Number of women on boards rising, but number of female executives needs improvement

The number of women on the boards of Britain's top companies is rising and there is a growing recognition of the benefits gained by business, the economy and wider society, according to the third annual report by Lord Davies.

The number of women on the boards of Britain's top companies is rising and there is a growing recognition of the benefits gained by business, the economy and wider society, according to the third annual report by Lord Davies.

His third annual progress report into Women on Boards is published at the same time as the Cranfield University School of Management’s Female FTSE Board report, which shows that women now account for 20.7% of board positions in the FTSE100 – up from 12.5% in 2011 and 17.3% in April 2013. Lord Davies originally set a target in 2011 of achieving 25% in 2015.

Lord Davies said: "The rate of change that we have seen at the heart of our biggest companies over the last 3 years has been impressive. The voluntary approach is working and companies have got the message that better balanced boards bring real business benefits. We are finally seeing a culture change taking place at the heart of British business. However, the eyes of the world are on us as we enter the home straight. They are judging us as to whether the voluntary approach, rather than regulation, will work – we need to now prove we can do this on our own."

Business Secretary Vince Cable said: "These latest figures show that businesses are getting the right mix of talent around their boardroom table and understand the importance of this. Ninety eight of the FTSE100 boards are now made up of at least 1 woman and we need fewer than 50 new women appointments to FTSE100 boards to reach our target of 25% of women on all FTSE100 boards in the next year. This is a huge improvement from where we started just 3 years ago. But we will only achieve this if there is a renewed, concentrated effort by Chairs and CEOs to continue to change the make up of management at their top table. More needs to done to improve the number of women in executive positions. These will be the CEOs of tomorrow and businesses still aren’t tapping into the vast talent pool available to them."

Minister for Women and Equalities Maria Miller said: "It makes clear economic sense for women to be able to rise to the top. Good progress is being made in Britain through a cultural shift that promotes on merit, not through the mandatory quotas advocated by others. The workplace was designed by men for men. Women don’t need special treatment they just need a modernised workplace that gives them a level playing field. Supporting women to fulfil their full potential should be a core business issue; not just so we can reach our target of 25% of female appointments to FTSE100 boards by next year (2015), but for the long term sustainability of our economy."

As of 3 March 2014, in the FTSE100:

– women now account for 20.7% of overall board directorships, up from 17.3% in April 2013

– of this, women account for 25.5% of non-executive directorships and 6.9% of executive directorships

– women account for 231 of the 1,117 FTSE100 board positions

– women account for 28% of all board appointments in 2013/14

– there remain 2 all-male boards – Glencore Xstrata and Antofagasta

– fewer than 50 new women appointments need to be made to reach the 25% target

In the FTSE 250 the figures show:

– women now account for 15.6% of overall board directorships, up from 13.2% in 2013

– of this, women account for 19.6% of non-executive directorships and 5.3% of executive directorships

– women account for 33% of all board appointments in 2013/14

– there remain 48 all-male boards

The latest report shows that more and more FTSE Chairs are convinced of the value of women in boardroom. Twelve companies in the FTSE100 have 4 or more women in the boardroom, with 27 having more than 2. The report also says that companies are setting themselves challenging targets while the pipeline continues to be strengthened.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady commented: "British boardrooms are moving in the right direction and it’s good to see a fifth of senior executive positions are now held by women. But while progress is undoubtedly being made, the pace of change is too slow – and there are still companies with no female directors on their boards. At this rate it’ll be decades before we see a 50/50 gender split at the top of British business.

“Organisations need to think about how they can remove some of the barriers which make it hard for their female employees to rise through the ranks. Better training, a more flexible approach to work – with staff at every level in the company given the option to work part-time, and a much less macho approach to business generally could all help reap results.

“But gender diversity is not all the only form of diversity that matters. UK companies would also benefit from including people from a wider range of backgrounds including company workers on their boards.

“This could also help to put more women around the boardroom table – in countries where workers already sit on company boards, the worker representatives tend to be better balanced in terms of gender than the top directors.”

Katja Hall, CBI Chief Policy Director, said: “These latest figures show the voluntary approach recommended by business to Lord Davies is working. However there is still some way to go, so now is not the time to take our foot off the accelerator.

“Lord Davies is absolutely right to highlight the need to address the pipeline of future female directors if we’re going to achieve real parity. This is something that businesses are committed to doing, and real progress is now being made on building workplaces that help all staff, male or female, develop their careers and manage their work-life balance effectively.”





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