Women on boards: UK closing on FTSE 100 target


writes the Daily Telegraph’s deputy women’s editor, Louisa Peacock.

Britain's largest 100 companies need to recruit just 66 more women if they are to meet a UK target to get more women on boards by 2015, the government has said, as the number of female directors increases.

Vince Cable, the business secretary, said that 19% of FTSE 100 board directors are female, up from 17.4% in May this year – and a rise of 6.5% from February 2011, when Lord Davies began monitoring the number for the government.

The “encouraging” progress shows that the UK’s biggest companies are striving to improve gender diversity at the very top of business, Mr Cable said, adding it was a good sign the UK would meet its voluntary target to increase the number of women on boards of listed companies to 25% by 2015.

“With today’s encouraging figures, I am confident we can get over the finish line,” he said.  “Businesses are clearly still striving to get the right mix of talent around their boardroom table and we must not lose that momentum.”

However, of the total make-up of women on boards, almost a quarter (23.8%) are non-executive directors, while just 6.1% are executive directors – those holding ‘core’ board posts such as finance director or chief executive, according to Department for Business figures.

The statistics will fuel worries that companies – under pressure to recruit more women – have chosen the ‘easier’ option of filling non-executive posts with external women, some of whom are already NEDs on other company boards, rather than nurturing and developing female employees into senior management roles and tackling the leaky pipeline of talent, where many women leave the workplace altogether after maternity leave.

Mr Cable said: “Appointing more women as non-executive directors is not an end in itself.  This is about more talented women getting executive experience, so that they will not only advise, but run this country’s great companies.”

Lord Davies, the former trade minister who has led the inquiry into the lack of women on boards, also pointed out that the number of all-male boards in the FTSE 100 had increased in the last six months, proving this was no time to get “complacent” and assume the fight for gender balance was over.

95 of the FTSE 100 company boards had women on them in May, down to 94 in October.  It may have fallen further, had it not been for the merger of Glencore and Xstrata, which created an extra slot in the FTSE 100 that was filled by easyJet – and its female CEO Carolyn McCall.

“We have still got a long way to go but at least these numbers are moving in the right direction after stalling earlier in the year,” Lord Davies said.  He said chairmen are “making real efforts” to find and appoint capable women to their boards.  “We have now moved to a place where it is unacceptable for the voice of women to be absent from the boardroom,” he said.

In the FTSE 250, 14.9% of directors are female, up from 13.8% in May this year, and from 7.8% in February 2011.  However, the non-executive/executive divide persists, with the majority of appointments being in the former category.

This article was originally featured on www.telegraph.co.uk/women/womens-business.

This article was originally featured on telegraph.co.uk/finance/jobs

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

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