Listed companies should publish numbers of executive women

Listed companies should be required to report diversity progress on a “comply or explain basis” to boost the numbers of women in boardrooms, according to the Confederation of British Industry (CBI).

In a submission to the Davies review (subscription required) into the lack of women on the board of top UK companies, the CBI recommended that listed businesses should have to report progress against internally-set targets that reflect the amount of women working for them.

For example, a company with a large number of female employees would set a higher target for the number of women on the board than a business with just a few female workers.

CBI president Helen Alexander said that, although more than half of university graduates are women, they remain “woefully under-represented” at board level.

“Schemes such as flexible working, mentoring and networking have helped, but making progress at the very top levels of business will require more sophisticated talent management,” Alexander added.

“What is needed is a cultural change, not quotas, ratios or tokenism. That is why we are calling for a flexible system that will allow firms to set targets that reflect the realities of their businesses.”

The CBI has also suggested that board-level appointments should be more transparent and companies should focus on developing the “talent pipeline” into the boardroom.

The TUC has backed the CBI’s calls to “step up” the regulatory pressure on businesses that refuse to address the low numbers of women on the board.

TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: “More needs to done throughout companies to ensure that women are in the right place to be natural candidates for executive positions. This is the only way to make real, lasting and effective change.”

“Companies need to monitor their structures and employment practices to see why and where women are not doing as well as men. This should include looking at pay systems, working patterns, women returning from maternity leave and training and skills development.”

The Davies review is expected to put forward its recommendations to the Government early next year.

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