Latest figures released highlight an increase in FTSE 100 NED positions held by women but the percentage of women holding executive directorships remains low

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10 Nov, 2017

A report published by Cranfield School of Management shows that the proportion of women holding non-executive (NED) positions is “at an all-time high” at 33% but indicates that the percentage of women holding executive directorships “remains low at just under 10% of FTSE 100 and under 8% of FTSE 250” companies.

The report The Female FTSE Board Report 2017 – Women on Boards – Back on track (the Cranfield report”) indicates that there has been a number of successes to improve female representation at the top of the UK’s biggest companies.

According the Cranfield report there are now only 8 all-male boards in the FTSE 350 and the number of FTSE 100 companies with at least 33% women on boards stands at 28%. These results, the Cranfield report says, is down to the effort of many parties including the UK businesses and the government and “continues to be spearheaded” by the Hampton-Alexander Review. However more needs to be done to achieve the targets set by the Hampton-Alexander review for FTSE 100 companies to have at least 33% of their executive pipeline positions filled by women by the end of 2020.

The key findings in the Cranfield report are:

  • The percentage of women on FTSE 100 boards has risen to almost 28% (27.7%) “after a year of stagnation”. It indicates that as long as the current momentum is maintained the target for 33% of women on FTSE 100 boards by 2020 could be “within reach”.
  • Within the FTSE 250 there has been a rise to almost 23% (22.8%) but “a greater push” is required in order to meet the 33% target.
  • The percentage of women holding FTSE 100 NED positions is “at an all-time high” of 33.3% but there is still a low percentage (just under 10%) holding executive directorships.
  • All FTSE 100 companies have at least one female director with this figure at 242 in the FTSE 250.

The Cranfield Report also reviews the board evaluation industry and their role in promoting gender balance in the boardroom. Interviews conducted with board evaluators “to ascertain their views on gender diversity in the boardroom”. The Report adds significantly to the evidence base around the importance of diversity on boards and demonstrates the crucial role Chairs play in promoting diversity on boards.

Recognising that “behavioural review are more likely to comprehensively address issues of diversity” the report makes two recommendations:

  • the Financial Reporting Council considers that disclosure in the Annual Report should include information on which type of external evaluation was undertaken, in addition to a summary of actions taken since the evaluation.
  • the board evaluation industry adopts minimum standards for reviews, in the form of a Code of Conduct, kitemark or other method by mutual agreement.

The report concludes that although the “pace of change has once again picked up” and the target of 33% of women on the boards of FTSE 100 companies by 2020 appears “back on track”, “it is important to realise, across the FTSE 350, that it is not job done and that the Davis’ 25% target was only ever a stepping stone to greater gender parity”.

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