Women Make Progress in UK Boardrooms

Despite recent progress, fewer than one in 10 of the UK’s biggest companies has a female executive director – involved in managing the company directly, rather than overseeing its management – according to the latest research.

Lord Davies of Abersoch, who published his annual report on UK boardrooms alongside research by Cranfield School of Management at Cranfield University, said that the target he set in 2011 of 25% female directors on the boards of the UK’s FTSE 100 companies by 2015 would be met by the end of this year.

However, although the number of total number of female directors in the UK’s 100 largest companies has almost doubled over four years to 263, just 24 of their executive directors are women.

Only five have female chief executives (CEOs): Liv Garfield at Severn Trent, Carolyn McCall at easyJet, Alison Cooper at Imperial Tobacco, Moya Greene at Royal Mail and Veronique Laury at Kingfisher.

During the past four years, female representation has risen to 23.5%, and only 17 more women need to be appointed to boards by the end of the year to meet the 25% target.

Lord Davies said: “What we have in fact seen taking place is little short of a revolution in boardrooms of FTSE 100 companies.” Vince Cable, the UK government’s business secretary, praised the “enormous progress”, adding that he now believes the UK figure could exceed by a third by 2020.

The
Female FTSE Report
by Cranfield also concluded that firms needed to look below board level at the “pipeline” of upcoming managers and to encourage a working culture in which meritocracy is nurtured.

Improvement could also happen on FTSE 250 boards. As many as 23 still have no women board members and only 4.6% of executive directors are women.

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