“Still a long way to go” for women on boards, says Cameron

Prime Minister David Cameron today welcomed the progress made in increasing the number of women in senior positions in UK business, but stressed that there is “still a long way to go” if true board-level diversity is to be achieved.

Cameron was speaking at the launch of a Women on Boards progress report published by Cranfield University, which followed up the recommendations made by Lord Davies in February with the aim of improving female representation at senior levels of British business.

In his original recommendations, Davies suggested FTSE 100 companies should be aiming for a minimum of 25% female board representation by 2015 and that the FTSE 350 should be setting their own “challenging” targets. He also said companies should disclose the number of women sitting on their boards and working in an organisation.

Today’s progress report highlighted some positive statistics:

  • women make up 14.2% of FTSE 100 directors – up from 12.5% in 2010;
  • women make up 8.9% of FTSE 250 directors – up from 7.8% in 2010;
  • 22.5% of all board appointments since publication of the Davies report have been female; and 
  • there are 14 all-male boards within the FTSE 100 – down from 21 in 2010.

However, the report also found that only 33 FTSE 100 businesses have set themselves targets for the percentage of women they aim to have on their boards, and just 21 women have been appointed to board positions out of a possible 93. At 22.5%, this falls some way short of the 33% recommended in the Davies report.

The Prime Minister said: “Earlier this year Lord Davies published his strategy to increase the number of women on the boards of listed companies in the UK.

“Six months on, important steps forward have been made. But there is still a long way to go to encourage the best to rise to the top of industry, regardless of their background or gender.

“Now more than ever, as we look to grow our economy and maintain a competitive edge over our international counterparts, it’s important we make the most of the talent and skills out there.”

Meanwhile, speaking at a briefing ahead of today’s launch, business minister Edward Davey refused to rule out the introduction of compulsory quotas to force businesses into achieving boardroom diversity, should they fail to do so voluntarily.

Davey said that quotas were an option that the Government would prefer not to have to implement, but said that female representation in the boardroom is “not just a diversity issue, it is part of the growth agenda”, and pointed to the current economic success of countries in which women are represented more widely at board level.

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