Number of women on boards rises to 19%

The number of women on boards of FTSE 100 companies has risen to 19%, according to figures released by the Professional Boards Forum today.

The figures are up from 12.5% in 2010, with most of the rise accounted for by an increase in female non-executive directors. Almost 24% of non-executive directors being women [up from 15.6% in 2010] and 6.1% being executive directors [up from 5.5%]. There are six companies with no women on their boards, including the London Stock Exchange, down from 21 in 2010 and 25% of board appointments since this March have been women. Some 31 companies in the top 100 have 25% women directors or more and 13 have over 30% of their board made up of women directors.

Sixty-six more board seats need to be taken by women to reach Lord Davies’ target of 25% women on boards by 2015.

For the FTSE 250, the figures are lower, although they start from a lower base. Women directors account for only 14.9% of board positions, up for 7.8% in 2010. Some 18.6% of these are non-exeuctive directors, with 5.4% being executive directors. Over 20% of companies have all male boards, down from 52.4% in 2010 and 36% of board appointments since March have been women, including 22% of executive directors.

Business Secretary Vince Cable welcomed progress, saying: “I’m glad the number of women at the top of our most successful companies continues to rise. Businesses are clearly still striving to get the right mix of talent around their boardroom table and we must not lose that momentum.

“We have until 2015 to reach our target of 25% of women on the boards of listed companies which Lord Davies set us 2 years ago. With today’s encouraging figures, I am confident we can get over the finish line.

“But appointing more women as non-executive directors is not an end in itself. This is about more talented women getting executive experience, so that they will not only advise, but run this country’s great companies.”

Lord Davies said: “These figures are a sign that we have come a long way since our original report in 2011. The target of 25% in the FTSE100 by 2015 was rightly ambitious but the increase in the figures is a sign that businesses are not letting the issue pass them by.

“However, this is no time to get complacent and think that the job is nearly done. We have still got a long way to go but at least these numbers are moving in the right direction after stalling earlier in the year.

“Businesses are making real efforts to find and appoint capable women to their boards and I will continue to champion their efforts. We have now moved to a place where it is unacceptable for the voice of women to be absent from the boardroom.”

Both Vince Cable and Business Minister Jo Swinson are holding sectoral-based roundtables with the FTSE350 over the course of the autumn. Ministers will also be meeting influential senior women business leaders to discuss the progress in the next two weeks. Vince Cable recently appointed Charlotte Sweeney, previously Head of Diversity and Inclusion for Nomura, to review the executive search agency voluntary code of conduct and recommend certain improvements that can be made to the code.

Amanda Street, co-founder of gender balance consultancy Female Quotient, said more work needed to be done to address the female talent pipeline: “Today’s figures show that things are moving in the right direction, which is good news. The real indicator however of whether or notreal progress is being made will come down to how organisations are addressing the female talent pipeline. If the focus is on simply hitting a number it’s a bit like pretending that you can go out and ‘shop’ for more women on the Board.  While we know there is female talent out there, there’s more to it than reaching a number. And what happens when Board members inevitably move on? The business is no better equipped to bring women up from the organisation and the ‘shopping’ process begins all over again.

“We welcome today’s figures and Vince Cables confidence that that the Government’s 2015 target of 25% representation is achievable. However, until organisations address the pipeline at all levels, true progress toward gender parity will never be realised.”

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