Progress stalls on women on boards



The number of women being appointed to UK top 250 companies has slowed with no new executive director appointments at top 100 companies being female in the last few months, according to Professional Boards Forum BoardWatch.

Figures out today show 17.4% of directors at FTSE 100 companies are women. The majority – 22% are non-executive directors with just 5.6% being executive directors. The latter number has only risen by 0.1% since 2010. Women account for 12%of board appointments since March 1st, with 14% of new non-executive directors being women and no new executive directors being female. Women need to get 84 more board seats to reach Lord Davies’ 25% target by 2015.

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For FTSE 250 companies, the figures show women account for 13.8% of directors – 17% of non-executive directors and 5.7% of executive directors. Around a quarter of the companies have all-male boards. Just over half had all male-boards in 2010. Some 40% of new appointments since March have been women, including half of new executive directors.

Jane Scott, UK Director of the Professional Boards Forum, says: “It is hard to account for this slowdown, given the focus on this agenda from investors, government, media and business leaders.  The theory that head-hunters have run out of good women candidates is just not credible. The latest BoardWatch update shows that a mere 84 more board positions need to be held by women to reach the Davies 25% target and there is a huge wealth of talent in the UK and internationally – highly experienced and able women – available to FTSE boards.  There should be no problem in reaching, or exceeding, the Davies target of 25% by 2015, but the rate of appointments needs to pick up sharply. ”

Lyndsey Oliver, co-founder of Female Quotient, added: “Given the amount of focus and attention on the issue the figures are disappointing. We can’t allow progress to stall. While the benefits are proven, it seems we have some way to go to change mind-sets. Boards have to look beyond the safety of the old corporate stereotypes and consider more creative appointments. It is too easy to stick with established patterns of behaviour and simply look for candidates to fit the current mold. It’s tough to take a perceived risk, but risk has its rewards. The charity sector is one example where bold appointments have been made, recruiting outside of traditional backgrounds – and to great effect.

“Despite the disappointing figures quotas are still not the answer. Instead, developing the talent pipeline will be key to not only hitting targets but more importantly sustaining these achievements. Hitting any target means nothing unless there is systemic and pervasive change at all levels. Diversity and inclusiveness must be embedded in every part of talent management and cultural change always starts from the top. If organisations start with inclusiveness, diversity will naturally follow.”

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