The amount of women on the boards of UK FTSE-100 firms has hit a record high of 15.6%, according to a report by Cranfield School of Management. Launched today to mark the first anniversary of a government review of the issue by Lord Davies, Cranfield’s Milestone or Millstone? study shows that 141 women currently hold 163 FTSE-100 seats out of a total 1,086. The number of companies in that league with no women at all on their boards has dropped to 11, while the number with more than one woman on their boards has risen to 50.
In his original review, Lord Davies recommended that FTSE-100 firms should voluntarily enlist women to their boards in greater numbers to avoid the imposition of government-set quotas.
He suggested that 25% of FTSE board seats should be occupied by women by the year 2015. However, if the pace of change continues at the rate revealed in the report, it is likely that Davies’s target will be exceeded by two per-cent.
Report co-author professor Susan Vinnicombe OBE said: “The past 12 months have seen a significant amount of global activity around diversifying boards. After a decade of incremental increases in the UK, we are pleased to be reporting improvements that are more substantive. If the momentum we have seen since Lord Davies’ review continues, we could achieve 30% women on boards in less than four years – which would be a terrific achievement.’
Vinnicombe added: “We urge chairmen, chief executives, executive search firms, investors, journalists and women to stay focused and use this momentum to change the status quo permanently.”
Equality and performance
Home secretary and minister for Women and Equalities Theresa May gave the report a warm welcomed. “I’m delighted by this unprecedented progress,” she said. “While there’s still much to be done, today we should celebrate just how far we have come. It is particularly encouraging that this progress has been led by businesses. Government has put in place the framework – but it’s companies themselves who are seeing that they simply cannot afford to ignore the skills and talent of half the population.”
Meanwhile, Lord Davies argued that the momentum triggered by his review must go on – and that the onus was on business leaders to set the tone. “Over the last year,” he said, “some excellent progress has been made. We’ve seen a significant increase in the percentage of female board appointments and the number of all-male boards has halved. I believe we’re on a steady journey towards our 25% target, but the reality is that a lot more still needs to be done.
“We’ve got to keep up the pressure on business – particularly on FTSE 250 companies. And at the same time, CEOs must try and improve the gender balance of their executive committees, because this isn’t just about equality, it’s about performance. And the simple fact is that the more diverse your team, the better it will perform.”
To download a full PDF of the report, click here
Image of Deirdre Mahlan courtesy of Diageo