The final countdown for Britain’s top businesses to meet the 25% target

Since the Lord Davies report into women on boards was published in March 2011, great progress has been made with the percentage of women on the boards of the FTSE 100 companies increasing by 82 per cent and by 124 per cent on the FTSE 250.

Professor Susan Vinnicombe CBE, Director of the Cranfield International Centre for Women Leaders and a member of the Lord Davies steering group commented: “It was a landmark day earlier this year when the last all-male board in the FTSE 100 finally appointed its first woman director. With only 28 out of the FTSE 250 boards remaining all male, we are beginning to see what we hope is lasting change when it comes to gender diversity in Britain’s boardrooms.”

Dr Ruth Sealy, Visiting Fellow at Cranfield and Lecturer in Organisational Psychology at City University London, co-authored the report. She commented: “What is most encouraging is that, finally, we are seeing the percentage of female Executive Directors starting to rise, after having stagnated at 5-6% for many years. In the FTSE 100, 24 women now hold 8.4% of executive directorships.”

The Cranfield report shows an increase in the rate of female appointments over the last year on the FTSE 100, with 33.65% of new directorships going to women.

Dr Sealy went on to say: “The momentum that has gathered is a testament to the many stakeholders involved in making this change happen, but there is still some way to go. Those companies with less than 25% of women on their board need to take action now.”

From the report results, the Cranfield academics predict that if the current pace of change is maintained, the FTSE 100 will hit the 25 per cent target during 2015, with the FTSE 250 following in 2016. Just 24 more women are needed in the FTSE 100 and 150 across the FTSE 250 in order to reach the target of 25 per cent.

The report also considers the progress the top 200 FTSE companies are making in adopting the Financial Reporting Council’s amendments to the Corporate Governance Code, which requires them to publish in their annual reports how they plan to implement their boardroom diversity policy.

The report authors analysed all FTSE 100 companies’ annual reports and found substantial increases in some, but not all areas, from last year’s figures:

  • 85 per cent of FTSE 100 companies stated a clear policy on boardroom diversity
  • 58 per cent of companies set measurable objectives to increase the number of women on their board
  • only 38 per cent of companies addressed diversity in their board evaluation process
  • more than half, 52 per cent of companies, demonstrated clear policies or measures aimed at increasing the number of women in senior management
  • 98 per cent reported on succession planning, with 32 per cent specifying gender

“The emphasis on clear and transparent reporting of gender metrics, measurable objectives and best practice across the boardrooms and senior management teams of our largest organisations is beginning to have an effect. This demonstrates the extent to which gender diversity is becoming an integral part of corporate strategy,” said Dr Sealy.

Minister for Women and Equalities and Business, Jo Swinson, said: “I’m delighted to see that in today’s new Cranfield report more and more of our top companies are ensuring that gender diversity is now an integrated part of their business. This progress needs to be celebrated. However, all companies who have not yet signed up to Think, Act, Report – a fantastic tool by which companies can begin to assess their gender pay gap and begin to take action – should read Cranfield’s report and learn from this best practice.

“We know boards that reflect their customers, clients and stakeholders are better able to understand their needs. We only need another 24 women filling board roles in the FTSE 100 to meet Lord Davies’ target of 25 per cent in 2015. Today’s report shows that if businesses keep up this momentum, we will achieve this.”

Commenting on the report Lord Davies of Abersoch CBE said: “The number of women on our top UK boards has nearly doubled since we published the review in 2011. Although our target is in sight, we must keep up the momentum. Companies need to harness all available talent and those companies with less than 25% of women on their board need to take action now.”

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