MFI’s deputy chairwoman Denise Kingsmill urged blue-chip companies to promote more women HR managers on to boards of directors, at the launch of the first FTSE Female Index last week.
The index, a joint initiative from Harriet Harman MP, the Industrial Society and the Fawcett Society, shows that only 5 per cent of the directors of FTSE 100 companies are women.
Pearson topped the league table with two women, Gillian Lewis and Marjorie Scardino, on an eight-strong board. Smithkline Beecham came second with two, Baroness Hooper and Dr Lucy Shapiro, out of 11.
Standard Chartered was at the bottom of the list with no women out of a 17-strong board. A total of 49 per cent of the FTSE 100 have all-male boards.
While HR is a female-dominated profession, few make it to the board. Lady Elspeth Howe, chairwoman of the Hansard Society, said directors should be recruited from a broader spectrum.
Kingsmill said the business case for increased diversity was that board issues in modern companies went beyond traditional business issues such as tight financial control, now encompassing risk management, the environment and recruitment policies.
"We need people with a variety of experience and skills, including women. They are the customers and employees of those companies," said Kingsmill. "HR is always important and recruitment, training and retention of staff is a vital board issue."
The index is based on the PricewaterhouseCoopers Corporate Register for September.
Harman said, "The task now is to expose the extent of the problem, to work for change, to set a target that within three years there should be no all-male boards in the FTSE top 100.
By Lisa Bratby