Efunshile, who is a former deputy of Arts Council England.
In response, Mrs Bradley said she was "in full agreement in the need to ensure our public institutions and appointments represent and reflect modern Britain".
She added: "I do, however, firmly reject any suggestion that female or BAME [Black, Asian and minority ethnic] candidates are treated unfairly in our public appointment decisions."
A spokesman for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport said Mrs Bradley had "approved four candidates on the basis that they met the specific skills and experiences set out in Ofcom's advertised job descriptions".
'Right person for the job'
David Lammy, a former culture minister, also raised the issue during last week's Prime Minster's Questions.
"Does [Mrs Bradley] think there isn't a woman or a black person in the country worthy of being on the board of Channel 4?" he asked.
Theresa May responded: "I will look into the issue [Mr Lammy] has raised but I have to say to him that this is always a question of the right person for the job.
"Issues around the question he has raised don't come into it, it is about who is right for the job."
Ofcom is responsible for finding, vetting and appointing Channel 4 board members.
Traditionally, the names put forward by the regulator are then approved by the government. The rejection of one candidate by the government is unusual.
Efunshile, who left Arts Council England this year, was made a CBE in June for services to arts and culture.