Gender equality on boards improving – but pace is too slow

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The third annual review tracking the progress of increasing the number of women on the boards of top companies shows encouraging signs. However, the pace of change means the government could miss its target.

A 2011 government-commissioned review led by Lord Davies of Abersoch recommend a target of women accounting for 25% of FTSE 100 board positions. The government aims to meet this target next year.

Davies said that since the launch of the report three years ago “real progress” has been made. He added, “We are finally seeing a culture change take place right at the very heart of British business.”

Women now account for 20.7% of board positions in the FTSE 100, an increase from the 12.5% reported in 2011. Despite the improvements, if last years rate of progress continues, the government will fall short of meeting the target. Over the next year an extra 50 women need to be appointed onto boards.

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    Business Secretary Vince Cable said, “We will only achieve this if there is a renewed, concentrated effort by chairs and CEOs to continue to change the make up of management at their top table.

    “More needs to be done to improve the number of women in executive positions. These will be the CEOs of tomorrow and businesses still aren’t tapping into the vast talent pool available to them.”

    In the FTSE 100 there are just two boards that remain all-male, Glencore Xstrata and Antofagasta. In contrast there are 36 boards that have already exceeded the 25% target. Diageo and Capita share the top spot, with females making up 44.4% of their boards.

    The improvements have been less pronounced in the FTSE 250 where women now account for 15.6% of overall board directorship, up from 13.2% in 2013. There are also 48 all-male boards but women accounted for a third of all appointments in 2013/14.

    Katja Hall, chief policy director of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), commented, “These latest figures show the voluntary approach recommended by business to Lord Davis is working. However, there is still some way to go, so now is not the time to take our foot off the accelerator.”

    Earlier this month the government was said to be considering all-female shortlists for FTSE 100 companies in a bid to improve gender diversity. Cable backed the proposal but concerns were raised about the legal issues of excluding men.

    The pay gap between male and female employees also continues to be an issue. Last year research found that male managers received double bonuses and 25% better salaries that females in similar roles.

    Further reading:

    Government considers all-female shortlists for FTSE 100 companies

    UK must ‘solve the culture challenge’ to truly close gender pay gap

    Number of women on FTSE 100 boards above 20% for first time

    Global gender gap getting narrower, as women seek equal footing

    Percentage of female City managers has doubled in the last year