Latest figures released highlight boardrooms are on track to meet women on boards target

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27 Mar, 2015

A report published by Cranfield School of Management shows that the proportion of women on UK boards continues to increase. The report ‘The Female FTSE Board Report 2015 – Putting the UK Progress into a Global Perspective’ (“the Cranfield report”) highlights that only 17 more board seats on FTSE 100 companies are required to be held by women in order to achieve 25 per-cent female representation by 2015 as set by Lord Davies in his report in February 2011. The report also indicates that the FTSE 250 “has also made great progress, more than doubling the percentage of women on their boards since 2011”.

The Cranfield report highlights that if the current rate of one women appointment to every two men is sustained the 25% target will be met before the end of 2015.  The Cranfield report credits the increase “to the leadership and determination of so many senior business leaders, keen to address the gender gap on their boards and within their organisations”.  The report also credits the role of the government.

The Cranfield report has been published at the same time as Lord Davies publishes the fourth annual progress report into women on boards (link to BIS website) (‘Women on boards – Davies review annual report 2015’) (“the Davies report”) which outlines the progress achieved against each of the ten recommendations made in in his report ‘Women on Boards’ in February 2011 (link to BIS website).  These recommendations aimed to ensure that more women were appointed to boardroom positions.

The key findings in the Cranfield report, which are consistent with latest statistics released by the Professional Boards Forums’ BoardWatch (link to Professional Boards Forum BoardWatch website), are:

  • The percentage of female-held directorships on FTSE 100 boards has increased to 23.5% in March 2015, up from 20.7% in March 2014 and 12.5% as of February 2011 when Lord Davies reported.
  • The percentage of female-held directorships on FTSE 250 boards has increased to 18% in March 2015, up from 15.6% in March 2014 and 7.8% as of February 2011 when Lord Davies reported.
  • There has been a decrease in the number of all-male boards in the FTSE 100 from two in March 2014 to none in March 2015.   The number of all-male boards for FTSE 250 companies has decreased from 48 in March 2014 to 23 in March 2015.
  • The number of companies with at least 25% women directors in the FTSE 100 as of March 2015 is 41 (up from 36 in March 2014) and the equivalent number for FTSE 250 companies is 65 (up from 51 in March 2014).

To ensure success in achieving the 25% target, the Cranfield report proposes six strategies:

Build a sustainable pipeline of executive women.

Develop an agile working culture in which real meritocracy is nurtured.

Extend greater robustness and transparency in the board appointment process. Look at the suitability of women candidates outside of the corporate sector.

Ensure that women make more headway not only as NEDs but as Chairs, Senior Independent Directors and Heads of Nominations Committees. More work is needed on the development of board directors.

Many Chairmen champion gender diversity. This needs to be extended to CEOs and senior managers to develop the female pipeline.

Champions of change outside of business are also needed, such as the equivalent to the Davies Committee, the Government, media and researchers, to ensure that progress continues.

As well as highlighting the above results, the Cranfield report also examines how the growth of women on the UK’s top boards compares to other countries in Europe and across the world and identifies a number of remaining challenges facing women on corporate boards.  Additionally, the Cranfield report provides a review of what Lord Davies’ recommendations have accomplished.

These findings support continued progress against the recommendations made by Lord Davies in 2011.  Whilst incorporating the findings of the Cranfield report in his report he comments that “the job is not yet done.  I am confident that we will meet the 25% in the coming months, and with continued action and focus, this paradigm shift will be sustained in the long term”. 

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