One in five new directors at the UK’s biggest companies are women, according to the annual survey of women in the boardroom by Cranfield School of Management.
The number of female-held directorships has increased from 117 in 2006 to 123 this year, the highest level since Cranfield’s first benchmarking report was published in 2000.
The number of women on FTSE 100 executive committees, responsible for the day-to-day running or companies, has soared by 40% over the past year.
Sainsbury’s tops the list with three female directors on a board of 10. Other top companies include pharmaceuticals company AstraZeneca, British Airways, British American Tobacco and ITV.
However, almost one in four companies have no female directors at all.
Report co-author Ruth Sealy said the increase needed to be built on: “Not only is there a substantial increase in the number of women at executive committee level, women are also employed in an increasing variety of roles on these committees.
“This brings a considerable addition to the talent pool and it will be interesting to monitor how long it takes for these women to emerge from the pipeline and into female executive director roles.”
Minister for women and equality Harriet Harman said: “As this report shows we have made real progress in getting more women into boardrooms. But one in four boards has no women so we still have further to go.
“British business at all levels must become more family friendly. This will enable men as well as women to play a more active role in their children’s lives and enable women to fulfil their potential at work. This cultural change has to be led from the top and we will never see it while our businesses are led by men only boards.”