Progress stalls for women on FTSE 100 boards

There has been a sharp drop in the numbers of women appointed to the boards of the UK's top companies according to the latest research from the Cranfield International Centre for Women Leaders.

The 2013 Cranfield Female FTSE Board report describes the 12 months since the previous research in March 2012 as falling into two distinct halves. The first six months saw 44% of new FTSE 100 board appointments going to women and 36% of FTSE 250 companies.

However, over the past six months those levels have dropped to 26% and 29% respectively, well below the 33% required to reach Lord Davies' recommendation of 25% women on boards by 2015.

There are now 194 female-held directorships in 93 of the FTSE 100 boardrooms which equates to 17.3%, a slight increase on last year's figure of 15%. The number of FTSE 100 companies with all-male boards has now dropped to six and two thirds (67%) of the FTSE 100 have more than one woman on their board.

Top of this year's ranking is Burberry with three women directors out of eight. It is the only FTSE 100 company that has two female executive directors, with both the chief executive and chief financial officer roles held by women.

In second place is Diageo with four women directors out of 11, while Capita, GlaxoSmithKline and Standard Life share third place, each with 33.3% of their boards being female. Glaxosmithkline is the only FTSE board with five women, out of 15.

The six companies with no female representation at board level are Croda International, Melrose, Glencore International, Antofagasta, Xstrata, and Vedanta Resources.

Dr Ruth Sealy from Cranfield School of Management, who co-authored the report, said: 'Lord Davies' target for FTSE 100 companies is still in sight but only if the rate of new appointments going to women regains momentum promptly. Only a quarter (25%) of FTSE 100 companies have already achieved the target and the drop in the last six months is worrying.'

The news from the FTSE 250 companies is more positive, with 13.3% women on boards (up from 9.4%). Getting on for three quarters (73%) now have women in their boardrooms, a substantial increase from last year's figure of 54%.

Analysis of the 48 women who took up new directorships on FTSE 100 boards shows that while most (31 women) had no prior FTSE 350 board experience, almost all the women had held board seats in other major companies, often on foreign listings.

Sealy said: 'This evidence counters any suggestions that chairmen are placing inexperienced women on their boards. However, it is disappointing to see that women from outside the "corporate mainstream", including entrepreneurs, academics and civil servants are still not being considered for FTSE board positions.'

Pat Sweet |Reporter, Accountancy Daily [2010-2021]

Pat Sweet was the former online reporter at Accountancy Daily and contributor to the monthly Accountancy magazine, pub...

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