In his latest Gender equality report, Mervyn Davies sets a new target for FTSE 100 firms of 33% female board members by 2020.
There are more women on FTSE 350 boards than ever before – 26.1% at FTSE 100 companies and 19.6% at FTSE 250 firms. Davies said 550 women had been appointed in just over four years. There has also been a dramatic reduction in the number of all-male boards. There were 152 in 2011, but there are no all-male boards in the FTSE 100 and only 15 in the FTSE 250, compared with 131 four years ago.
Lord Davies promised 25% of FTSE100 board positions would be held by women by 2015, and has exceeded this. So why aren’t we celebrating?
There is no evidence to warrant an about-turn, but plenty of evidence to show the voluntary regime is working, as each and every month the percentage of women on FTSE boards increases, the report says.
The need for more women in executive roles
However, Krystyna Nowak of executive search firm Norman Broadbent, who was at the launch of the report, deplored a “missed opportunity” and said Davies’ recommendations were disappointing. She said many companies would simply continue appointing women to non-executive director positions, leaving the executive board to continue to be dominated by men. She called on the government to address this in its equality-boosting measures planned for 2016.
The UK ranks sixth in Europe behind Norway, Sweden, France, Finland and Belgium, many of which – including Norway, where women make up 35% of board members – have set formal quotas for female representation.
While British companies have been appointing more female directors, they have been slower to promote women into the top jobs – the chief executive, chief finance officer and chairmanship roles.
A response from the Financial Services Sector
The idea that gender balance should be one of the target measures that help determine remuneration at the top of companies is one of a number of recommendations in the report led by Virgin Money chief executive Jayne-Anne Gadhia.
It argues that financial services firms should report publicly on their gender diversity and should appoint an executive responsible for gender, diversity and inclusion.
The review was announced by Chancellor George Osborne in July as part of the Government’s productivity plan aimed at boosting UK output, with a final report due to be published ahead of the Budget next March.
Ms Gadhia said: “Businesses will increase productivity and improve results by encouraging more women into senior roles.
Visit our Knowledge Bank for other reports on diversity, gender, leadership and associated topics.