More Women On Boards Than Ever – But There’s More To Do
Inga Beale – CEO, Lloyd’s of London
More women are sitting on British company boards than ever before, according to new figures, but there is still plenty of work to be done.
FTSE 100 companies now have more women sitting on their boards than ever before, according to the latest report from the government, as measures to improve female participation at senior levels have clearly begun to make a real difference.
The third annual report into Women on Boards, published on 26 March by Lord Davies of Abersoch, shows that a total of 20.7 per cent of board positions in the FTSE 100 are now held by women.
Admittedly this is still low, given that women make up roughly half the workforce, but it represents a serious improvement – in 2011, the figure stood at just 12.5 per cent. According to Lord Davies, this indicates that a step change in the approach taken to the issue by British companies.
“The rate of change that we have seen at the heart of our biggest companies over the last three years has been impressive,” he said in a statement released by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS).
“The voluntary approach is working and companies have got the message that better balanced boards bring real business benefits. We are finally seeing a culture change taking place at the heart of British business.”
However, there is still further to go before workplaces will be truly equal. Even achieving Lord Davies’ target of 25 per cent female representation on FTSE 100 boards will be tough to achieve by the deadline of next year. Just 48 new appointments are required to hit the target, but Louisa Peacock points out in The Telegraph that with around 90 female hires in the past three years, the pace of change is still too slow.
More noticeable is the disparity between the number of women in non-executive and executive director roles. Though they account for more than a quarter of the former, women hold just seven per cent of the executive directorships.
“The real issue we need to confront is the lack of women in the talent pipeline,” said Ann Francke, chief executive of the Chartered Management Institute. “Too many talented women opt out before they fulfil their potential, because business culture puts them off – so we see, for example, that only half as many men as women aim to reach CEO.
“We’re making progress in the boardroom but we have to do more to make sure the talent pipeline is working for women,” she added.