Report highlights slowdown in women’s board-level appointments

Research published today has shown that while the proportion of female directors in FTSE companies has continued to increase in the past year, the rate of increase has slowed over the past six months.

The findings were published in the latest survey by Cranfield School of Management, which suggested that “complacency may again be setting in” regarding the improvement of routes to board-level positions for women.

According to the 2013 Cranfield Female FTSE Board Report, in the first six months following the 2012 report there was an “extremely encouraging” pace of change, with 44% of new FTSE 100 board appointments going to women, and 36% of those at FTSE 250 companies.

However, after this those figures dropped to 26% and 29% respectively, falling short of the 33% required to reach Lord Davies’ recommendation that women should comprise 25% of boards by 2015.

According to the report, there are now 194 female-held directorships in 93 of the FTSE 100 boardrooms (held by 169 women), which equates to 17.3% – a slight increase on last year’s figure of 15%.

In addition, the number of FTSE 100 companies with all-male boards has now dropped to seven, while two-thirds (67%) of FTSE 100 companies have more than one woman on their board.

Responding to the research, business secretary Vince Cable said: “The argument for more women in our boardrooms is clear – they bring fresh perspectives and ideas, talent and a broader experience that leads to better decision making. This is not just about equality at the top of our companies. It is about good business sense.”

Cable also expressed a preference to refrain from imposing quotas for women on boards, but still warned they were a possibility if industry continued to drag its heels: “Government continues to believe that a voluntary led approach is the best way forward. But today’s report serves as a timely reminder to business that quotas are still a real possibility if we do not meet the 25% target of women on the boards of FTSE 100 companies by 2015.”

Sir Roger Carr, CBI president, agreed that quotas were not the way forward: “These figures show that if we are to remove blockages in the pipeline of female talent development, business leaders must roll up their sleeves and redouble their efforts to improve recruitment, mentoring and succession planning.

“Tokenistic EU quotas will do nothing to address the root causes of this issue. It is critical we nurture a diverse talent base right from the bottom to the top of our companies to hone our competitive edge.”

Minister for women and equalities Maria Miller said: “We are making good progress – two-thirds of women are in work, the gender pay gap is closing and both Lord Davies’ and Cranfield’s reports indicate that we are heading in the right direction when it comes to women’s representation at senior levels.

“But there is much more work to do. The priority now is to maintain that momentum, not only within listed companies but across the economy as a whole. Our equalities agenda isn’t solely about women in the boardroom. It’s also about unlocking the untapped potential of women at all levels in the workforce, getting more women into work, priming the talent pipeline and bringing sustained benefit to the British economy in the longer term.”

XpertHR asks if quotas are the right way to increase female representation in British boardrooms.

XpertHR also has a good practice guide on gender equality.

An XpertHR podcast on gender equality is also available.

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